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Law covering living trust differs from that on will

Is it possible for a family member to obtain a copy of a relative's living trust?

This relative died two years ago. His son is trustee and has the only copy of the trust in his possession. No one else has ever seen it.

Evelyn Anderson

Response: Unlike a will, which becomes a matter of public record when it is probated, a living trust has the advantage of privacy. The person you name as co-trustee to take over your estate when you die is required by law to make an annual accounting to the vested beneficiaries and give them a copy of the trust upon their reasonable request.

But if you are not listed in the trust as a beneficiary, the trustee does not have to tell you or show you a thing.

Therein lies a Catch-22.

If the trustee does not tell you that you are a beneficiary, how do you know that you have any rights? The law does not provide anyone to oversee the trustee of a living trust.

According to Tom Allison, a professor of law at Stetson University, the Florida Bar Association is reviewing this area of law to determine whether any additional judicial oversight is needed.

If trustees are neglecting to inform family members that they are beneficiaries, it apparently happens rarely or nobody complains about it. Allison said he has heard of only one such case and it was probably an unintentional delay caused by the trustee's inexperience.

Should you be able to prove or have good reason to believe that family members were named as beneficiaries, tell them to ask the trustee for a copy of the trust. If the trustee refuses to supply it to anyone, you may want to consult a lawyer and see if there is a legal means for getting the court to take a look at it.

He'll finally hear new chimes

I'll get right to the point.

On Oct. 23 I placed an order with Golden Age Products for two pairs of gel-filled insoles and door chimes. My check was deposited on Nov. 3, but I never received these items.

After the Christmas rush I called and left a message on the company's answering machine. They did not call back. Then I sent a letter, which they also did not answer.

The amount, $24.90, doesn't seem like a lot, but if they do that to 1,000 poor souls, that means $24,900 profit without lifting a finger.

I'd appreciate any little bit you can do.

James Elliott

Response: Happy to hear you received a refund.

At long last, patience pays off

I disenrolled from my health maintenance organization in December 1990. In January 1991 I underwent various tests leading to radiation treatment for lung cancer.

A subsequent claim for an $800 HCA Medical Center bill was denied because Medicare records did not show my HMO disenrollment. It took a full year for the Health Care Financing Administration to provide proof that I had been readmitted to the Medicare plan. Meantime I had to pay this and other bills in full.

That was a full two years ago. Since then I have tried to get HCA to reprocess the HCA claim.

Congressmen Michael Bilirakis and Bill Young both wrote letters on my behalf. HCA promised to investigate and respond to their inquiries but never did.

After I wrote to Action in December 1993, HCA said it had rebilled Medicare through its intermediary, Mutual of Omaha, last September. When it contacted Mutual in November, HCA said it was advised to "wait two weeks" because my patient information had been rejected when Mutual keyed it into their system.

In December, HCA said it was told by Mutual that my master file had been updated and the claim was being processed. I was to receive payment within 30 days.

On Jan. 20 HCA wrote to say my claim still had not been processed by Mutual of Omaha as of Jan. 18 and they were resubmitting it.

I am a widower, living alone and not in the best of health. It would seem that hospitals, once paid, do not care to go out of their way to help.

Thomas O'Malley

Response: HCA Medical Center's assistant business office manager, Stephen Meyer, said he already had made three calls to Mutual of Omaha the day we called him. He said Mutual told him it was taking your claim to its senior accountant, who was going to walk it through the system.

Since then you called to say you got a check.

If patience is worth points at the Pearly Gates, we'd say you've already got one foot in the door.