Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Importance of Checks & Balances in Law Firm Management, Including Handling Of Elder Client Funds

A news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Western Virginia provides an important reminder of the importance for every lawyer of having a system of checks and balances for law office management, to prevent any single employee from having unsupervised access or exclusive control over client trust funds.  On December 15, 2014, a 34-year-old legal assistant at a law firm in Virginia was sentenced to 24 months in federal prison for stealing more than $183k from an elderly client of the law firm.  The lawyer who employed that assistant had been named by the county to serve as the conservator for the elderly woman who became the victim.  According to the news release, the attorney "allowed [the legal assistant] to access the elderly woman's bank accounts,...but [the assistant] did not have signature authority on the accounts."

According to the news release, the employer "to date... has repaid $104,990.15." One suspects the law firm (or, its insurer) will have to pay the whole tab, even though the sentencing order imposes an obligation of restitution for the full sum on the legal assistant. 

January 27, 2015 in Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Legal Practice/Practice Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 12, 2015

"Broad POA Form" + Theft by Agent = Potential Liability for Lawyer? Maybe...

We have written often recently (see here and here) about problems with Powers of Attorney (POAs), and a pending case in Minnesota appears at first to be another sad tale of an agent's alleged self-dealing.  The Minnesota Court of Appeals set up the fact pattern as follows:

"The attorney is asked to draft a power of attorney for his elderly client.  The document is drafted by a secretary.  The lawyer never meets the client.  Neither the lawyer nor the secretary ever discusses the ramifications of signing the document with the client.  The document allows the attorney-in-fact to transfer all of the client's assets to himself.  Days after the [elderly uncle] signs the document, that is precisely what happens." 

The nephew used the POA to drain the uncle's accounts of more than $227,000.

Was the nephew liable for conversion?  By the time that question was answered by the courts in the affirmative, the nephew was in bankruptcy -- and the money was apparently gone. 

The uncle's estate looked for deeper pockets, and focused on the law firm that provided the broadly worded POA "form."  The Minnesota Court of Appeal's split decision -- focusing on whether summary judgment for the defendant law firm was proper -- outlines several points that should be considered by any law firm that has drafted a POA, including whether such "forms" should ever be provided to individuals without accompanying legal advice.

Continue reading

January 12, 2015 in Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Legal Practice/Practice Management, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 9, 2015

New study says that first-time criminal behavior by elderly may be early sign of dementia

Via Reuters:

Criminal behavior in older adults, including theft, traffic violations, sexual advances, trespassing, and public urination, may be a sign of dementia, researchers say.  There is a subgroup of people, especially older adults who are first-time offenders, who may have a degenerative brain disease underlying their criminal behavior, said Dr. Georges Naasan of the Memory and Aging Center and Department of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco.  He and his coauthors reviewed the medical records of 2,397 patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia between 1999 and 2012. They scanned patient notes for entries about criminal behavior using keywords like ‘arrest,’ ‘DUI,’ ‘shoplift’ and ‘violence’ and uncovered 204 patients, or 8.5 percent, who qualified.  Their behaviors were more often an early sign of frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD) or primary progressive aphasia (PPA), a type of language-deteriorating dementia, than of Alzheimer’s disease.

Read more at Reuters.

January 9, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Dementia/Alzheimer’s | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

ABA Co-sponsors Webinar Series on "Abuse in Later Life"

The American Bar Association's Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence is teaming with the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life (NCALL) to host a 5-part FREE webinar series on "Abuse in Later Life."  The target audience includes "civil attorneys, legal advocates and otherw who wish to gain a deeper understanding" of the topics. 

The series takes place on Thursdays (mark your calendars!), starting on January 22,  and includes the following modules: 

  • Module One: Abuse in Later Life: An Overview
         Thursday, January 22, 2015, 2:00-3:00 pm E.S.T.
  • Module Two: Forming the Relationship with Your Client: Client communication, interview skills, and confidentiality/mandatory reporting concerns
         Thursday, February 5, 2015, 2:00-3:00 pm E.S.T.
  • Module Three: Client Goal-Setting and Non-Litigation Responses: Client collaboration, developing client priorities and non-litigation responses to ALL
         Thursday, February 19, 2015, 2:00-3:00 pm E.S.T.
  • Module Four: Legal Resolutions and Remedies in ALL cases: Protective orders, Guardianships, Power of Attorney agreements, end of life health care decision-making and working with the criminal justice system
         Thursday, March 5, 2015, 2:00-3:00 pm E.S.T.
  • Module Five: Bringing the Case – Trial Skills: Protection of evidence and assets, motion practice, witness testimony methods and supports, direct and cross-examination and application of the Crawford decision in ALL cases
         Thursday, March 19, 2015, 2:00-3:00 pm E.S.T.

For more information, including registration, go here. 

January 9, 2015 in Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Planning Ahead for 2016: Attorneys as Mandatory Reporters of Suspected Abuse?

With the 2015 AALS Annual Meeting in our rear-view mirror, we can begin thinking about programming for January 6-9, 2016 in New York City! Whew!  No rest... no rest....

The new officers for the Aging and the Law Section include Chair-Elect Nina Kohn, Syracuse Law, Secretary Roberta Flowers, Stetson Law, and Treasurer Jack Sahl, University of Akron Law.   Mark Bauer, Stetson, as outgoing chair will continue on the executive committee.  If other law professors reading this blog would like to volunteer to be on the planning committee for January 2016, that would be great too.  Just email one of us to let us know!

The preliminary plans are to work on a joint program with a professional responsibility focus, looking at emerging potential roles for attorneys to protect older adults from abuse or neglect, including consideration of whether attorneys are -- or should be -- "mandated" reporters of suspected abuse of adults.  A mandatory reporting obligation, already a fact of life for some professionals, including social workers in certain contexts and attorneys in some states, raises important questions of client identity, autonomy, confidentiality, and conflicts of interest, just to name a few concerns.  Let us know if you have a work in progress -- or additional thoughts -- along this line.      

January 6, 2015 in Crimes, Ethical Issues, Legal Practice/Practice Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

With the Hiatus in "Serial" Podcasts, How to Keep Your Listening Ears Happy?

Okay, I will admit to being one of the addicts for the podcast "Serial" episodes.  If you haven't listened yet, the first season tracked an investigaton of a criminal case, posing the question of whether a young man who was convicted as a teenager of murdering his former girlfriend might be entitled to post-conviction relief.  Listening to the well-crafted episodes and compelling voices of the defendant and other individuals connected the Baltimore events has been a great way to rest my semester-weary eyes, while still considering important questions of law, ethics, justice, professional obligations of attorneys, race, and ethnicity.  

But the last episode for 2014 is now behind us.  What to listen to now? Especially while we actually have some down time between semesters-- and might need a break from our own families!?  

Well, here is another interesting option --  Life of the Law, a bi-weekly "sound rich" podcast series exploring cutting edge topics.   The episode on "New Frontiers of Family Law" immediately gave me a new term - polyamorous relationships -- and surprising new things to think about for my course on Wills, Trusts & Estates.  The episodes vary in length, some nicely as short as 15 minutes.

December 24, 2014 in Crimes, Ethical Issues, Legal Practice/Practice Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Gettysburg Attorney Sentenced to 15 Years Plus $12+ Million in Restitution and Forfeiture

We reported earlier on the brazen attitude and extraodinary thefts by a Pennsylvania estate and long-term care planning attorney.  Wendy Weikal-Beauchat, age 47,  pled guilty to a series of crimes and on December 16, 2014 she was sentenced to 15 years in prison.  The sentencing judge ordered more than $6 million in restitution and the same amount in forefeitures.  In ordering her immediate surrender at the end of the hearing, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III emphasized the betrayal of client trust that accompanied the now disbarred Gettysburg attorney's actions.

"Approximately 30 of Weikal-Beauchat's former clients attended the sentencing, 16 of which read statements to the court, the release states. Most emphasized the mental, as well as the financial, harm inflicted on them and their families by Weikal-Beauchat's fraud.

 

Weikal-Beauchat stole from clients who were members of the Great Depression and World War II generation and had undermined public trust in lawyers, said Judge John E. Jones III during sentencing. Jones said Weikal-beauchat's apology, which was presented in court for the first time Tuesday, was hollow, the release states."

Additional details from the Evening Sun news coverage are here.   

December 16, 2014 in Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Los Angeles Public Radio Affilliate Continues Discussion on Capacity and Consent

AirTalk, a program aired daily by Public Radio affilliate KPCC in Southern California, hosted a discussion about the issues identified in news articles about the Iowa criminal case, where a husband faces "statutory rape" charges for having sexual relations with his wife after she was diagnosed with advanced dementia and began residing in a nursing home.

Here's the link to a podcast of the December 12, 2014 segment.

December 13, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Scam Alert--Telephone Scam Aimed at Seniors Sweeping the Country

One of my elder law practioner-friends, Julian Zweber, was called by scammers this week.  Julian smelled a rat, and now he's working with the Ramsey County Sheriff's Dept. to track down the scammers.  I understand from other colleagues that variations of the scam are is sweeping the country.  It has been very effective in bilking seniors of a LOT of money.

Details on the Minneapolis/St. Paul version. 

The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office is warning residents about telephone scams.

Individuals are calling residents and telling them there is a warrant out for their arrest because of unpaid court fees or unpaid fines. The phone scammer tells residents that they will be arrested unless they provide credit card or payment information.

Police departments in the metro area also have received reports about phone scammers who tell residents that they owe back taxes. The phone scammers threaten that law enforcement officers will arrest residents who don’t provide payment information over the phone.

The IRS and the Minnesota Department of Revenue have recently issued alerts reminding people that their agencies do not call residents about tax issues. Instead, these agencies send letters to residents.

Nationally, there are a variety of different phone scams. Some of the con artists impersonate an IRS agent, a state revenue department representative, a Sheriff’s deputy, a police officer, or personnel from other federal law enforcement agencies.

The phone scams have resulted in identity theft, fraud, and unauthorized credit card use.

Never provide personal information or credit card numbers over the phone unless you know that the call is legitimate. People who receive a telephone call that appears suspicious, should NOT provide personal information and should instead call local law enforcement or call 911 to report the incident.

Do not rely on caller ID to verify the origin of a phone call. In some cases, calls from phone scammers will appear on a caller ID as originating from a law enforcement agency or government agency, when in reality the call is a hoax and a result of technology that manipulates caller ID. If you are uncertain about the identify of a caller; hang up the phone, locate the official phone number of the agency that called you, and call the agency directly.

 

December 12, 2014 in Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

When Does Dementia Mean You No Longer Have the Right to Say Yes to Sexual Activity?

In August, I reported on criminal charges filed that month in Iowa, charging a husband with sexual abuse of his wife who was living in a nursing home. 

As a result of that post, I was invited by a reporter, who was working on an extended analysis of the case, to review certain information and records emerging from the case. Much of my own research is closely focused on issues both of capacity and protection.

The more one reads about the Iowa case, the sadder it seems.  Even though at first it seemed the husband, a state legislator, might be expected to have sophisticated legal knowledge of the implications of what it might mean for his wife to be diagnosed with dementia, it became pretty clear -- at least to me, reading from afar -- that the husband is a fairly simple guy: A farmer, high school education, part-time legislator who liked pig roasts and parades, and someone who cared deeply for his second wife, trying as hard as possible to see her as "just a little" impaired. 

I suspect that for many of us who have experiences with a loved one with dementia, there is a phase of denial, not just about the fact of dementia, but about the level of dementia. I remember one instance where a client always had her husband sign their joint tax returns, because even with Alzheimer's, he was "able" to sign his name clearly.   

Reading the statute used to charge the Iowa husband also gave me pause. Iowa Code Section 709 was the basis of the sexual abuse charges.  Sexual abuse in the third degree under Section 709.4 could be charged where a sex act "is done by force or against the will of the other person." That provision did not seem to apply.  Charges could also be brought where the act is between persons who are not cohabiting as husband and wife, "if any of the following" is true: "The other person is suffering from a mental defect or incapacity which precludes giving consent."

Section 709.1A of the Act defines "incapacitation" to include "mentally incapacitated" or "physically incapacitated" and neither quite seemed to apply.  Under Iowa law, "mentally incapacitated" means that a person is "temporarily incapable of apprising or controlling the person's own conduct due to the influence of a narcotic, anesthetic, or intoxicating substance."  And "physically incapacitated" means that a person has a bodily impairment or handicap that substantially limits the person's ability to resist or flee."

So, how was the husband charged?  He was charged under Section 709.4 (2)(a) on the grounds that his wife, with whom he was not "cohabiting," suffered from a "mental defect" that precluded giving consent.

So that makes the "elder  law" issue fairly stark: Has his wife's diagnosis of dementia, especially advanced dementia, prevented her from giving legally effective "consent?"

Continue reading

December 11, 2014 in Cognitive Impairment, Crimes, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Maryland Court Affirms Criminal Conviction re Daughter's Theft From Father's Joint Account

In Wagner v. State of Maryland, decided October 30, 2014, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland affirmed the conviction of a daughter on charges of theft and misappropriation as a fiduciary, arising from her withdrawal of funds from her father's bank account which she used for her own purposes.  The daughter had been added as a "joint owner" on the account by her 80+ year old father following the death of his wife.   

The issue as framed on appeal was whether a person can be guilty of theft from a joint account on which that person is named as a joint owner.  

The amount in controversy was more than $120,000 withdrawn by the daughter over 3 years. The appellate court concluded that "even though [the daughter] was named as a 'joint owner' in the parties' agreement with the bank, and not a convenience person, it does not determine conclusively that [she] was an [owner] for the purpose of the criminal statute." 

Several key facts supporting the conviction are described in the decision, including:

  • Testimony by the father at trial that the only reason he added his daughter's name to the account was to permit her to get money for him, if he was unable to get it for himself.
  • The father retained control over the checkbook for the account.
  • Evidence that thousands of dollars were withdrawn from the father's account by the daughter using a cash card, which the father said he was unaware existed.
  • The daughter had failed to make payments on a $85k mortgage taken out by her father on his home, which the father testified was a loan to his daughter to help her business, and not a gift as the daughter claimed. Notice of foreclosure on the home was apparently what tipped the father to ask questions about his finances.

Maryland has not, apparently, adopted the Uniform Multiple Person Accounts Act, (UMPAA, first approved 1989) which is intended to clarify the rights of depositors and other parties in jointly titled bank accounts.

Continue reading

November 28, 2014 in Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Proposed Changes to Attorney Disciplinary Rules Follow Recent Theft Reports

Several high profile incidents, such as those reported here in our Blog and here by the Philadelphia Inquirer, involving attorneys disciplined or convicted of theft of client funds, have triggered proposed changes in Pennsylvania's Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys. The rule changes proposed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Disciplinary Board include:

  • imposing restrictions on an attorney's brokering or offering of "investment products" connected to that lawyer's provision of legal services;
  • clarifying the type of financial records that attorneys would be required to maintain and report, regarding their handling of client funds and fiduciary accounts;
  • clarifying the obligation of attorneys to cooperate with investigations in a timely fashion;
  • clarifying the obligation of suspended, disbarred, or "inactive" attorneys to cease operations and to notify clients "promptly" of the change in their professional status. 

The Disciplinary Board called for comments on the proposed rule changes, noting that although individual claims against the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security are confidential, "Fund personnel can attest that from time to time, the  number of claims filed against a single attorney will be in double digits and the total compensable loss will amount to millions of dollars."  The comment window closed on November 3. 2014.

In recommending changes, the Disciplinary Board noted common threads running through many of the cases, including:

Continue reading

November 24, 2014 in Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 17, 2014

PA Supreme Court's Elder Law Task Force Issues "Bold" Recommendations

On November 17,  2014, following more than a year of study  and consultation, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Elder Law Task Force issued a comprehensive (284 pages!) report and recommendations addressing a host of core concerns, including how better to assure that older Pennsylvanians' rights and needs are recognized under the law.  With Justice Debra Todd as the chair, the Task Force organized into three committees, focusing on Guardianships and Legal Counsel, Guardianship Monitoring, and Elder Abuse and Neglect.  The Task Force included more than 40 individuals from across the state, reflecting backgrounds in private legal practice, legal service organizations, government service agencies, social care organizations, criminal law, banking, and the courts. Pennsylvania Supreme Court Elder Law Task Force 2014 

From the 130 recommendations, Justice Todd highlighted several "bold" provisions at a press conference including:

  • Recommending the state's so-called "Slayer"  law be amended to prevent an individual who has been convicted of abusing or neglecting an elder from inheriting from the elder;
  • Recommending changes to court rules to mandate training for all guardians, including, but not limited to, family members serving as guardians;
  • Recommending adoption of mandatory reporting by financial institutions who witness suspected elder abuse, including financial abuse.

The full report is available on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court website here.  As a consequence of the Task Force study, the Supreme Court has approved the creation of an ongoing "Office of Elder Justice in the Courts" to support implementation of recommendations, and has created an "Advisory Council on Elder Justice to the Courts" to be chaired by Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Paula Francisco Ott. 

November 17, 2014 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Housing, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 14, 2014

AARP Bulletin: Fighting Medicare Fraud on the Front Lines

The November issue of AARP's Bulletin carries a special Medicare cover story, "Inside the Medicare Strike Force" by Rick Schmitt.  The article details recent successes by a Justice Department unit formed in 2007:

"The strike force has grown from a single outpost in Miami in 200 to nine cities, with the support of 40 of the 100 attorneys in the fraud section of the Justice Department. . . . Just this September, some 280 prosecutors and agents from around the country attended a Justice Department workshop in Washington, D.C., to learn the finer points of investigating and prosecuting Medicare cases.  Increasingly, the crackdown has the look of a major narcotics operation, complete with electronic surveillance and frequent use of informants and cooperating witnesses.  Defendants' assets are now routinely seized before trial.  Sentences are being measured in decades; even some older beneficiaries are being prosecuted.  Agents are backed by forensic accountaints, health care professionals and data acquisition analysts who have a pipeline to Medicare contractors' billing information."

A side bar to the main feature focuses on Peggy Sposato, describing her as a "fraudster's worst enemy," through use of her data analysis skills to create systematic review of billing records.  Her methods successfully trace unlawful Medicare payments.  Her career as a fraud buster "began in the mid-1990s after a career as a geriatric nurse."

November 14, 2014 in Crimes, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Does "Unlimited" Gifting Power in POA Protect the Agent from Criminal Liability for Self-Gifting? PA Appellate Court Says "No"

Following a nonjury trial in 2012, David Patton was convicted of 95 counts of statutory theft by unlawful taking, arising out of his use of a power of attorney (POA).  The POA named him as agent for his 86 year-old aunt.  At issue was more than $200,000. Patton appealed the conviction, alleging the POA that expressly granted him authority to make "limited or unlimited gifts," made it impossible for him to be held liable for theft by cashing checks and making withdrawals from his aunt's accounts for his personal use in 2008, 2009 and 2010. In September 2014, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, an intermediate appellate court, issued a "nonprecedential" written opinion affirming the convictions, concluding:

"Simply stated, we reject Appellant's bold claim that the 'unlimited gift' provision in the power of attorney provided Appellant with a license to steal [his aunt's] assets and use all of her money for Appellant's own benefit. To the contrary, the gifting power was clearly subject to the condition [stated in a statutorily required affidavit signed by Appellant] that Appellant use the power 'for [his aunt's] benefit' - and Appellant clearly violated this condition when he took all of [his aunt's] money and used it as if it was his own. Therefore, since Appellant's actions were not authorized by the power of attorney, Appellant's sufficiency of the evidence claim necessarily fails."

In reaching this decision, the appellate court adopted the trial court's "meticulous" rulings as its own.  In the trial court's final order, the judge rejected the defendant's testimony that he had no awareness or notice that using the POA  to make the transfers in question was a crime.  The trial judge wrote: "He did not need to be notified in writing to know that he could be charged with theft for taking for his own personal use over $200,000 of [his aunt's] savings, using some of it to go gambling in Erie and depriving her of sufficient funds to pay for her nursing home care in her old age."

An additional interesting, and perhaps confusing aspect of the case, is testimony by the attorney who drafted the POA. 

When called by the defense to testify as "an expert" on powers of attorney, as well as a fact witness, the attorney testified he "always" included both "limited and unlimited" gifting authority in his POAs.  He testified he explained to the aunt that the broadly-worded POA enabled the agent to "do anything that she could do." On direct examination, he testified the gifting language was "completely unconditional." 

Continue reading

November 13, 2014 in Crimes, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Legal Practice/Practice Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

"Her Dying Wishes" Aren't Enough to Justify Forgery of Her Will

Catherine "Kitty" Haughey passed away in 2004, a widow without children of her own.  Her godson lived with her the last two years of her life in County Armagh in Northern Ireland.  She was leaving behind the lovely sounding "Annie's Cottage" and Larkin's, a family pub, along with a substantial sum of cash.  Directions for distribution of her property were contained in a will dated two weeks before her death. A Pub in Northern Ireland

Ten years later, her godson has pled guilty to forgery of that will, although still trying to rationalize his actions by saying the new document that gave him the house and pub "reflected her dying wishes." He was finally compelled to concede he'd gone about "changing the will in the wrong way."

Indeed he did, with help in drafting and "witnessing" the will coming from a surveyor and a local doctor, both of whom earlier pled guilty to assisting in the forgery.  They received suspended sentences. 

The 53-year-old "godson," Francis Tiernan, tried to avoid prosecution in Northern Ireland by fleeing the court's jurisdiction and fighting extradition after he was discovered in the south of Ireland.  His prison sentence is three years. 

The actual will, dated 2003, had left Tiernan just £1000, while the reported value of the property was more than £1,000,000. An autopsy was performed following exhumation of Kitty Haughey's body, showing she died of natural causes. Her death came close in time to those of her only two siblings.

Hat tip to Dr. Joe Duffy of Queen's University Belfast for sending me this story. For another tale of misuse of legal documents to gain control over a pub in Ireland, see "The Lesson of the Irish Family Pub" that I wrote for Stetson Law Review in 2010.  That time the "help" came from a lawyer who contended he was representing the "family" in preparing deeds. For more on Francis Tiernan's woes and indications of his colorful past, see links below. 

November 2, 2014 in Crimes, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, International | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

UK News: Assisted suicide guidelines relaxed by Director of Public Prosecutions

Via The Telegraph:

Doctors and nurses who help severely disabled or terminally ill people to take their own lives are less likely to face criminal charges after Britain's most senior prosecutor yesterday amended guidelines on assisted suicide.  Until now all health care professionals faced a greater chance than others of being prosecuted for helping people to die because of the trust their patients placed in them.  Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said this special deterrent would now only apply to those directly involved in a person's care.  Anti–euthanasia campaigners accused Ms Saunders of "decriminalising" assisted suicide by health care professionals "at a stroke of her pen".  Dr Michael Irwin, the former GP nicknamed "Dr Death" for helping several people kill themselves, said the change was a "wonderful softening" that would "make life easier" for people like him.  He said he and many other retired doctors would now feel able to help people travel to Switzerland's Dignitas centre "without worrying".  But campaigners for legalisation of assisted dying said the amendment did not go far enough.  Ms Saunders insisted the change was simply a clarification and would not offer anyone "immunity" against prosecution for assisted suicide, which is punishable by up to 14 years in jail.  Guidelines published by the former DPP, Sir Keir Starmer, in 2010 say people acting "wholly out of compassion" could avoid prosecution for helping people end their lives. But the guidelines also list circumstances that would make prosecution more likely. They include where someone is "acting in his or her capacity" as a medical doctor.

Source/more:  The Telegraph

October 23, 2014 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Crimes, International | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Catch Up on Blogs-Elder Justice

The NYC Elder Abuse Center ran a post last week that listed the 10 top blogs from the past year. 10 Elder Justice Blogs to Inform & Inspire includes summaries as well as links to "ten great blogs from the July 2013 – June 2014 stellar blog collection that collectively discuss myriad elder justice issues – from elder abuse in popular culture to podcast interviews with leaders in the field."  Check it out and make sure you haven't missed anything!

 

September 29, 2014 in Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

U.S. Department of Justice Opens New "Elder Justice" Portal

The U.S. Department of Justice recently established an on-line Elder Justice Initiative, intended to assist the public, practitioners, and prosecutors with identifying and responding to all types of elder abuse.  Here are some of the highlighted resource links from the website:

Here, victims and family members will find information about how to report elder abuse and financial exploitation in all 50 states and the territories. Simply enter your zipcode to find local resources to assist you.
 
 
Federal, State, and local prosecutors will find three different databases containing sample pleadings and statutes.
 
 
Researchers in the elder abuse field may access a database containing bibliographic information for thousands of elder abuse and financial exploitation articles and reviews.
 
 

Practitioners -- including professionals of all types who work with elder abuse and its consequences -- will find information about resources available to help them prevent elder abuse and assist those who have already been abused, neglected or exploited.

September 10, 2014 in Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Anyone Can Be a Victim of a Scam...Anyone.

We all know how prevalent financial scams are, and that they are becoming more and more sophisticated. One of my colleagues, and dear friend, forwarded an email to me purportedly from his financial institution-and the email had the correct last 4 #s of his credit card!  He promptly contacted the financial institution because it looked so authentic, only to find out it was a scam.  The institution insisted there was no data breach. He promptly closed that account. I'm sure you have had similar experiences, or know someone who has (every semester I ask my students whether any of them have been victims of identity theft. Unfortunately, there is always at least one).

Governing ran a story a couple of weeks ago about state efforts to combat financial scams that target elders. The article, States Fight Financial Scams Aimed at Seniors,  quotes Mary Twomey of the National Center on Elder Abuse, that the advancement in fighting scams is happening at the state level. For example, the article indicates that in 2014 "lawmakers in at least 28 states and the District of Columbia introduced legislation addressing the issue. Some measures focus on enhancing criminal penalties. Others target caregivers who exploit elderly charges. Some require financial institutions to report suspected exploitation."

We all know the dearth of statistics makes it a challenge to really understand the magnitude of the problem.  The article quotes some studies with statistics, including a recent one from the Journal of General Internal Medicine "that found that one in 20 older adults in New York state reported that they had been financially exploited, usually by a family member, but sometimes by a friend or home-care aide."

The article also reviews some of the innovations in certain states, such as Colorado which requires training of law enforcement to recognize exploitation and abuse, with each department required to have a minimum of 1 trained officer by 01/01/2015;  and North Carolina, which allows "courts ... to freeze the assets of a defendant charged with financial exploitation of a senior or disabled adult, if the victim has lost more than $5,000."

September 8, 2014 in Consumer Information, Crimes, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)