Generic Drugs Offer Big Savings | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 18 September 2014 13:50

091814sen1By Jim Miller • Special to the Times

Are brand-name medications better than generic?

No. Brand-name medications are not better, safer or more effective than their generic alternative because they’re virtually the same.

To gain approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), generic drugs are required to have the same active ingredients, strength and dosage form as their brand-name counterpart. The generic manufacturer must also demonstrate that people absorb the drug at the same rate.

The only difference between a brand-name drug and its generic is the name (generics are usually called by their chemical name), shape and color of the drug (U.S. trademark laws don’t allow generics to look exactly like the their brand-name counterparts) and price.

Generic drugs are often 10 to 30 percent cheaper when they first become available, but by the end of the first year the price can drop in half. And, by the second and third year, it can drop 70 to 90 percent.

Cost Difference

The reason generic drugs are so much cheaper is because their manufacturers don’t have the hefty start-up costs that the original creators of the drug do.

When a pharmaceutical company creates a new drug, it spends millions of dollars on the research, development and clinical testing phase. Then, if it gets FDA approval, it has to turn around and spend even more money to market the drug to the health care industry and the public.

The total cost can rise into the hundreds of millions by the time the drug is in the hands of consumers.

In an effort to recoup their investment, the brand-name drug makers charge a premium price, and are given a 20-year patent protection, which means that no other company can make or sell the drug during that period of time.

After those 20 years are up, however, other companies can apply to the FDA to sell generic versions. But because generic manufacturers don’t have the same research, development and marketing costs, they can sell their product much cheaper.

Also, once generic drugs are approved, there’s greater competition, which drives the price down. Today, nearly 8 in 10 prescriptions filled in the United States are for generics, which saves U.S. consumers around $3 billion every week.

New Generics

You should also know, in 2014 and 2015, patents on a wide variety of popular brand-name drugs will expire and become available in generic, including Celebrex, Copaxone, Actonel, Nexium, Exforge, Cymbalta, Lunesta, Avodart, Abilify, Evista, Maxalt, Maxalt MPT, Micardis, Micardis HCT, Reneagel, Twynata and Xeloda.

For more information, Community Catalyst, a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, provides a list on their website of the top 50 brand-name drugs and the dates they should become available as generics. Go to, and type “Drugs Going Generic 2014 – 2015” in their search bar to find it.

You can also find out if a brand-name drug has a generic alternative by simply asking your doctor or pharmacist. Or, visit, an internet tool that provides prices on brand-name drugs and their generic alternatives (if available) at virtually every pharmacy in the U.S. so you can find the best deals in your area.


Does Medicare Offer Coverage for Mental Health Services? | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 18 September 2014 13:48

By Gene L. Osofsky, Esq. • Special to the Times

Q: I hear that Medicare will now cover mental health services much like it covers care for medical and surgical conditions. Do you know anything about this?

A: Yes. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, Medicare began reimbursing the cost of outpatient mental health treatment services on a par with its reimbursement for other Part B medical services.

Previously, Medicare beneficiaries who received mental health services faced a higher co-pay and were initially required to pay up to 50 percent of the approved amount, whereas they only paid 20 percent for most other outpatient medical services. Many Medicare recipients and advocacy organizations felt this practice to be discriminatory. Congress ultimately agreed.

In July, 2008, Congress enacted the “Medicare Improvements For Patients and Providers Act” (“Act”).  Under the Act, Congress initiated a phase-out of this disparity over a five-year period from 2010 to 2014. That phase-out is now complete.  

As a result, at the first of this year, Medicare began paying the same 80 percent of the Medicare-approved rate for all covered mental health services, just like it does for medical and surgical services.

Also, if you have a Medicare supplemental policy, it may cover the 20-percent co-payment just as it now does for more traditional medical services. If you do not have a supplemental policy and need help paying the 20-percent co-pay, there are Medicare programs that may help.

The following are some of the mental health services that Medicare will now cover at 80 percent of the Medicare-approved rate:

• Visits to a psychologist or other professional counselor;

• Family therapy, as long as the focus of therapy is on the Medicare recipient;

• Substance abuse treatment;

• Occupational therapy that is part of mental health treatment;

• Prescription medicine that cannot be self-administered;

• Art, dance and music therapy if deemed necessary to prevent hospitalization.

Medicare also covers inpatient care in a general or psychiatric hospital. However, unlike with non-mental health services, Medicare puts a cap on coverage for inpatient psychiatric care and will only pay for up to 190 days of inpatient psychiatric hospital services in a lifetime.

Be aware that Medicare will pay for services only if they are provided by a mental health professional who accepts Medicare assignment, so be sure to check with your health professional before you receive services.

Note: If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, coverage rules may be different, so check with your plan before receiving services.

For more information on covered mental health services, visit and download Medicare’s new guide entitled “Medicare And Your Mental Health Benefits,” or call 1-800-633-4227 and ask for a copy.

For help with paying the co-pays, visit and select “Get Help Paying Costs” under “Your Medicare Costs,” or call the 800 number above.

Gene L. Osofsky is an elder law and estate planning attorney in Hayward.  Visit his website at

Social Security Resumes Mailing Benefit Statements | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 18 September 2014 13:45

By Jason Alderman • Special to the Times

Call it a paperless experiment that didn’t quite pan out.

In 2011, a budget-strapped Social Security Administration (SSA) stopped mailing annual benefit statements to workers over 25 in order to save $70 million on annual printing and mailing costs.

In return, the agency launched the “my Social Security” online tool that allows 24/7 access to your statement, as well as other helpful information. (Your statement shows a complete record of your taxable earnings as well as estimated retirement, disability and survivor benefits.)

Although more than 13 million people have opened accounts, that’s only about 6 percent of the American workforce. With millions of Baby Boomers at – or approaching – retirement age, Congress was justifiably concerned that not enough people were accessing this critical retirement-planning tool.

That’s why this month SSA will resume mailing paper statements every five years to workers from ages 25 to 60, provided they haven’t already signed up for online statements. The expectation is that more people will migrate to electronic services over time, as Social Security continues to close field offices and reduce in-office paperwork services – thanks to years of funding cutbacks.

The paper statements are a good first step, but creating an online account allows you to log in anytime and:

• Estimate retirement, disability and survivor benefits available to you under different work, earnings and retirement-age scenarios.

• Estimate benefits for which your family would be eligible when you receive Social Security or die.

• View a list of your lifetime earnings to date, according to the agency’s records.

• See the estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid over your working career.

• Find information about qualifying and signing up for Medicare.

• Review topics to consider if you’re 55 or older and thinking about retiring.

• Read general information about Social Security.

• Access calculators to estimate your projected benefits under different scenarios.

• Apply online for retirement and disability benefits.

• Access a printable version of your Social Security statement.

To create an online account, go to the “my Social Security” website ( You must have a valid email address, Social Security number, U.S. mailing address and be at least age 18.

You’ll need to verify your identity by providing personal information and answering questions whose answers only you should know. Social Security contracts with Experian to design these questions based on the credit bureau’s records.

Once your identity has been verified, you can create a password-protected account. Social Security emphasizes that you may sign into or create an account to access only your own information. Unauthorized use could subject you to criminal and/or civil penalties.

Review your statement at least annually to ensure the information on file for you is correct – for example, your yearly taxable earnings. Otherwise, when Social Security calculates your benefits at retirement, disability or death, you could be shortchanged; or, if your earnings were over-reported, you could end up owing the government money.

If you do find errors, call 800-772-1213, or visit your local office. You’ll need copies of your W-2 form or tax return for any impacted years.

Jason Alderman directs Visa’s financial education programs.

Gambling Problems Hit Seniors Hard | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 September 2014 12:02

090414senBy Jim Miller • Special to the Times

Problem gambling among seniors is definitely on the rise. Seniors have time and money on their hands, and the influx of casinos across Northern California have made access to gambling much more convenient. Here’s what you should know, along with some tips and resources that can help your senior parent if they do indeed have a problem.

Problem Gambling

For most older adults, gambling is simply a fun recreational activity, but for those who become addicted to it, it can be a devastating disease that can financially wipe them out.

There are a number of reasons why seniors can be vulnerable to gambling problems. For starters, seniors are often catered to by casinos with free bus transportation, free or discounted meals, special rewards and other prizes as a way to entice them.

In addition, many seniors use gambling as a way to distract or escape feelings of loneliness, depression, sadness, or even a chronic health condition. Some may have financial problems they are seeking to overcome. And, some may have cognitive impairment that interferes with their ability to make sound decisions.

Adding to the problem is that many seniors may not understand addiction, making them less likely to identify a gambling problem. Or they may be confused or embarrassed that they can’t control their urges to gamble and reluctant to seek help because they think that, at their age, they should know better. And, even if they recognize that they have a problem, they may not know that help is available or where to get it.

You should also know that while there are many gambling options for people to get hooked on today, casino slot machines are far and away the most popular among seniors.

Slot machines are much more addictive then the old machines of yesteryear with spinning lemons, cherries and melons. Many of today’s slot machines offer intense sensory stimulation with large video screens, music and vibrating, ergonomic chairs.

Find Help

How can you know if a spouse or a parent has a gambling problem? Gamblers Anonymous offers a 20 question online test at that will help determine if there is a problem. In the meantime, here are some questions you can ask to help evaluate the situation.

• Is she/he preoccupied with gambling, constantly talking about it, or planning to gamble versus doing their normal activities?

• Is she/he gambling more and more money to get the same level of excitement?

• Is she/he using their retirement funds or other savings to gamble, or are they pawning or selling personal items to get money to gamble with?

•Has she/he lost control to the point that they can’t set a limit of time and money to spend in the casino, and stick to it?

• Does she/he become uncomfortable, angry or lie when you ask them about their gambling activities?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, there may be a problem. To find help, contact the National Council on Problem Gambling (, a non-profit organization that operates a 24-hour national hotline at 800-522-4700. They can direct you to resources in your area, including counselors who have been trained through the National Certified Gambler Counseling Program.

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior.”

If I Have a Trust, Do I Also Need a Will? | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 04 September 2014 11:59

By Gene L. Osofsky, Esq. • Special to the Times

Q: I have a living trust, prepared some time ago. I recently heard that it was a good idea to also have a will. However, I thought the trust took the place of a will. Can you clarify this?

A: Sure. Attorneys who prepare trusts generally also prepare a backup will to coordinate with the trust. The companion will is designed to “catch” assets that were inadvertently left out of the trust.

The will then typically directs that these omitted assets be “poured back” into the trust and be distributed according to the terms of the trust.  Attorneys often refer to these wills as “Pour Over” Wills, which accurately describes their purpose.

Ideally, you would never need to use the “Pour Over” Will, because all assets would be part of your trust. However, in the real world, we find that clients often neglect to take proper steps to retitle assets into their trust.

Remember, in order to transfer assets into your trust, you generally have to sign a formal document, such as a deed in the case of real property, which formally re-titles assets into the name of the trustee of the trust. By the way, in most cases the trustee is the same person who created the trust (the trustor), but the trustor still must observe the formality of retaking title in his own name “as trustee.”

The assets omitted from the trust and “captured” by the Pour-Over Will still have to go through probate. However, the advantage of having a Pour-Over Will is that the omitted assets will ultimately go to your designated trust beneficiaries as part of a coordinated plan. Without the Pour-Over Will, the omitted assets would be distributed to your heirs-at-law as identified by statute, which could be different persons.

A related topic arises where a trustor has clearly listed assets on a schedule attached to his trust, but neglects to formally retitle the assets into his name “as trustee.” This happens fairly frequently.

In this situation, the trustor clearly intended to put the described assets in the trust, but for whatever reason failed to take formal steps to do so. Here, the law provides a quicker remedy, which attorneys often refer to as a “Heggstad Motion,” so named because of the 1993 court decision which approved this remedy.  Thus, where the trustor’s intent to include an asset in his trust is clear, it is possible to petition the court for an order immediately transferring the assets into the trust, so that they are not subject to probate and the possibility that they may go to unintended individuals.

For the above reasons, we always recommend that a trust contain a detailed Schedule of Assets, that upon creation of the trust the client take immediate steps to retitle those assets into the trust, and that the trust be accompanied by a companion “Pour-Over Will.”

Caution: some assets, such as retirement accounts, should never be re-titled into the name of the trust, as that could trigger an adverse tax result.

Gene L. Osofsky is an elder law and estate planning attorney in Hayward. Visit his website at

How Medicare Can Cover a Mobility Device, Wheelchair | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:30

082114sen1By Jim Miller • Special to the Times

Getting an electric-powered mobility scooter or wheelchair for a senior who is covered by original Medicare starts with a visit to the doctor’s office.

If eligible, Medicare will pay 80 percent of the cost, after you meet your $147 Part B deductible. You will then be responsible for the remaining 20 percent. Here’s a breakdown of how it works.

Make an Appointment

Your first step is to call your doctor and schedule a Medicare-required, face-to-face mobility evaluation, to determine your need for a power wheelchair or scooter. To be eligible, you’ll need to meet all of the following conditions:

• Your health condition makes moving around your home very difficult, even with the help of a cane, walker or manual wheelchair.

• You have significant problems performing activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, getting in or out of a bed or chair, or using the bathroom.

• You are able to safely operate, and get on and off the scooter or wheelchair, or have someone with you who is always available to help you safely use the device.

If eligible, your doctor will determine what kind of mobility equipment you’ll need based on your condition, usability in your home, and the ability to operate it.

It’s also important to know that Medicare coverage is dependent on you needing a scooter or wheelchair in your home. If your claim is based on needing it outside the home, it will be denied as not medically necessary, because the wheelchair or scooter will be considered as a leisure item.

Where to Shop

If the doctor determines that you need a power scooter or wheelchair, they will fill out a written order or certificate of medical necessity (CMN) form for you.

Once you receive that, you’ll need to take it to a Medicare-approved supplier within 45 days. If you happen to live in one of Medicare’s competitive bidding areas, you’ll need to get the device from specific suppliers approved by Medicare. To find approved suppliers and competitive bidding suppliers in your area, visit or call 800-633-4227.

Once you choose an approved supplier, they will send a representative to assess your home, measuring your doorways, thresholds and overall space to ensure that you get the appropriate mobility device.

Financial Assistance

If you have a Medicare supplemental policy, it may pick up some, or all of the 20 percent cost of the scooter or wheelchair that’s not covered by Medicare. If, however, you don’t have supplemental insurance, and can’t afford the 20 percent, you may be able to get help through Medicare Savings Programs. Call your local Medicaid office for eligibility information.

Or, if you find that you are not eligible for a Medicare covered scooter or wheelchair, and can’t afford to purchase one, renting can be a much cheaper short-term solution. Talk to a supplier about this option.

For more information, call Medicare at 800-633-4227 and request a copy of publication No. 11046 “Medicare’s Wheelchair and Scooter Benefit,” or you can read it online at

Medicare Advantage

If you happen to have a Medicare Advantage plan (like an HMO or PPO), you’ll need to call your plan to find out the specific steps you need to take to get a wheelchair or scooter. Many Advantage plans may have specific suppliers within the plan’s network they’ll require you to use.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit

Senior Safe-Driver Seminar on Sept. 2 | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:29

082114sen2The California Highway Patrol will present a safe-driver seminar for seniors from 1 to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 2, at the Castro Valley Library. Topics to be covered include compensating for age-related changes, tuning up your driving skills, the rules of the road, safe-driving tips and a confidential self-evaluation. On completion of the seminar, seniors will receive a certificate which usually entitles them to an automobile insurance discount. The program is free, but registration is required. To register, or for more information, call the Library Information Desk at 510-667-7900. The Castro Valley Library is located at 3600 Norbridge Ave. and is wheelchair accessible.


Keep Active as Time Passes By | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:27

082114sen3For optimal health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that older adults get a minimum of two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity every week.

In addition, muscle-strengthening activities should be conducted two or more days a week.

Why Exercise

Exercise can help prevent many physical problems and chronic conditions that come with aging, including weight gain, back pain and heart disease. Plus, it keeps the mind sharp and can help you feel happier, improving symptoms of depression and even dementia.

To gain these benefits, however, you need to find a fitness program that provides the physical results desired and is enjoyable, too, so you’ll stick to it.

How To Exercise

Before you begin any exercise program:

1. See your doctor, especially if you have a chronic condition.

2. Start slowly. Begin by walking, say, for 10 minutes or so a day. As you gain energy and your body builds stamina, increase your activity levels and make it more challenging.

3. Stay motivated. Have realistic short-term goals you can easily meet.

4. Don’t be intimidated. Remember that everyone had to walk in the door for the first time. Don’t let the thought of starting hold you back. You can do it.

Healthways SilverSneakers Fitness Program is available nationwide. It’s free in most cases because it’s covered through many Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement and group retiree plans. For more information, visit

New Reverse Mortgage Rule Protects Younger Spouse from Foreclosure | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 21 August 2014 13:25

By Gene L. Osofsky, Esq. • Special to the Times

Q: I hear that there is a new reverse mortgage rule that protects younger surviving spouses from being forced out of their home when the older spouse dies. Do you know anything about this?

A: Yes, a new HUD reverse mortgage rule went into effect this month that seeks to protect certain surviving spouses from being forced out of their homes upon the death of their spouse.

Some background is helpful: As you may know, a homeowner has to be age 62 or older in order to qualify for a reverse mortgage loan under the popular Home-Equity Conversion Program (HECM).

In the past, when one spouse was over age 62 and the other was under age 62, the couple could not qualify for a reverse mortgage loan unless the younger spouse was left entirely off the loan. Many couples left younger spouses off the loan in order to qualify, or sometimes to secure a larger loan amount, often not realizing the future implications of this strategy.

Here is what then often happened: When the borrower spouse died, the reverse mortgage lender would require that the loan be repaid and, if the surviving spouse could not do so, would foreclose. This often resulted in a forced sale and the eviction of the younger surviving spouse.

To stop this practice, AARP brought a class-action lawsuit against HUD in a case called Bennett v. Donovan. Last year, the court ruled that this practice violated federal law and directed HUD to modify its regulations to stop this practice. HUD did so, and the new rule is the result.

The new rule permits a couple, where one spouse is under age 62, to take a reverse mortgage and list the under-age spouse as a “Non-Borrowing Spouse” (NBS). When the older spouse dies, the surviving NBS then retains the legal right to remain in the home, providing that certain requirements are met.

One of them is that the NBS must, within 90 days of the older borrower’s death, establish a legal right to remain in the home, such as by establishing legal ownership, an executed lease, court order, or other legal entitlement.

Upon the younger NBS doing so, she retains the legal right to remain in the home, providing that other loan requirements continue to be met, such as the payment of insurance premiums and property taxes.

The new rule does have some down-sides:

(1) The reverse mortgage loan amount will now be less, as it will be based  upon the younger spouse’s age;

(2) upon the death of the borrower spouse, the surviving NBS will not be able to make any further draws against the unused loan balance; and

(3) the new rule protects only NBSs who were married to the borrowing spouse at the time of loan origination; the new rule does not protect new spouses of a later marriage.

Further, the new HUD rule is not retroactive and does not protect NBSs on existing reverse mortgage loans. However, surviving NBSs on older loans might still attempt to seek protection under the umbrella of the court’s ruling in the Bennett v. Donovan case.

In view of the new rule, senior couples who had previously decided against a reverse mortgage because of the risk of foreclosure to the younger surviving spouse, might now wish to reconsider where such a loan otherwise makes sense for them.

Gene L. Osofsky is an elder law and estate planning attorney in Hayward. Visit his website at

How to Find the Best Reacher Grabber Tool | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 07 August 2014 12:28

080714sen1By Jim Miller • Special to the Times

A good reacher grabber is a very handy tool for anyone with mobility issues.

It works like an extension of your arm allowing you to reach down and pick things up off the ground without bending or stooping over. It can also help with reaching and grabbing things in high overhead places, as well as areas that are difficult to get to.

But with so many different reachers on the market today, finding a good one that works well for you is not always easy. Depending on your needs, here are some top options to consider.

Lightweight reacher: If you want a reacher primarily for picking up small lightweight items around the house, the “Aluminum Reacher with Magnetic Tip” by Duro-Med is multifunctional.

Available in 32 and 26-inch lengths, it has a trigger-style handgrip with a serrated jaw that provides a secure grip when lifting objects. It also has a magnet built into the tip for picking up lightweight metal objects like a paperclip, and a small hook (or horn) that aids in retrieving things like clothes, shoes or keys. But, because of its lightweight design, it doesn’t work as well at retrieving heavier items like canned goods from shelves.

All-purpose reacher: For retrieving small and medium-sized items, the “Ettore Grip’n Grab” can handle most chores. Available in 16, 32 and 50-inch lengths, it has a soft comfortable trigger handgrip and a rubberized jaw that’s strong enough to lift objects up to 5 pounds and up to 4 inches wide, yet sensitive enough to pick up something as small as a dime. The jaw can also swivel 90 degrees to reach things in awkward spaces.

Ergonomic handle reachers: If you have hand or wrist arthritis that makes gripping difficult, the 31-inch “Medline Reacher” has a handgrip that lets you use all five fingers to close the jaw for better gripping power.

Or, consider the new “HealthSmart GripLoc Sliding Reacher,” a 43-inch two-handed reacher with a power slide handle that opens and closes the jaw (no hand squeezing required), and a twist lock that locks the jaw when it’s clinched to secure your item.

Folding reacher: For easier storage or travel, the 32-inch “EZ Reacher Collapsible” has a slip-joint in the arm that allows it to fold in half. It also has stainless steel fingers with silicone suction cup tips that do a nice job of picking up large and small items; and a pistol grip with an optional safety lock that locks the jaw onto items without continuously squeezing the trigger.

Adjustable length reacher: If you need a reacher for various lengths, the “PikStik TelescoPik” has a lockable sliding shaft that adjusts from 30 to 44 inches. It also has a trigger grip and a rotating rubberized jaw that can lift up to 5 pounds.

Outdoor reacher: For outdoor use, the 36-inch “Unger Nifty Nabber” is ideal for heavy-duty jobs. It has a rubber-coated jaw for a strong and reliable grip with a built-in magnet, an aluminum handle and can lift 20 pounds.

You can buy reacher grabbers at many pharmacies, retail, medical equipment and home improvement stores. But, because it’s a specialty item, the selection is very limited. Your best bet is to buy one online at, which sells all of the top reachers at prices ranging between $12 and $40. Just type the product name in the search bar to find it.

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

What Do You Do When Spouse Can’t Sign? | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 07 August 2014 12:26

By Gene L. Osofsky, Esq. • Special to the Times

Q: My husband has dementia and I wonder about my ability to refinance or even sell the home, as he cannot sign. The home is held in a Living Trust. Can you please advise me?

A: The short answer is that it may be easier for you to sell the home than it would be to refinance. Here’s why:

Sale of Home: Your Living Trust probably provides that both of you are co-trustees, but that when one of you dies or becomes incapacitated the other becomes the sole trustee with full power to convey trust assets.

So, assuming that you can document your husband’s incapacity as required by the terms of the trust, the trust terms would then typically permit you, as sole trustee, to convey clear title to the buyers on your signature alone. That authority would then usually allow you to sell the home.

Refinance: However, if your goal were to refinance an existing loan on your home, this could be problematic. Many lenders require that the home be removed from trust during the loan escrow and require that all loan documents be signed by both homeowners as individuals, rather than as trustees.

Once removed from trust, your authority to sign would no longer be governed by the trust instrument. Instead, it would be governed by a Durable Power of Attorney (“DPOA”) if one exists. However, your lender may not accept that DPOA, if, for example, it had been signed long ago, it does not adequately identify your home, or it does not clearly give you authority to encumber the home to secure the loan.

Also, the lender may require that you obtain physicians’ letters certifying both (a) that your husband had full capacity when the DPOA was originally signed years ago, and (b) that he currently is incapacitated. A letter certifying your husband’s capacity years ago could be a problem if, for example, your husband’s then physician is now unavailable.

Even lenders who do not require that the home be first removed from trust, may still require signatures by both the acting trustee and by both home-owners as individuals. This appears especially true with regard to Reverse Mortgages. So, again, even in this situation you may need a DPOA that is acceptable to the lender.

Here are some possible work-a-rounds — suggestions if you wish to refinance and encounter lender resistance:

(A) Shop around: Some lenders, such as credit unions, may have more relaxed standards.  For example, some may not require that you remove the home from trust in order to refinance and may accept your signature, alone, on all loan documents as sole trustee; and/or

(B) Consider a Petition to the Superior Court asking the judge to issue an order which substitutes for your husband’s signature. This procedure is available in California under what is called a Petition for Substituted Judgment, so named because it asks the court to substitute its judgment for that of your husband. Presumably, a lender would accept the resulting court order in lieu of your husband’s signature.

Whether you seek to sell, or refinance, I recommend checking out these issues with one or more title companies and/or lenders early on, before you get too committed to a specific course of action.

Gene L.  Osofsky is an estate planning and elder law attorney in Hayward. Visit his website at


Alternative Lodging Options for Retirees | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 15:39

071714senBy Jim Miller • Special to the Times

If you’re willing to do a little research and preplanning, there are a number of ways you can lower (or eliminate) your travel-lodging costs and live more like a local when you travel.

Here are some different options to consider and some resources that can help you locate them.

Apartment/House Rentals: There are literally hundreds of thousands of privately owned properties in the United States and abroad that are offered as short-term vacation rentals. This has become a very popular alternative to hotels, for retirees.

Renting a fully furnished apartment or house is usually significantly cheaper than hotel rooms of comparable quality, and they almost always offer more space, a homier feel and a kitchen, which can save you the expense of eating out for every meal.

Short-term rentals are offered through the individual property owners or property-management companies. Some of the best sites for finding them include,,, and

Most sites are free to use for travelers. You can also look for rentals at any online search engine by typing in your destination city plus short-term apartment/house rentals (for example “New York short-term apartments for rent”).

B&B Clubs: If you like staying in bed-and-breakfasts and have a spare bedroom yourself, you should consider the Evergreen Club ( or the Affordable Travel Club ( These are B&B clubs for travelers over ages 50 or 40 that offer inexpensive lodging in the spare bedroom of other club members, or they may stay with you when they’re on the road. You pay a modest gratuity of between $15 and $25 per night, with breakfast. And the clubs charge membership fees of $65 to $80 per year.

House Sitting: If you have a flexible schedule and you don’t mind doing a few household chores when you travel, house sitting is another option that offers lodging for free.

How it works is you live in someone else’s home while they’re away for a long weekend or even a few months. And, in exchange for the free accommodations, you take care of certain responsibilities such as their pets, lawn, garden, mail, etc. To find these opportunities, try sites like,, and — they all charge a small membership fee.

Home Swapping: Another way to get free accommodations when you travel is by swapping homes with someone who’s interested in visiting the area where you live.

To make a swap, you’ll need to join an online home exchange service where you can list your home, and get access to thousands of other listings. Then, you simply email the owners of houses or apartments you’re interested in — or they email you — and you make arrangements.

Most home-exchange sites like, and charge membership fees ranging from $39 to $120.




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