The Dangers of Guardianships

If courts are not adequate watchdogs of the guardians of the elderly, it can result in the elderly losing everything with little legal remedy.

Rudy and Rennie North were a normal Nevada couple in their 50s. Rennie needed some assistance with day to day living, which she was able to get from a nurse at home.

Then, a woman named April Parks came into their lives.

Parks owned a business and was considered a professional guardian. Without consulting the Norths or anyone in their family, Parks was able to get a letter from a physician’s assistant declaring that the Norths needed a guardian.

Parks took this letter to court and was appointed their guardian.

The Norths again were never consulted.

No tests were conducted on them, to see if they were lacking in cognitive functioning and unable to care for themselves.

Eventually their life savings were used up and they now live in a converted office with their daughter.

The New Yorker reported this story in “How the Elderly Lose Their Rights.”

Although things like this should never happen, they occur all too frequently.

If the legal system is not diligent in protecting the elderly from so-called guardians who just want to take what the elderly have, there is little the elderly can do about it. In this case, the court system was complicit in Parks’ scam.

If you suspect that someone has used the guardianship system to take advantage of you or someone you love, it is vital that you speak to an elder law attorney immediately.

The attorney can help you to stop the guardian before it is too late.

Reference: The New Yorker (Oct. 9, 2017) “How the Elderly Lose Their Rights.”

Troubled Public Pensions

Public pensions all over the U.S. are facing severe underfunding problems.

Public employees in the U.S. count on their pensions to provide for them in retirement. While most private companies have moved to 401Ks, public employees still have the old pension system.

Because of these pensions, they are often not eligible for Social Security.

However, for decades, these pensions have been underfunded, since governments have preferred to spend money elsewhere.

The problem is severe and not isolated to just a few public pension programs, as the Economist reports in “American public pensions suffer from a gaping hole.”

The biggest source of the problem appears to be that administrators have preferred to use projection methods that are unrealistic. More realistic projections would require governments to make greater contributions.

There are no popular options to fix this problem.

Taxpayers do not want to pay more, so governments can meet their pension obligations.

Public employees do not want to contribute more of their paychecks to the pensions.

Current and future pension beneficiaries also do not want to see their benefits cut.

Something will have to give to address the public pension problem adequately.

If employees cannot rely on their pensions, then they might not be able to retire as planned, unless the federal government intervenes and covers the pension shortfalls.

People who are no longer able to work, could find themselves forced to retire and also unable to meet their expenses.

Reference: Economist (Oct. 5, 2017) “American public pensions suffer from a gaping hole.”

Social Security Representative Payee Program

Social Security has a little known program that can help families with elderly members who are not able to handle their own finances.

One of the many problems which families of the elderly have to face, is that the elderly person can lose the ability to handle his or her own finances.

Through no fault of their own, they forget what bills they need to pay.

They give money to people to whom they should not give it.

They are susceptible to scammers.

Some of these problems can be handled with a general durable power of attorney. However, many families worry that because the Social Security check still comes in the name of an elderly person with dementia, the money might still be lost.

However, that worry is unnecessary, since Social Security has a program that can help in these situations, as Forbes discusses in “The Social Security Program For People With Dementia.”

The program is the Social Security Representative Payee Program.

It allows someone else to receive the benefit checks of a Social Security payee as a representative.

It is a little known program that has been around for almost as long as Social Security itself.

For families that know about it and use the program, it can provide a great relief.

Unfortunately, it can be a bit of a challenge if one wants to sign up.

It requires a lot of paperwork to be submitted.

For that reason, people who are interested in using the program, might want to first consult with an elder law attorney.

Reference: Forbes (Sep. 26, 2017) “The Social Security Program For People With Dementia.”

Considerations for Elderly Widows

Many elderly women are not fully prepared for what might happen after their spouses pass away.

We live in an age where, at least on a legal level, men and women are treated equally. Women can now enjoy a far greater range of possibilities than their ancestors would have ever imagined.

However, just because the law says one thing, does not mean that each individual woman fully enjoys its advantages.

Even today, many women defer family finances to their husbands.

This is especially true for older women, which can leave the women poorly prepared to handle things after their husbands pass away, as The New York Times discusses in “Helping Women Over 50 Face Their Financial Fears.”

The biggest thing for most women, is that they need to know how to manage the day-to-day finances. They need to learn how much money there is, what bills need to be paid and how any money should be invested.

Some widows also have problems in that their husbands own a business that they inherit and do not know how to run.

The best way to deal with these problems is to avoid them, if at all possible.

Husbands and wives should discuss things to make sure the wife is prepared, in case the husband passes away.

Other widows have legal problems, since their stepchildren might seek to challenge the widows’ inheritances in court. These problems need to be addressed with the help of an experienced estate attorney.

Reference: New York Times (Sep. 1, 2017) “Helping Women Over 50 Face Their Financial Fears.”

Hidden Benefit to Physician-Assisted Death Law

California’s new law to allow physician-assisted death continues to be controversial, but doctors are starting to see a hidden benefit to the law.

The recently enacted law that allows terminally ill patients in California to request lethal prescription medicine from their doctors, has caused a lot of controversy in the state and throughout the country. People are watching closely to see what effects the law will have, which patients will use it and what it will mean for doctors.

What happens in California will be cited by advocates in other states as they work to get similar laws passed or as they look to prevent similar laws from passing in their states.
The Los Angeles Times recently reported on one unexpected benefit of the law in “There’s an unforeseen benefit to California’s physician-assisted death law.”

One thing the law does, is force physicians to talk to their patients about why they want to end their own lives.

That often leads to discussion about pain, quality of care and what the patient would prefer happen.

What doctors have found is that some of the assumptions they make about what is good for patients are inaccurate.

The patients would prefer that they be treated differently at the end of their lives.

Doctors and other health workers can use that information to better treat the patient.

Even if the individual patient still prefers to end his or her own life, the information can be used to improve treatment for other people.

Although it was not intended to do so, California’s law has led to better quality care for all of the state’s terminally ill patients. That is to be welcomed.

Reference: Los Angeles Times (Aug. 21, 2017) “There’s an unforeseen benefit to California’s physician-assisted death law.”

The Ethics of Medicaid Planning

Arranging your assets so that you will qualify for Medicaid, should you ever need to stay in a nursing home for long-term care is possible. However, many people question the ethics of doing so.

Medicaid often does not get a lot of attention, despite its importance. However, with some in Congress looking to make cuts to it as a way to reduce spending and taxes, Medicaid is back in the news on a regular basis.

One of the things the program does, is pay for long-term care in nursing homes for those elderly people who cannot afford their own care.

That part of the program is under fire because some people essentially hide their assets to make it look like they cannot afford their own nursing home bills, so that Medicaid will pick up the tab.

Recently, The New York Times looked at the debate over the ethics of doing that in “The Ethics of Adjusting Your Assets to Qualify for Medicaid.”

On one side of the debate are people who point out that those who can plan for Medicaid are wealthy enough to hire attorneys. Therefore, they should not hide assets to take advantage of a program designed to help the poor.

On the other side, people point out that nursing home care is extremely expensive. They believe that it is not fair for people to have to exhaust all of their assets, leaving nothing for their children to inherit, in order to have some of that care paid for by a program they fund with their taxes.

Whichever side you are on, it is important to know that if you do want to plan for Medicaid, then you need to see an elder law attorney about doing so and you need to do that long before you will ever need nursing home care.

Reference: New York Times (July 21, 2017) “The Ethics of Adjusting Your Assets to Qualify for Medicaid.”

Elder Law Estate Planning

Most of the time, estate planning is not just about a deceased person’s estate. It is also about elder law options.

A long time ago, only wealthy people had estate plans prepared and the early estate planning options evolved to reflect their needs. They needed wills and trusts to pass down their wealth to their heirs.

Eventually, more and more people started getting estate plans and the planning needs of the non-wealthy began to receive more consideration.

One of the things they needed to address was how to pay for nursing home care, when a non-wealthy person needed it.

Elder law grew out of that concern, as the Times Herald-Record pointed out in “Plenty of reasons to do elder law estate planning.”

As a result of that history, when people do estate planning today, they normally take care of many of their expected elder law needs.

Elder law estate planning attorneys help people figure out how to pay for possible nursing home care.

Elder law estate planning attorneys get their clients general durable power of attorneys and health care powers of attorney, so their clients are prepared if they are ever incapacitated.

Elder law estate planning attorneys write living wills for their clients, so their clients can decide whether or not they want to live in a coma with no chance of recovery.

Elder law estate planning attorneys also help their clients avoid the possibility of being the victims of elder financial abuse.

If you are interested in any of those elder law options, and you should be interested in all of them, then visit an elder law estate planning attorney.

Reference: Times Herald-Record (July 5, 2017) “Plenty of reasons to do elder law estate planning.

Burial for the Indigent

The high costs of funeral services creates a problem, because many people pass away without having the means for their own burials. Their remains still have to go somewhere.

Every year, thousands of people with very little money pass away. Sometimes, it is not even known who these deceased people were in life.

While this might seem like a minor issue and something that has always been the case, it creates an increasing burden on local governments. They must determine what to do with the bodies of deceased people, who either cannot be identified or whose families do not have the money to afford burial or cremation.

It is not a minor expense, since the costs of disposing of a deceased body continue to rise.

One county in Florida had such a significant problem that they purchased a cemetery, as the Tallahassee Democrat reports in “A priceless burden: Indigent burials at Leon County’s ‘pauper’s cemetery’.”

The cemetery previously belonged to a hospital, but the county purchased it to dispose of the remains of the indigent as cheaply as possible. Graves are marked with the most basic of markers and no actual funeral services are allowed at the cemetery.

The deceased are buried as quickly and with as little fuss as possible.

This is an issue that could get worse before it gets better.

Elderly people are living longer and in greater numbers. That makes it likely that many more elderly will pass away in the future, after they have run out of their own money.

The burden to bury them will be on the government. Elder law advocates may need to address this problem in the near future.

Reference: Tallahassee Democrat (June 24, 2017) “A priceless burden: Indigent burials at Leon County’s ‘pauper’s cemetery’.”

Going on a Last Ride

Motorcycle riders in Lubbock, Texas now have the opportunity to incorporate going on a final ride into their funeral services.

The basic design of hearses has not changed very much over the years. They are somber looking vehicles, usually black, that most closely resemble a limousine.

At least, that is what almost everyone would imagine, when they hear the word “hearse.”

However, Derek Dunn of Lubbock, Texas had a different idea.

Dunn created a hearse that resembles a motorcycle and painted it red.

The hearse pulls a platform behind it that carries the casket, which is in the open air.

Different graphics can be displayed on the platform for groups, such as firefighters and police.

Dunn even created the hearse to appeal to motorcycle enthusiasts who want to go on one last ride.

Everything Lubbock reported this story in “A Unique ‘Last Ride’.”

This is a continuation of the larger trend to personalize funerals and memorials. More and more people are choosing to have more personal touches in their funerals, instead of sticking with just the traditional ceremony.

If the trend continues, more stories like the motorcycle hearse can be expected.

Elderly people should be aware of this trend for two reasons. First, if they want to have a non-traditional personalized funeral service, then they should make pre-arranged plans. There are many options available.

Second, and just as important, elderly people who do not want a traditional service, need to let that be known, in case their families might decide to do it on their own.

Reference: Everything Lubbock (June 27, 2017) “A Unique ‘Last Ride’.”

Physician Assisted Suicide in California

Last year, the State of California enacted a controversial new law that allows doctors to prescribe medicine to terminally ill patients that will let patients decide when to end their lives. The state has recently issued its first report on how the law is being used.

Elder law advocates have been paying a lot of attention to California’s new law allowing terminally ill people to seek physician assisted suicide. The law was extremely controversial and remains so.

If it is deemed successful, then its advocates think the law can be used as a model for other states to follow. Those who are opposed to the law, are watching it closely to see if there are any problems with it that they can use to bolster their arguments.

The State of California recently issued a report about usage of the law in the first six months after it was enacted, The New York Times reports in “State: 111 Terminally Ill End Lives Under New California Law.”

Life ending drugs were prescribed to 191 terminally ill patients. A total of 21 of them passed away before taking the drugs, and 111 used them to end their lives.

The fates of the remainder were not known at the time that the report was issued.

The typical patient was a terminally ill elderly person diagnosed with cancer who was receiving hospice or palliative care. In total, 173 different doctors prescribed the drug to patients.

One thing the data shows, is that the median age of the patients was 73 and the majority were over 60.

Reference: New York Times (June 27, 2017) “State: 111 Terminally Ill End Lives Under New California Law.”