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Law Offices of Ronald W. Rutz
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February 2, 1998: Medicare Law; Co-Signer Duties

Q: This is a continuation of last month's question concerning the new Medicare Law and the various choices that are available.

A: The following is a short description of the kinds of plans that can be selected: A PSO (Provider Sponsored Organization) is an HMO not run by an insurance company but by a grouping of doctors and medical facilities. A PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) is an HMO where a member, for an extra fee, can use doctors and medical facilities not on the HMO list. A POS (Point of Service) resembles the HMO with a closed list of doctors and medical facilities and normally is run by an insurance company. But unlike a PPO, a member must receive permission to use outside doctors or medical facilities and normally pays a higher fee. Consumers need to see which of the three approaches will be available and what the local fees will be.

Q: I am a co-signer on my sister's bank accounts and have her power of attorney. After her death can I sell her house and have access to the banking accounts without probate?

A: A power of attorney ends upon the death of the giver. Thus you would not be able to sell the real property after her death. If you are a co-signer on the banking accounts as her agent, then again your power over the accounts ends at her death. But if you were added as a co-signer and an owner, then you could continue to sign, not because of a "power of attorney," but because the funds are your funds now. Normally, if co-owned, bank accounts (except C.D.'s) are deemed to be held in joint tenancy without the traditional joint tenancy wording. You must check with the financial institutions to see how each organization is treating your "co-signing" powers and the presumptions of joint tenancy. Thus, for the house and for the bank accounts, the power of attorney is not a substitute for or an alternative to a probate.

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