Thursday, December 26, 2013
Elizabeth Rollings, associate at the elder and special needs law firm of Fleming and Curti in Tucson, Arizona, wrote the firm's most recent newsletter on Reporting Abuse, Neglect or Exploitation of Vulnerable Adults. Although specific to Arizona, the newsletter is an interesting discussion of an attorney's reporting requirements under the applicable statute and ethics rules. Attorneys in Arizona are mandatory reporters with the applicable statute requiring
any attorney who is responsible for preparing the tax records of a vulnerable adult, or responsible for any “action concerning the use or preservation of the vulnerable adult’s property and who, in the course of fulfilling that responsibility, discovers a reasonable basis to believe that exploitation of the adult’s property has occurred or that abuse or neglect of the adult has occurred shall immediately report or cause reports to be made …”
Arizona has the version of Model Rule 1.14 that allows an attorney to take protective action, so, Ms. Rollings writes,
Arizona’s version of the ethical rules governing lawyers provides specific guidance to attorneys in cases where an attorney believes that his or her client of diminished capacity is at “risk of substantial physical, financial or other harm unless action is taken and cannot adequately act in the client’s own interest.” In these specific cases, an attorney may take “reasonably necessary protective action,” including consulting with individuals or entities who may be able to protect a client with diminished capacity. In taking any protective action, among other considerations, an attorney may be guided by the client’s best interests or the wishes and values of the client.
As far as other professionals in Arizona, the article notes that the applicable Arizona law is unambiguous "doctors and other medical providers are covered as to reporting abuse, neglect and exploitation, and accountants and tax preparers are covered as to reporting exploitation. Other states vary, with some focusing on medical providers and others on social workers and government officials."
How is this handled in your states?