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A New Jersey trial court grants summary judgment to a nursing home resident’s agent under a power of attorney in a lawsuit by the nursing home for payment of the resident’s unpaid bill and orders that the nursing home pay attorney’s fees and costs. Hampton Ridge Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center v. Wright (N.J. Super. Ct., No. L-2335-16, Nov. 1, 2017).

Charles Douglas was an agent under a power of attorney for his aunt, Idella Wright. Ms. Wright entered a nursing home, and Mr. Douglas signed the admission agreement as the responsible party. Mr. Douglas assigned Ms. Wright’s Social Security payments to the nursing home, but Ms. Wright died owing $18,322 to the nursing home.

The nursing home sued Mr. Douglas for failing to timely apply for Medicaid benefits and to pay the final bill. Mr. Douglas filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that he was not personally liable because New Jersey law prohibits a nursing home from requiring a third-party guarantee as a condition of admission. The trial court granted Mr. Douglas summary judgment and he filed a motion for attorney’s fees.

The New Jersey Superior court orders that the nursing home pay attorney’s fees and costs. The court holds that the claim Mr. Douglas was forced to defend against was brought “in contravention” of the “clear and unambiguous statutory language” insulating third parties from personal financial liability.

This is just a quick note to clarify something that many of my first time clients fail to understand.  The Federal Gift Tax Exemption is $14,000 as of 2016.  This means that you can give to as many individuals as you like $14,000 without having to file a Federal Gift Tax Return.  If, however, you gift more than $14,000 to anyone this year, then you are required to file a Federal Gift Tax Return also known as a Form 709.  That return allows the IRS to keep track of those taxable gifts.  Those gifts then offset your Federal Estate Tax exemption.  So, for example, in 2016 you have a $5,450,000 Estate Tax Exemption.  If you gave $14,001 to someone – then you are required to file a Gift Tax return which will in turn reduce your $5,450,000 Estate Tax return to $5,449,999.  If you gave $5,464,000 ($5,450,000 plus 14,000) then you will have Zero (0) Estate tax exemption left, so when you die anything you leave to someone other than a spouse or charity will be taxed.  Now, this is a simplified explanation of how the gift tax and estate tax exemptions work together.

Please remember one thing however, just because you are allowed to make a $14,000 annual gift for gift tax purposes does not mean that this gift is exempt from Medicaid look-back rules.  Gift Tax/Estate Tax rules are distinct and separate from Medicaid Rules.

If you have any gift tax, estate tax or elder law matters, please do not hesitate to call us.  Remember though, reading this blog does not create an attorney client relationship and does not constitute legal advice for you to rely upon.  If you want us to become your attorney, you must sign an engagement letter.


The New Jersey probate code has two statutes that govern the admission of a Will for an alien.  First, the distinction must be made whether they are a non-resident alien or a resident alien.  N.J.S.A. 3B:3-24 governs situations where the decedent is a resident alien, which N.J.S.A. 3B:3-26 governs where the decedent was a non-resident alien. 

Why would you want to admit a Will to probate in New Jersey for a foreign person?  Well, often times foreigners have real property in New Jersey or a bank/brokerage account here.  In order for the Executor to marshall the assets of the decedent, they must access them and in order to access them they must have authority to do so.  By having the Will admitted to probate in New Jersey, the Executor/trix of the Estate will be able to accomplish this task.

We recently helped a client whose mother was a resident alien and whose Last Will and Testament was probated in a foreign country.  In order to get the Last Will and Testament admitted to probate in New Jersey, we had to file an Order to Show Cause to admit the Will.  In deciding in our favor, the Court relied on   In re De Buck’s Estate, 24 Backes, 80, 4 A.2d 309 , N.J. Err. & App. 1939, the Court addressed a similar situation wherein the original Will was alleged to be unavailable by the proponent of the Will.  The Court found in that case that the circumstances surrounding the inability to produce the Will were suspicious.  The Court found it was not credible that the original will could not be produced in light of the fact that the decedent owned no real property in France.   The Court was of the opinion that a Will would be admitted to probate in France (as it would in New Jersey) if there were real property located there.   The court stated, however, that had proper proof been provided, the court would have admitted a duly authenticated photostatic copy if that had been the case.  It was really interesting that we had to go all the way back to 1939 to find a case on point.  The Court also relied on N.J.S.A. 3B:3-24.  If you ever have a case like this, our firm would be more than happy to help out.

Reading this post does not constitute nor create an attorney client relationship nor does it constitute legal advice.  If you would like to hire our firm, please contact our office and we will arrange a consultation.

The last couple of years have been an amazing time for me, both professionally and personally.   A few years ago, one of my oldest and closest friends, Tom McCarthy (Writer/Director of The Station Agent, The Visitor), asked me to write a script with him.  We worked together for over two years and the end result is a film entitled “Win Win”.  Win Win is a Fox Searchlight and Everest Entertainment Production, starring Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Burt Young, Jeffrey Tambor and Alex Shafer.  The movie is due out in theaters on March 18, 2011.

For those that may not know, I am a practicing Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney with offices located in New Providence, NJ (which happens to be the same location as Mike Flaherty’s office, the lead character in Win Win).  I love practicing law in the area of Elder Law and Estate Planning, which I plan to do into the foreseeable future (so no, I have no plans to go to Hollywood and leave my practice).

For those who have not seen the movie, you may want to stop here before reading about the similarities between Mike and me, I don’t want to ruin anything for you.  For those of you who would like to know some cool trivia feel free to read on.


The movie is loosely based on some of my experiences as an elder law and estate planning attorney in New Providence.  Some of these facts will make more sense after you see the movie. Read the rest of this entry »

Featured on FoxSearchLight.com, February 8, 2011

CameronCook on February 8th, 2011

The cast and crew of Tom McCarthy’s WIN WIN discuss the film with their Sundance audience.

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“Win Win” Trailer
About the Movie
Win Win is based on the story by Tom McCarthy and Joe Tiboni. When a disheartened attorney moonlighting as a high school wrestling coach stumbles across a star athlete, things seem to be looking up. That is, until the boy's mother shows up fresh from rehab and flat broke, threatening to derail everything. Cast: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor.
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Contact Info
Tiboni & Tiboni, LLP
166 South Street
New Providence, NJ 07974
Ph: 908-286-1136
Fax: 908-286-1605