Friday, September 21, 2018

The Nitty Gritty Details of Adult Guardianship Reform (Part 3)

This is the third of three postings about adult guardianship reform, with an eye on legislation in Pennsylvania under consideration in the waning days of the 2017-18 Session.  

Senate Bill 884, as proposed in Printer's No. 1147, makes basic improvements in several aspects of the law governing guardianships as I describe here.  A key amendment is now under consideration, in the form of AO9253.  These amendments:  

  • Require counsel to be appointed for all allegedly incapacitated persons;
  • Require all guardians to undergo a criminal background check;
  • Require professional guardians to be certified;
  • Require court approval for all settlements and attorney fees that a guardian pays through an estate (reflecting recommendations of the Joint State Government Commission's Decedents’ Estates Advisory Committee).

Most of these amendments respond directly to the concerns identified in the alleged "bad apple" appointment cases in eastern Pennsylvania, where no counsel represented the alleged incapacitated person, where there was no criminal background check for the proposed guardian, and where the guardian was handling many -- too many -- guardianship estates. 

A key proponent of the additional safeguarding language of AO 9253, Pennsylvania Senator Art Haywood, has been working with the key sponsor for SB 884, retiring Senator Steward Greenleaf.  His office recently offered an explanation of the subtle issues connected to mandating a criminal background check:  

The PA State Police needed to fix some technical issues for us regarding national criminal history record checks only to make sure that when we send the legislation to the FBI for approval, they won’t have anything with which to take issue. The FBI requires an authorized agency to receive these national background checks; DHS is an authorized agency, but the 67 Orphans’ Courts in PA are not. Further, the FBI prohibits us from requiring recipients of national background checks to turn them over to a third party for this purpose, so we can’t require DHS or receiving individuals to send the national background check to the court.

 

As such, we had to develop a procedure that would still get courts information about whether someone under this bill has a criminal background from another state that would otherwise prohibit them from serving as a guardian. We switched the language around a bit to require DHS to send a statement to the individual that verifies one of 3 things, either: (1) no criminal record; (2) a criminal record that would not prohibit the individual from serving as guardian; or (3) a criminal record that would prohibit the individual from serving as guardian. The individual would then have to bring this statement from DHS to the court when seeking to become a guardian. As in previous versions, the individual has an opportunity to respond to the court if there is a criminal record that would prohibit the individual from serving, and the response should assist the court in determining whether that person nevertheless is appropriate (for example, a person can voluntarily provide their own copy of their national background check – or other types of evidence – for the court to review).

The devil is in the details for any legislative reforms.  It is often an "all hands on deck" effort to secure passage, especially in an election year.  

Will the Pennsylvania Legislature pass Senate Bill 884 to make changes appropriate for safeguarding of vulnerable adults?   

September 21, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Issue Brief: Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care has released a new issue brief, Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes: What You Need to Know. The brief discusses the types of sexual abuse, those more likely to be victims, and information about the perpetrator.  The brief notes the residents rights to have consensual sex.  It also offers a checklist of steps to take if sexual abuse is suspected as well as a list of helpful resources.

September 19, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Attracting Adequate, Qualified Staff: The Impact of Payment Issues in Long-Term Care

I've been reading articles for several weeks about a "troubled" nursing home in Connecticut where staff members were reportedly being paid late, and not receiving payments on related benefit claims (including health care and pensions).   

The reports sound unusually mysterious, with indications of an executive's "loan" to a related charity from operating reserves.   Suddenly more than $4 million was apparently restored to a key pension account:  

As News 12 has reported, federal agents raided the center back in May. When the raid happened, that account was down to $800. For years, workers have complained about missing retirement money. In a lawsuit, the Labor Department claims the facility's owner illegally funneled their money into his own private charity.

 

Now, according to new court documents, the $4 million was unexpectedly deposited into the pension account last week. It's unclear where the money came from, and even the bankruptcy trustee running the facility was unsure.

 

"I don't truly know the source, but I do know that there's $4.1 million in this bank," bankruptcy trustee Jon Newton said at a court hearing yesterday.

 

But in a recent court hearing, owner Chaim Stern's lawyer said the money "was meant to represent the $3.6 million transferred from the (retirement) plan to Em Kol Chai." That's the charity authorities say Stern controls.

 

Workers may not get as much of that money as they think. Bridgeport Health Care has a long list of creditors, and they could potentially get a share.

 

News 12 reported back in July that part of the facility, called Bridgeport Manor, is shutting down. Lawyers say they hope to wrap that process up within a month.

For more read:  Millions Mysteriously Appear in Account of Troubled Nursing Home.

September 11, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 10, 2018

Even in Paradise: An Accusation of Elder Exploitation

Abigail Kawananakoa, age 92 and the heiress of a legendary Hawaiian estate as the descendant of a family who once ruled the islands, is at the center of a court dispute about whether she is able to manage her own affairs -- and a $215 million trust.   

The money should go toward helping Native Hawaiians, they [Foundation Board Members] said at a news conference Thursday in front of Honolulu’s Iolani Palace. They are asking a judge to appoint a guardian for the elderly heiress, whose riches come from being the great-granddaughter of James Campbell, an Irish businessman who made his fortune as a sugar plantation owner and one of Hawaii’s largest landowners.

 

 Many Native Hawaiians consider Abigail Kawananakoa to be the last Hawaiian princess because she’s a descendent of the family that ruled the islands before the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom.

 

A key court hearing in a legal fight over the trust is scheduled for Monday.

 

Her longtime lawyer, Jim Wright, persuaded a judge to appoint him as trustee, arguing a stroke last year left her impaired. Kawananakoa says she’s fine.

 

As trustee, Wright appointed three prominent Native Hawaiian leaders to serve as board members for the $100 million foundation Kawananakoa created in 2001. The foundation has a right to participate in the court battle because it is a beneficiary of her trust.

 

Kawananakoa “has reached a point in her life where she needs us to stand up and fight for her and her legacy,” said foundation board member Jan Dill. Kawananakoa intended that the foundation serve the Hawaiian community in arts, language, culture and education, he said.

For more, read Foundation Board: Protect Hawaiian Heiress' Millions. 

While the above article does not fully explain the family dynamics, a photo accompanying the article depicts Ms. Kawananakoa and her wife, Veronica Gail Worth, who appears to be younger.  Another article describes Ms. Worth as a "longtime caregiver."  See A Cautionary Story of Elder Financial Abuse.  Still other new reports describe Ms. Worth as Kawananakoa's "partner of 21 years," prior to their October 2017 marriage ceremony, conducted before a retired Hawaii Supreme Court Justice.  See Hawaiian Heiress, 91, Marries Longtime Partner Amid Court Battle.

September 10, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Podcast about Brooke Astor Case

Thanks to Julie Kitzmiller for sending me the link to a podcast at AARP on the Brooke Astor case.   Brooke Astor: Famous Socialite Robbed is one in a series (this one is #18) of podcasts on "the Perfect Scam".   The podcast runs about 25 minutes. Here's a description:

A prominent philanthropist and the epicenter of the New York society scene, Brooke Astor lived a tumultuous but glamourous life. Left a fortune by her third husband, Vincent Astor, Brooke planned to live out her later years at her country estate. But when Brooke’s son refuses to let her do so, then sells his mother’s favorite painting (worth over $30 million), grandson Philip decides to step in. Philip’s efforts to return his grandmother to the country home she loved would uncover one of the most prominent cases of financial elder abuse in U.S. history, with millions lost and a family torn apart.

A time-coded transcript accompanies the podcast and is available here.

 

September 4, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Health Care/Long Term Care, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink

Friday, August 24, 2018

Sweetheart Swindles: What to Do When You Suspect An Aging Friend or Family Member is Vulnerable to the Con?

A number of years ago,  a friend of mine was riven with anxiety because his widowed father seemed to be under the sway of a woman who, in the eyes of the family and the man's long-time friends, was "bad news." His father had been a shrewd businessman, his son would lament, unable to understand his father's late-in-life willingness to casually hand cash to the woman.  This was before I had begun working in elder law, and I remember thinking that perhaps the father was just "in love," and I questioned whether it was right for the son to interfere.  Didn't the father have a right to be a fool in love? 

We all know that conmen and conwomen are out there, but I suspect we also tend to have faith in our individual abilities to avoid falling into their traps as we age. 

When it comes to watching others, perhaps we are amused by lighthearted movies that portray swindlers as relatively benign, with the "victim" just as likely to pull a reverse con as to be truly harmed.  For example, think of the 1998 movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (which as actually a remake of 1964 movie, Bedtime Story),  with two competing, debonaire charmers played by Michael Caine and Steve Martin and their mark, a woman of a certain age, who proved to be several steps ahead of them.  In movies we treat the deeds of many criminals as entertainment -- remember Good Fellas and The Sopranos

When we are reluctant to intervene, perhaps it is because we're conditioned to think optimistically about romance, even or especially as we grow older.  Or,  we're programmed to assume the individual is making a "foolish" but nonetheless coherent decision to continue involvement with the person who everyone else sees as "a problem."

These thoughts were running through my mind as I read an amazing, recent story in the New York Times, A New Wife, A Secret Past, and a Trail of Loss and Blood.   I won't spoil it for you here by trying to summarize it, because much of the power of the tale comes from reading the details slowly.

At the same time, the story does raise a question in my mind, one that I've confronted often in elder law, about whether the individual's vulnerability is due to a cognitive impairment.

Continue reading

August 24, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Thinking Above The Bad Apples: Elder Law Attorneys Who Have Stolen from Clients

I'm giving a big sigh as I begin to type this particular blog post.  I hate the topic of thieving lawyers, and especially those who hold themselves out as elder law professionals.  But, I also can't ignore the topic.  I keep a notebook of news articles and bar association disciplinary cases on elder abuse involving lawyers and although certainly the bad apples are a tiny fraction of the profession, my notebook is growing. 

The latest news comes from New Jersey, where a high profile lawyer -- who hosted a radio show and taught seminars on elder law -- pleaded guilty in late July in state court to stealing "millions" from clients.  Robert Novy, 66, faces sentencing on September 28, and the AG recommends 10 years in state prison.  

In some ways Novy's history mirrors other cases I've followed more closely in Pennsylvania, as it began with him placing client funds into his firm's trust accounts, accounts which are usually meant to be a temporary spot for use in future client-directed transactions.  At some point he then proceeded to transfer the funds to his own operating accounts, in direct violation of statutory and ethical rules.  Also, counterintuitively, his "mature" age and experience are something I've seen with other attorney fraud cases in Pennsylvania.  Were they always bad apples or did they just stay too long in the bin?  The histories often seem to begin with the lawyer's "promise" to invest the funds for clients, relying on long-years of practice as a sign of reliability, even though, generally speaking, lawyers probably aren't the best source of investment advice. In fact, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court adopted new rules in 2014 that placed restrictions on attorneys' involvement in "investment products." 

In another way, Novy's history is unusual.  I've found that most of the big ticket thefts by attorneys from older clients involve sole practitioners.  They seem like lone wolves, operating without traditional checks and balances.  Novy, who called his firm Robert C. Novy & Associates, had other attorneys in the firm. Sadly, it seems that Novy may not have been operating solo in his fiduciary crimes, as an "associate" attorney who had also been practicing law for many years was charged with similar crimes involving client funds.  I could not find the outcome of those charges, or whether the charges are still pending. 

In these New Jersey cases, the charges date back to 2015 and 2016. I suspect delays in bringing the cases to trial or plea may be tied to efforts to "permit" the lawyers some opportunity to repay the defrauded clients by liquidating their personal assets; ultimately, however, going forward with the criminal charges (rather than "mere" disciplinary sanctions) suggests the reimbursement opportunity was unavailing.  

August 22, 2018 in Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Legal Practice/Practice Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Webinar-Sexual Abuse in Nursing Homes

Register now for a free webinar from the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long Term Care.  The webinar is scheduled for September 5, 2018 at 2 edt.  Here is some info about the webinar

Join this webinar to learn about sexual abuse in nursing homes.  Presenters will discuss a variety of topics to help you recognize the signs of sexual abuse and immediately respond to it. 

We will examine the full scope of sexual abuse in nursing homes, including: (1) its prevalence, (2) the physical and social signs of sexual abuse, (3) who is most at risk, and (4) who the perpetrators are.  In addition, you will learn the protections the federal nursing home rule provides for nursing home residents against this abuse and how to respond to the needs of victims.  Finally, we will equip you with concrete knowledge on how ombudsmen can advocate for nursing home residents who are victims of this type of abuse, including hearing from a special presenter on the ombudsman role in the Washington Alliance to End Sexual Violence in Long-Term Care

To register, click here

August 14, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Webinars | Permalink

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Webinar-When is Consent Consent?

Register now for this DOJ Elder Justice Initiative webinar Digging Deeper: When Consent is Not Consent.The webinar is scheduled for September 6, 2018 at 2 p.m. edt.  Here's a description of the webinar:

Jane Walsh, Director of At-Risk Protection, Denver District Attorney’s Office, will discuss the concept of consent, which underlies a range of actions in criminal and civil law, including gifting money. In the context of financial exploitation, prosecutors and law enforcement will regularly be faced with many situations where a victim is aware that money or assets are being transferred to a suspect, and is apparently consenting to this happening. It is easy for incorrect assumptions to be made about consent, for example, labeling a financial gift as a poor decision rather than the result of fraud or some other action. Learn more about the dynamics of these cases, how capacity factors in, and thoughts on tactics and strategies to consider when building and trying these cases.

The concept of consent underlies a range of actions in criminal and civil law, including gifting money.  In the context of financial exploitation, professionals at times make incorrect assumptions about consent, for example, labeling a financial gift as a poor decision rather than the result of fraud or some other action. Increasing the complexity of these cases is the issue of consent.  Learn about the elements of consent, how to confirm consent, and how to distinguish consent from actions or conditions (such as diminished capacity) that negate consent.

To register, click here.

While you are at it, also register for the 3rd in a series webinar on Financial Crimes vs. Seniors. This one, Financial Crimes Against Seniors Part 3 - Response, Prosecution, and Prevention

is set for September 19, 2018 at 1 p.m. edt and will cover

A collaborative project of NW3C and the Elder Justice Initiative, this webinar is the third in a series of three webinars based on the NW3C Financial Crimes Against Seniors class, and will include:

  • Responding to a Senior Call
  • Prosecuting Elder Exploitation
  • Promoting Awareness and PreventionClick here to register for this one!

August 12, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Programs/CLEs, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Webinars | Permalink

Monday, August 6, 2018

Two Upcoming Elder Abuse Webinars

The Department of Justice Elder Justice Initiative has announced an Office of Victims of Crimes webinar on MDT Cross-Training: Prosecutors and MDTs, scheduled for August 2, 2018 at 2 edt.

Here is a description of the webinar

Please join the EJI webinar on August 9, 2018, at 2:00 p.m. eastern time, as Nicole Sato, Deputy District Attorney, provides an overview of the role of a prosecutor at the MDT table. Learn how to strengthen collaboration with your team’s prosecutor by delving into their role, contributions, and professional perspective.

 Join in a discussion about the ethical responsibilities of a prosecutor and the importance of multidisciplinary collaboration in the fight against elder abuse. The discussion will include the prosecutor’s perspective on what makes a good case; what are their parameters on an MDT; what they get out of MDT collaborations and how best to collaborate; and what they contribute. Plus, we will clear up some common assumptions and misconceptions regarding the parameters of their work.

To register for the webinar, click here.

The following day, August 10, 2018 at 2 p.m. edt, another  webinar will be held, focusing on Elder Justice Initiative: The Role of Judges in an Elder Abuse Case

Judge Karen Howze will discuss the dynamics of elder abuse, relevant issues such as cognitive capacity, expert witnesses that may be required, reasonable courtroom accommodations, the advantages of elder abuse multidisciplinary teams, and the importance of judicial leadership on the issue of elder abuse. Judges play a critical role in adjudicating the wide array of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation cases that come before them. Elder abuse and fraud enter courtrooms both directly in civil and criminal cases, as well as indirectly (e.g., in the context of a guardianship proceeding), so there are many critical issues to discuss.

To register, click here.

August 6, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Health Care/Long Term Care, Programs/CLEs, State Statutes/Regulations, Webinars | Permalink

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The New Yorker: A Son's Tale of Deception by Elder Scammers

In a recent issue of The New Yorker is staff writer David Owens' detailed account of his mother's entanglement with scammers.  It is a tale all too familiar to any of us who have represented families in trying to stop such scams (much less recover money).  At each level of law enforcement, he and his sister encounter experienced professionals who were fully familiar with such scams, but who simply weren't eager to pursue an investigation of another such case.  You can feel the sense of their hopelessness about such a mission.  

David's mother, living in Kansas, was a victim, via internet and telephone calls from a scammer who was working out of a base in California (or beyond).  While the son and daughter were able to put an end to some of the scamming behavior by putting holds on financial accounts and taking over the checkbook, they were stunned when their mother avoided this intercept by simply traveling to another branch of the bank and accessing money from the "frozen" account in order to mail it off to her buddy "Sam."  

All of this feels especially sad and familiar to me.  Not just from the experience with clients we had in our Elder Law Clinic at Dickinson Law, but from my own mother's experience with a predatory former homecare worker.  Even though we showed Mom the clear evidence of his particular con game (asking for two or more paychecks each week, calling one an advance, knowing she would not remember any such advance the next week;  his pay doubled, then tripled in the course of 6 months), and even though she accepted he had to be discharged because he couldn't or wouldn't stop the con, he still managed to get her to meet him, in her bathrobe at the crack of dawn, in the alley behind her house to hand him more cash.   It was another "advance."      

In David Owens' story, My Mother and Her Scammer, his aging mother was lonely.  So too was my mother; "helping" the conman made her feel like she was important and needed.  But in both instances, our mothers' misplaced trust is a sign of reduced executive function in the brain, with the hallmark inability to appreciate risk.   Plus, in both instances the conman knows exactly how to play his mark. 

My thanks to Karen Miller, Esq., in Florida for sending me this well-written (and frustrating) tale.

    

July 31, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Unusual Story Involving Allegations of NH Medicare Fraud and Allegations of Bribery of University Officials

From the publication Inside Higher Ed, a somewhat amazing compilation of allegations.  The July 23 , 2018 article begins:

Philip Esformes is a Florida business executive facing numerous federal charges of Medicare fraud related to the nursing homes and assisted-living centers he has owned. The case took an unusual turn Thursday when the federal government accused Esformes of bribing a basketball coach at the University of Pennsylvania to help get Esformes's son admitted to Penn.

 

The indictment says that Esformes gave $74,000 in cash, plus additional perks such as limo services and rides in private jets, to a basketball coach who then placed Esformes's son on the list of "recruited basketball players," greatly enhancing the son's chances of being admitted. The coach is not identified by name in the indictment and was not charged with anything. Nor was Penn named. But prosecutors in court acknowledged that Penn is the university in question. The coach is Jerome Allen, who led the Penn program for six years and is now an assistant coach of the Boston Celtics.

 

Esformes is in jail, but his lawyer said he would dispute the new bribery charges. The lawyer has acknowledged that payments were made by Esformes to Allen to help Morris Esformes, the son, get better at basketball. But that answer may be complicated for Penn, given that such payments may violate National Collegiate Athletic Association rules. Morris Esformes, who played basketball in high school, did enroll at Penn and is currently a rising senior. He has never played on the basketball team there.

 

Beyond the case against Esformes, the indictment draws attention to the extreme advantage that athletes have in the admissions process -- not just at universities known for winning national championships, but at elite academic institutions that are highly competitive in admissions. . . .

For more, read Indictment Alleges Bribery in Admissions at Penn.  My thanks to colleague Laurel Terry for sending this article our way.  

 

July 24, 2018 in Crimes, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

What Lessons Will Emerge From Arizona Investigation of 92-Year Old Woman Who Shot and Killed Her 72-Year Old Son?

Reading the news of a July 2 shooting was chilling, especially for anyone associated with long-term care or elder care.  According to Arizona news reports, Anna Mae Blessing, age 92, explained, "You took my life, so I'm taking yours." She used a handgun, drawing it from the pocket of her robe, to shoot multiple times, killing her 72-year old son.  

Ms. Blessing had been living in an apartment, along with her son and his girlfriend; she was reportedly upset about her son's plan to transfer her to an assisted-living facility.  The apartment was located in Fountain Hills, east of Scottsdale, Arizona.  Ms. Blessing also reportedly attempted, unsuccessfully, to shoot her son's girlfriend, who fought her off, dislodging both the first and a second handgun.  

Followup stories reported the sheriff's office had responded at least six times to "domestic" calls at that location during the previous six  months.

According to a sheriff office statement, Ms. Blessing is now charged with first degree murder, one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and one count of kidnapping.   

On the one hand, it could be tempting to dismiss this story as an isolated, sad, ironic tragedy.

But what I've been seeing is that senior living providers, especially those offering assisted living, are recognizing that something is deeply amiss about an individual's perception that assisted living is so horrible as to warrant this reaction.  

Steve Moran who publishes the Senior Housing Forum  asks "Why did she have such an aversion to assisted living?"  He muses, "This is a fixable problem....."   For more of Steve's thoughts read:  "The Headline: Woman, 92, Killed Son Who Tried Putting Her in Assisted Living."  

In an editorial titled "Assisted Living's Image Problem," Lois Bowers, Senior Editor for McKnight's Senior Living News, writes:

The Blessing case undoubtedly is a complex one, with more probably in play than a simple suggestion of a move to assisted living. But even so, it presents an opportunity for introspection for the senior living industry as well.

 

I mean, it seems that at least one person thought that assisted living was so terrible that a prison cell was preferable. And yes, this appears to be an extreme case, but it's not the first time that an older adult has resisted moving into a senior living community.

 

We know that senior living can offer physical and mental health benefits for older adults. So how can the industry improve at allaying their fears and educating them about those benefits?

 

And what can the industry do to educate the general public about the differences between assisted living communities and skilled nursing centers? More elucidation is needed, as was made obvious by articles in the lay press about the Blessing incident that used “assisted living” and “nursing home” interchangeably, despite a press release from the sheriff's office that specified that Thomas suggested assisted living to his mother (I know; I saw the press release).

 

We know that assisted living communities are different from SNFs, and we know that both types of facilities have evolved over the years, and yet I see this confusion regularly in the general media. I've seen government officials make this mistake, too.

 

So what's the solution? Surely, sales professionals educate individual prospects and their family members when they conduct tours and hold special events at their communities. Campaigns such as the American Seniors Housing Association's Where You Live Matters effort undoubtedly help, too, as does the advocacy work by organizations representing senior living operators.

I was in Arizona the day the story broke.  I confess, I spent extra time with my arm around my own 92-year old mother that week -- at her home in assisted living.  

July 12, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Consumer Credit Security Freezes for Free on September 21, 2018.

The National Center for Law & Elder Rights (NCLER) has released a fact sheet explaining a new law that allows consumers to place freezes on their credit info for free, starting on September 21, 2018. New Law Provides Free Security Freezes and Increased Fraud Alert Protection explains that "[o]n May 24, 2018, the President signed Public Law 115-174 into law. Section 301 of Public Law 115-174 amends the Fair Credit Reporting Act, to establish a new federal right for consumers to implement a security freeze of their credit file." (citations omitted).

The legislation establishes standards for the creation, temporary lifting or “thaw,” and permanent removal of security freezes from the nationwide consumer reporting agencies. The security freezes are essentially limited to parties seeking the consumer’s information for credit purposes. The freeze does not apply to parties who seek the report for employment, insurance, or tenant-screening purposes. It also does not apply to existing creditors or their agents or assignees conducting an account review, collecting on a financial obligation owed them, or seeking to extend a “firm offer of credit” (i.e.,prescreening).
 

In addition, the new law preempts state credit freeze laws and expands the length of  fraud alerts from 3 months to a full year!  Further, "[t]he legislation’s preemption extends to any state requirement or prohibition with respect to subject matter regulated by the statute’s provisions relating to security freezes. For example, some state statutes are stronger than the new federal standards by allowing consumers to freeze access to credit reports for employment or insurance purposes." There is also a provision covering when a fiduciary needs to secure a freeze for an individual who is incapacitated.

PS-if you haven't checked your credit reports this year, what are you waiting for?
 

July 12, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Property Management, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Free Webinar-Financial Exploitation & Medicare Fraud

Mark your calendars for a free webinar on Financial Exploitation and Medicare Fraud. The National Center on Law & Elder Rights will be offering this webinar on Wednesday, July 18, 2018 from 2-3 edt. Here's info about the webinar

Medicare fraud hurts individuals and is harmful to the Medicare Trust Fund. The Medicare Trust fund loses between $60 and $90 billion dollars every year to fraud, waste and abuse. Individuals can lose access to Medicare services because their identity has been misappropriated by someone else. Law and aging advocates play an important role in helping older adults prevent, detect, and report Medicare fraud and abuse.

In this free webinar, Financial Exploitation and Medicare Fraud, California’s Senior Medicare Patrol will teach advocates how to identify potential Medicare scams and report fraud and abuse to the Senior Medicare Patrol. Justice in Aging will highlight potential exploitive Medicare practices and outlines strategies to help prevent exploitation. 

To register, click here

 

 

June 27, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Register Now-Webinar-Elder Homicides

The Elder Justice Initiative at the DOJ has announced a new webinar on July 13, 2018. Here's the information about the webinar:

On Friday, July 13, from 2:00–3:00 p.m. eastern time, the Elder Justice Initiative presents the webinar “The Forgotten Victims: Elder Homicides Part 2, A Prosecutor's Perspective." Please join us as Belle Chen of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office discusses the unique challenges of investigating and prosecuting elder and dependent neglect homicides... This webinar will highlight some of the challenges and common dynamics in these cases through a comparison of two elder neglect cases that went to trial and were presented to juries. This presentation can aid law enforcement in their investigations of complex elder neglect cases and prosecutors in their review, filing, and litigation in criminal court. 

To register, click here

 

 

June 20, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Programs/CLEs, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 18, 2018

In New York, Complainants about Fiduciary Abuse Seek Action by NY Attorney General

One of our good readers sent us an item by CityLimits.org tracking recent complaints made to (and about) the NY Attorney General.  The title of the article is They Say Legal Guardians Ripped Them Off-- and the State AG Let Them.  I've come to expect that when I see an investigative piece on problems with guardians, I will read comments from a range of national advocates, such as Dr. Sam Sugar of Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship or Richard Black with the Center for Estate Administration Reform.  Both individuals comment in this particular piece.

There are many challenges ahead for much needed reform efforts, including the fact that different laws can govern different forms of fiduciary relationships.  For example, even though the article focuses in major part on "guardians," a label used to describe individuals or entities appointed by the court to assist an individual deemed incapacitated and unable to handle his or her own affairs without such a court-appointment, the article demonstrates that the problems can arise outside the guardianship arena. 

In the opening tale for the article, the individual in need of assistance, a 31 year old disabled daughter, was apparently the the beneficiary of her deceased father's trust. The father became entangled with an untrustworthy individual shortly before his death, and that person was named the trustee.  The actions by that individual -- described in the article as a "disbarred" lawyer and former state senator -- control much of the dynamic.  It is not clear from the article whether the daughter's parents were estranged before the death of her father, thus sidelining the mother from accessing the trust in trying to help their daughter.  Guardians later appointed by court for the daughter reportedly contributed to the costs for the estate. Yet key allegations of abuse focus on the actions of the alleged untrustworthy trustee, who was selected for this fiduciary role by the father, not the court. 

The article reports on this as an example where the AG has allegedly declined to intervene following reports of fiduciary abuse.

Guardianship reform is important and, thank goodness, is ongoing in many states.  But true reform is needed in the hearts and minds of abusive individuals in a variety of financial caregiving relationships, not just guardianships.  The challenges for courts and law enforcement officers, including AGs and other prosecutors, will only grow without a stronger ethical commitment at the core.

June 18, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, June 15, 2018

Even Creators of Super Heroes Can Need Protection . . . from Elder Abuse

Sad news is emerging from Los Angeles that Stan Lee, the legendary comic book author, film producer, Marvel Comic magnate and occasional actor (often with brilliant, subtle cameos) went to court this week.  He was seeking a temporary restraining order against Keya Morgan, sometimes described as a business partner and  long-time manager, who reportedly had been serving as a caregiver for Lee after the death of his wife last year.  Stan Lee is 95 and the grounds alleged in the petition include "elder abuse." The court granted Lee a temporary order on June 13, and scheduled a further hearing for July.  The defendant denies all charges.

Here are additional details from CNN Entertainment, including a collage of clips, sometimes sadly ironic given the charges,  from some of Mr. Lee's appearances in films over the years. 

June 15, 2018 in Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Evolution of Email Scammers: Moving from Granny, to Granny's Lawyers and Financial Companies as Their Targets

In my Elder Protection Clinic days, I met with family members of older adults victimized by off-shore scammers.  In one notable case, the older mother,  normally a savvy woman about her personal finances, had succumbed to the flattery of someone posing as a  financial advisor, who offered her various new "investments."  He knew just how to work her, appealing to her "business acumen," using internet maps to learn about her neighborhood and thus to make it seem his office was in a building near her bank in a suburb of Pittsburgh.   Even after her daughter, with the help of a legitimate financial advisor who caught the unusual activity on the mother's accounts, shut down any easy means of access to her mom, the mother continued to believe the perpetrator was just bad at financial advice, and not totally corrupt.   

The elderly mother's  judgment on who to trust was impaired, but the impairment was specific and hard to recognize because she otherwise functioned fairly well.  The combination of the perpetrator's flattery, his appeal to her once-strong financial skills, and the fact that she was lonely, trapped in her house as her physical strength was waning, all contributed to the success of the scam.  It all began with a single email.

A recent announcement by the FBI of a coordinated law enforcement effort to disrupt international scammers reveals how the scamming industry has evolved. The FBI explains:

Operation WireWire—which also included the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of the Treasury, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service—involved a six-month sweep that culminated in over two weeks of intensified law enforcement activity resulting in 74 arrests in the U.S. and overseas, including 42 in the U.S., 29 in Nigeria, and three in Canada, Mauritius, and Poland. The operation also resulted in the seizure of nearly $2.4 million and the disruption and recovery of approximately $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers.

 

A number of cases charged in this operation involved international criminal organizations that defrauded small- to large-sized businesses, while others involved individual victims who transferred high-dollar amounts or sensitive records in the course of business. The devastating impacts these cases have on victims and victim companies affect not only the individual business but also the global economy. Since the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) began formally keeping track of BEC [business e-mail compromise] and its variant, e-mail account compromise (EAC), there has been a loss of over $3.7 billion reported to the IC3.

 

BEC, also known as cyber-enabled financial fraud, is a sophisticated scam that often targets employees with access to company finances and trick them—using a variety of methods like social engineering and computer intrusions—into making wire transfers to bank accounts thought to belong to trusted partners but instead belong to accounts controlled by the criminals themselves. And these same criminal organizations that perpetrate BEC schemes also exploit individual victims—often real estate purchasers, the elderly, and others—by convincing them to make wire transfers to bank accounts controlled by the criminals.

 

Foreign citizens perpetrate many of these schemes, which originated in Nigeria but have spread throughout the world.

Law firms were among the most frequent targets of the scammers, who posed as clients to access funds held in the law firms' trust accounts.  For more on the industry, read "It's Time to Stop Laughing at Nigerian Scammers -- Because They're Stealing Billions of Dollars,"  from the Washington Post.    

June 14, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, International, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 8, 2018

Guardianships According to John Oliver

John Oliver, the star of Last Week Tonight focused on guardianship on the June 3, 2018 show.  The segment focused quite a bit on some of the abuses that have been reported recently in the press. But, to Mr. Oliver's credit, he notes that sometimes, despite a person's efforts, a guardianship is needed. He provides suggestions for improving the system and for individuals on planning to minimize the chances of a guardianship going wrong. There is some good info in the segment, and he makes several important points, but in a comedic and satirical format.

The link to the segment is here.  Be sure to watch through to the end, to see cameos from several celebrities offering advice on planning for incapacity (although they do get off track quite a bit) including health care powers of attorney and DPOAs. And who wouldn't want Tom Hanks to be their health care agent! (You have to watch the last bit to get that reference). Caveat: there is some "salty" language used throughout the segment.

June 8, 2018 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Television | Permalink | Comments (1)