Monday, May 25, 2015

Modern Day Coverture? Medicaid Eligibility Rules' Harsh Effect on Married Women

University of South Dakota Assistant Professor of Law Thomas E. Simmons has an intriguing article in the summer 2015 issue of Hastings Women's Law Journal.  From his article, "Medicaid as Coverture," here are some excerpts (minus detailed footnotes)  to whet your appetite:

Not long ago, married women possessed limited rights to own separate property or contract independently of their husbands.  Beginning in the nineteenth century, most of the most serious legal impediments to women enjoying ownership rights in property and freedom of contract were removed....

 

Three twenty-first century developments, however, diminish some of this progress.  First, later-in-life (typically second) marriages have become more common.... These types of couples were not the spouses that reformers had in mind in designing inheritance rights or other property rights arising out of the marital relationship....

 

Second, perhaps as a product of advocacy for women's property rights, and perhaps out of a larger social remodeling, women's holdings of wealth have made significant advances.... [But] women of some wealth (in later-in-life marriages, especially) may in fact find themselves penalized by the very gender-neutral reforms that were designed to help them; especially, as will be unpacked and amplified below, when those reforms interface with Medicaid rules.

 

Third, beginning in the late twentieth century, the possibility of ongoing custodial care costs became the single greatest threat to financial security for older Americans.

As practicing elder law attorneys experience on a daily basis, Medicaid eligibility rules, despite the so-called "Spousal Impoverishment" protections, can impact especially harshly on married women as the community spouses.  They are often younger and thus will have their own financial needs, frequently have been caregivers before being widowed, but their personal assets may still be included in the Medicaid estate for purposes of determining their husbands' eligibility. This article takes a critical, interesting approach to that problem.  

May 25, 2015 in Discrimination, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Massachusetts Case Demonstrates Significance of Contracts in Senior Living Options

This week I attended the 16th Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Life Care Residents Association (MLCRA) near Boston.  Having last met with the group in 2011, I was impressed with the residents' on-going commitment to staying abreast of legal and practical developments affecting life care and continuing care (CCRC) models for senior living.  Their organization has some 800 individual members, representing a majority of the communities in the state. 

MILCRA Annual Meeting 2015In 2012, MLCRA was successful in advocating for passage of amendments that substituted "shall" for "may" in the laws governing key disclosures to be made to prospective and current residents. 

My preparation for the meeting gave me the opportunity to read one of those troubling "unpublished" -- but still significant -- opinions that shed light on attempts to make consumer protections stick.  Here the "contract" trumped the statute. 

In a February 2014 decision in Krens, v. 1611 Cold Spring Road Operating Company, a son who sought refund of his deceased mother's $282,579 partially "refundable" Entrance Fee was denied relief by a Massachusetts appellate court, despite the fact that Massachusetts law expressly mandated that a continuing care contract "shall provide" for a refund to be paid "when the resident leaves the facility or dies." The reasoning? The actual contract provided merely that the refund could be paid "within 30 days of actual occupancy of the vacated unit by a new resident." More than three years had elapsed since the mother's passing, apparently without the unit being "resold" or rented, and therefore the CCRC operating company took the position that no refund obligation had been triggered.

Continue reading

May 20, 2015 in Consumer Information, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management, Retirement, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Before there was "Elder Law"? Jeff Marshall, Esq. remembers...

ElderLawGuy Jeff Marshall has always been a bit ahead of his time, including being among the first to recognize that aging can carry with it a distinct set of legal issues.  Not every lawyer is equipped to deal with families facing dramatic changes, whether in terms of temperament or legal knowledge.  Jeff constantly stays on top of new developments, in both law and technology.  For example, read here how Jeff uses "tweeting" as a tool, to help him stay current on the law, and engaged with the wider world.  Jeff has often inspired me, from the moment of my first "big" meeting with him here in Pennsylvania almost 20 years ago, at a little conference on a very cold winter day in Wilkes Barre. It is hard to believe, but he's been a specialist in elder and estate law for 35 years! Here's part of the tale, from the Sun-Gazette.com:

When attorney Jeff Marshall returned home in 1980 his vision, according to a news release, was to found a law firm that would serve the needs of older adults. A native of Lock Haven, Marshall had graduated from Stanford Law School in 1972 and had remained in California for the rest of that decade. By 1980 he was ready to return to his roots in Pennsylvania.

 

At the time, there was no such thing as an "elder law firm." But Marshall recognized that his older clients faced a complicated array of legal, financial, and health care issues, the news release said. Their legal planning needed to be coordinated with non-legal concerns to best protect their dignity, comfort and self-determination. So he set about putting together a team of professionals with backgrounds in law, nursing, social work, and care management who were able to meet his client's broad needs.

 

Thirty-five years later the seeds he planted have grown into one of the most respected elder law and estate planning law firms in Pennsylvania with four offices in Williamsport, Jersey Shore, Wilkes-Barre and Scranton....  The firm celebrated its 35th anniversary at its 19th Annual Professional Updates held on May 6 in Williamsport and May 7 in Scranton.

Congratulations -- and thank you -- Jeff!

May 20, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Legal Practice/Practice Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 11, 2015

"Woman in Gold" was also a Woman with a "Will" (Or Maybe Not)

Woman_in_goldHave you seen the movie Woman in Gold?  Lots here for lawyers, law professors, and students to discuss -- which may be why reviewers often seem to mention the movie is, hmm, a tad slow moving.  There is nothing like watching a lawyer research in dusty libraries to frustrate a significant percentage of the viewing public waiting for the next explosion or car crash.

At the heart of the movie version of the tale  is a document, relied on by Viennese authorities as their provenance for a renowned painting's "rightful" place in Austria.  Is it or isn't it a "will" executed by Adele Bloch-Bauer? She was the subject of Gustav Klimt's shimmering painting, and the question is whether the document controls the ultimate fate of the painting. Helen Mirren is her usual marvelous self, portraying the 80+ year-old niece of Adele and a member of a Jewish family targeted by Nazi hatred.

Here's a nice follow-up to the movie story, courtesy of the New York Times, Patricia Cohen's The Story Behind ‘Woman in Gold’: Nazi Art Thieves and One Painting’s Return.

May 11, 2015 in Estates and Trusts, Film, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Signs of the Times? (Part 1 from Belfast)

St, Geirge's Market Free Range EggsLast week I was visiting in Ireland, and specifically in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where I was giving a workshop on comparative contract law for students at Queen's University Belfast in its new J.D program When I visit the city, I always try to save a day for a "dander" around the town, which is wonderfully walkable. 

St. George's Market is a favorite spot -- and in fact last year while I was visiting, Queen Elizabeth was there too, a definite surprise, if you know the history of politics in this city.

There is an interesting collection of stalls, that change a bit with the season and the day.   

 

 

Transactions always come with a smile. You can buy fresh fish (I swear I saw one wink at me), fresh eggs, or your funeral plan!  St. George's Market Your Funeral Plan

  St. George's Market Transaction 2015  

 

  

 

 

 

  

 


 

May 11, 2015 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

GAO Reports to "Congressional Requesters" on Advance Directives

Here we go again.  Another hard look at why a significant percentage of the public has not signed some form of advanced directive.  In April 2015, GAO issued Advance Directives: Information on Federal Oversight, Provider Implementation, and Prevalence, its response to requests made by Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga), and Mark Warner (D-Va) who were inquiring into the role of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in overseeing providers, including hospitals and nursing homes, that are mandated by law to maintain written procedures and provide information about advance directives. 

Perhaps it is just me, but whenever legislators raise this topic, it seems to me the not-so-subtle underlying message is "why aren't people agreeing in writing to forego aggressive health care as they near the end of life so that we can save more money on health care?"  

In any event, the report:

  • documents current practices for offering living wills, health care powers of attorney, and various alternatives such as DNR and POLST forms (including the potential for some confusion among staff members of health care providers about "who" should be handling the education and signing process),
  • refers to a major Institute on Medicine study (Dying in America, 2015) on a similar topic, and
  • concludes that there is no "single" point of entry for execution of advanced directives. 

As the GAO team observes, "[t]herefore, a comprehensive approach to end-of-life care, rather than any one document, such as an advance directive, helps to ensure that medical treatment given at the end of life is consistent with an individual’s preferences."

Hat tip to Karen Miller, Esq., in Florida for the link to the latest study and report. 

May 5, 2015 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thinking About Fiduciary Duty As A Core Concept for "Elder Law"

I tend to think of "Elder Law" as a subset of "Laws and Policies of Aging."  Given what appears to me to be a steady increase in public concern about ways in which some older persons are exploited financially, it occurs to me that we may be at a point where "fiduciary duty" is becoming a central -- perhaps even the central -- concept for the future practice of Elder Law, overtaking even Medicaid planning and end-of-life health care planning. Seasoned practitioners already know that the "million dollar question" in Elder Law is "who is my client?" -- a question intimately tied to carrying out fiduciary duties as an attorney.

Along that line, I've been digging into my stack of "must read" books, a stack that is always a threat to my safety as it gets taller and taller no matter how fast and furiously I read. I'm very much enjoying a book by Boston University Law Professor Tamar Frankel titled, simply enough, Fiduciary Law (Oxford University Press, 2011). 

Early in the book, the author, whose teaching and research interests include corporation governance and regulation of financial systems, proposes a definition of "fiduciary relationships," which I find both intriguing and conducive to discussion.  I don't think it is taking too much away from her full book, to repeat the four features Professor Frankel proposes as triggering fiduciary duties.  She writes:

Continue reading

April 30, 2015 in Books, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Systemic Concerns about Adult (Including Older Adult) Guardinships in Nevada

After my blog piece earlier this week about "elder guardianship" concerns in Florida, I've received communications about similar concerns in other states, including Nevada.

According to a report by Contact 13 (ABC affiliate), on April 21 Commissioners in Clark County (Las Vegas area) conducted a "first-of-its-kind" hearing on alleged guardianship abuses that were described by some as "appalling, frightening and plagued by problems." At the heart of the complaints by individuals and family members was frequent court appointment of "private guardians" rather than family members, and an alleged absence of notice to family members about court hearings. A "blue ribbon" panel or expert may be appointed to audit Clark County's court-supervised guardianships.  A recent statement by the Chief Judge for the district court, set forth in full on the Contact 13 website, pledges the court's commitment to "ensuring clarity and instilling public trust in the process of handling guardianship cases.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Chief Judge's response follows a series of stories by the Review-Journal about "thousands of elderly and mentally ill in Clark County open to exploitation."

As reported by the Las Vegas media, the problems reported in Nevada are not unique to one county or even to one state, as demonstrated by an Associated Press series of articles in 1987 titled "Guardianships of the Elderly: An Ailing System."   See also the national Center for Elders and the Courts for more information on guardianship reforms in state courts.

April 29, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 27, 2015

News Reports Spotlight Guardianship Issues in the Sunshine State

Recent news reports in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune have focused on "elder guardianships" in Florida.  The articles include:

  • The Kindness of Strangers: Inside Elder Guardianship in Florida, a three part "special project."
  • A Civil Dispute Over Guardianship, detailing a conflict between co-trustees for a man in his 90s over costs of care.  One trustee was concerned about what appear to be charities named as remainder beneficiaries and was described as making "imaginative" use of a guardianship to challenge the wife's role as the other named trustee.  A sidebar in this article describes bills pending in the Florida legislature seeking to clarify the legal effect of a "power of attorney" when a guardianship petition is filed. 
  • Film to Detail Horror Stories from Florida Guardianship, describing a video project to share "stories about Florida's adult guardianship system," supported by a local "nonprofit organization called Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship."

April 27, 2015 in Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Iowa's New Law Recognizes Rights of Communication and Visitation in Guardianships

On April 24, 2015, Iowa's Governor signed SF 306 into law, amending Iowa's Guardianship Law to recognize an express right of adult wards to "communication, visitation, or interaction with other persons." The law's effective date is July 1, 2015.

The law further provides that a court shall deny such rights "only upon a showing of good cause by the guardian."  In the absence of an ability to give "express consent to such communication, visitation or interaction with a person due to a physical or mental condition, consent of an adult ward may be presumed by a guardian or a court based on an adult ward's prior relationship with such person."

This is an interesting law, especially coming on the heels of the Henry Rayhons trial in Iowa, even though there appears to be no direct correlation. The new provision does not, for example, define "interaction."

According to news reports, Kerri Kasem, the daughter of radio D.J. Casey Kasem, was present at the ceremony and lobbied for the bill after her late father was moved from his nursing home in California, first to Nevada and then to Washington without his children's knowledge or consent:

 “This is a silent epidemic,” she said. “There are so many abuses of guardianships and so many abuses of caretakers.”

April 27, 2015 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

NYT: Financial Skills May Be "First to Go"

Sunday's New York Times has a feature article on aging and financial skills, and the message is not "just" for individuals with dementia:

"Studies show that the ability to perform simple math problems, as well as handling financial matters, are typically one of the first set of skills to decline in diseases of the mind, like Alzheimer’s, and Ms. Clark’s father-in-law, who suffered from mild dementia, was no exception. Research has also shown that even cognitively normal people may reach a point where financial decision-making becomes more challenging."

The article gives several example of individuals who were vulnerable to exploitation, because of their reduced interest in or understanding of financial decisions. David Laibson, an economics professor at Harvard, one of the researchers cited in the article said "he believed that crystallized intelligence tended to plateau when people reached their 70s." Further, "he wishes all 65-year-olds would start by simplifying their financial lives, reducing the money clutter to just a few mutual funds at a reputable institution."

The article, As Cognition Slips, Financial Skills Are Often the First to Go, offers several links to recent reports and studies, as well as examples of "early signs."  

Hat tip to Penn State's Dickinson Law 1L student Spencer Flohr for sharing the link to this article -- and noting the probable relevance to law students' studies of trusts and estates law. Good catch!

April 26, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Fundamentals of SNT Administration webinar-it's not too late to register

Stetson College of Law and the Center for Excellence in Elder Law at Stetson Law (full disclosure, I'm hosting this webinar) is offering the annual Fundamentals webinar on Friday April 24, 2015 from 1-5 p.m..  This half-day webinar features presentations by Stu Zimring, Mary Alice Jackson and Robert Fleming.  More information, the schedule and registration information are available here.

April 22, 2015 in Estates and Trusts, Other, Programs/CLEs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Comment Window Opens for Proposed Rules re Conflicts of Interest in Retirement Advice

The U.S. Department of Labor has released a new proposed rule intended to protect consumers from conflicts of interest among an array of folks who want to give advice about how and where to invest 401(c) and IRA retirement funds.  The new rule would impose a "fiduciary duty" standard on those advisors, rather than the current, lower "suitability" standard for investment advice.

A DOL press release explains the goal: 

"This boils down to a very simple concept: if someone is  paid to give you retirement investment advice, that person should be working in  your best interest," said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "As commonsense  as this may be, laws to protect consumers and ensure that financial advisers  are giving the best advice in a complex market have not kept pace. Our proposed  rule would change that. Under the proposed rule, retirement advisers can be  paid in various ways, as long as they are willing to put their customers' best  interest first."

 

Today's announcement includes a proposed rule that would  update and close loopholes in a nearly 40-year-old regulation. The proposal  would expand the number of persons who are subject to fiduciary best interest  standards when they provide retirement investment advice. It also includes a  package of proposed exemptions allowing advisers to continue to receive payments  that could create conflicts of interest if the conditions of the exemption are  met. In addition, the announcement includes a comprehensive economic analysis  of the proposals' expected gains to investors and costs.

The New York Times covers the new rules in "U.S. Plans Stiffer Rules Protecting Retiree Cash," and notes the history of opposition to this kind of reform from -- surprise, surprise -- the "financial services industry." There is a 75-day window for public comments on the latest proposal.

Perhaps my biggest surprise was the remarkably "consumer friendly" presentation of the proposed change by the Department of Labor on its webpage, beginning with this simple video describing conflicts of interest.   

April 16, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Property Management, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

April Fools? (Unfortunately, Not So)

When I ask real or prospective law students what television programs they watch, I often get two answers:  "The Big Bang" or "Suits."  I have to admit I love to use Big Bang's "roommate contract" for my contracts class examples.  But, Suits is a bit more problematic -- until now.

The key character in Suits is "Mike Ross," a college dropout, and the back story is that he's brilliant, with a superb memory, and stumbled into being a "lawyer" after a life of petty crime that somehow included taking the LSAT exam for others.  I would like to think that the appeal of the program is the law, but I am realistic enough to suspect the "charm" is the idea that you can succeed in law without knowing the law, indeed without being a "real" lawyer. A little fantasy, right?

Now we have a report -- and I wish this wasn't true -- from my own state of Pennsylvania, of a 45-year-old woman who allegedly posed for 10 years as an estate planning lawyer, even making partner in a law firm, who may have faked her attendance at a specific law school.  In fact, she may have faked everything that should have happened afterward, such as being licensed to practice law.  

According to news reports, the individual has been charged with crimes.  To follow her defense, and the developing details, see here, here, and here

March 31, 2015 in Crimes, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Massachusetts Federal Court Calls for Clearer Rules to Permit Sound Planning for Special Needs

In DeCambre v. Brookline Housing Authority, decided by a federal district court in Massachusetts on March 25, the issue was whether a disabled adult living in Section 8 housing becomes ineligible for the housing subsidy because of disbursements to her from a special needs trust, funded as the result of a personal injury settlement. 

Although the court affirmed the Bureau of Hearings and Appeal ruling on her income and expenses, thus disqualifying her for public housing benefits, the court also called for clearer federal guidelines to permit better planning for needy beneficiaries: 

"[This case demonstrates the serious problem that beneficiaries of irrevocable trusts face; in particular, those that seek to pour lump-sum settlement funds into irrevocable trusts. But until the rules and regulations are clarified, public housing authorities should provide clear guidance and instruction for potential tenants with regard to their financial planning and spending. A more thorough and thoughtful analysis is required by public housing authorities when determining Section 8 eligibility, until further guidance is provided by the HUD."

March 31, 2015 in Discrimination, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Housing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Pennsylvania's New Pro Rep Rules Target Financial Accountability for Lawyers, Including Restrictions re Sales of "Investment Products"

New rules supplementing Pennsylvania's Rules for Professional Conduct, adopted by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in late 2014, are intended to require greater accountability by lawyers for handling of client funds, including sums temporarily deposited in IOLTA accounts.  The rules became effective on March 1, 2015. As we reported on this blog earlier, including here and here, the changes were an important response to disturbing instances of individual attorneys who stole client funds -- in the aggregate amounting to millions of dollars -- that they had purported to "invest" for the clients. 

On March 25, I had the interesting task of serving as a moderator for a meeting hosted by the Elder Law Section of the Pennsylvania Bar Association to explore the implications of the new rules.  Panelists included attorneys Stephen K. Todd and David Fitzsimons who have each served on the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board. They were involved in either the drafting or implementation stages for the new rules. Also helping to set the stage were two additional panelists, practicing elder law and estate planning attorneys, Linda Anderson from the east side of Pennsylvania and John Payne from the west side of the state. 

The audience included attorneys from a range of practice areas around the state, as well as Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Debra Todd.  The dialogue following the panelists' opening remarks was robust, demonstrating support for the increased standards for record-keeping and safe-keeping of property, as well as enhanced powers for the Disciplinary Board to investigate suspected misconduct and demand accountability and disciplinary compliance. 

Many of the comments and questions focused on a single new rule, reportedly the first in the nation, that addresses the role of lawyers with respect to "investment products," defined to include annuity contracts, life insurance contracts, commodities, investment funds, trust funds or securities. 

The key provisions of new Rule 5.8 provide:

Continue reading

March 26, 2015 in Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Programs/CLEs, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Asking Questions re What It Means to Have "The Talk" about Long-Term Care Planning

There is an interesting new YouTube video available, with charismatic, high-profile actors encouraging all of us to initiate "The Talk" about how we -- or our loved ones -- want to handle the possibility, indeed probability, that someday we will need long-term care.  Rob Lowe, Maria Shriver, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Angela Bassett, Zachary Quinto and Jim Nantz admit the difficulties of talking about growing old, often using vivid tidbits from their own lives or families to emphasize the importance of breaking past the barriers of denial. 

I like the video. It is simple, direct.  But, at the same time, I find the initial video, while interesting, to be a lacking in specifics about what it means to "talk" about long-term-care planning. The 2-minute video is actually part of a series created by Genworth, the major seller of long-term care insurance, and if you hit the right (wrong?) buttons you are directed to Genworth websites that offer more details, especially about  -- surprise, surprise -- buying long-term care insurance. 

I suspect that many people will panic if they hear "pay some money now" in order to buy LTC insurance, as even a part of the  "solution."  See what you think:

 

March 18, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Film, Health Care/Long Term Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Family Dynamics are Complicated, Particularly When We're Talking End-of-Life "Wealth" Transfers

GW Law Professor Naomi Cahn and Amy Zeittlow, affiliate scholar with the Institute of American Values, have collaborated on a new article that is fascinating.  In "Making Things Fair: An Empirical Study of How People Approach the Wealth Transmission System," to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Elder Law Journal, they ask fundamental questions about whether traditional laws governing testate and intestate wealth transmission reflect and serve the wishes of most Americans.  Professor Cahn previews the article as follows:

Based on an empirical study of intergenerational care for Baby Boomers, the article shows how the inheritance process actually works for many Americans.  Two fundamental questions about the wealth transfer system guided our analysis  of the data: 1) does the contemporary inheritance process respond to the changing structure of American families; and 2) does it reflect the needs of the non-elite, who have not traditionally been the focus of the system?    

Our study shows that the formal laws of the inheritance system are largely irrelevant to how property is  transferred at death. While the contemporary trusts and estates canon focuses on the importance of planning for  traditional forms of wealth in nuclear families, this study focuses on the transmission of wealth that has high emotional, but low financial, value. We illustrate how the logic of “making things fair” structured how families navigated the distribution process and accessed the law. Consequently, the article recommends that law reform should be guided by the needs of contemporary  families, where not only is wealth defined broadly but also family is defined broadly, through ties that are both formal and functional.  This means establishing default rules that maximize planning while also protecting familial relationships.

The article is part of a new book by the authors titled "Homeward Bound," with planned publication in 2016, and the authors welcome comments and suggestions. 

March 16, 2015 in Books, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

8th Circuit Rejects "Attempt" to Create d4A Special Needs Trust to Permit SSI Eligibility

In Draper v. Colvin, petitioner sought judicial review of SSA's denial of her application for SSI benefits. Her claim was sympathetic, as "[e]ighteen-year-old Stephany Draper suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident in June 2006."

In an admittedly  "hard line" ruling on March 3, the 8th Circuit rejected her argument that her parents' intent to establish a valid third-party-settled special needs trust, using proceeds from a settlement of a personal injury suit on her behalf, should permit her to claim SSI. 

The ruling means that over $400,000 will be treated as "available resources," thus requiring spend down before she would be eligible for benefits.  The court explained (minus citations):

Admittedly, some evidence in the record supports Draper's claim that her parents intended to act in their individual capacities. Draper's parents identified themselves individually as settlors and trustees, and the trust document explicitly states that it was established “pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1396p(d)(4)(A)," a provision which notes that a third party, such as a parent, must create the special needs trust for the benefit of the disabled person. Nevertheless, as discussed [earlier in the opinion], other facts provide substantial evidence to support the conclusion that Draper's parents acted using the power of attorney when establishing the trust.

The Court continued on to its tough bottom line:

Continue reading

March 10, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Estates and Trusts, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Property Management, Social Security, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Harvard Prof. Robert Sitkoff to Speak on Incapacity Planning at University of Illinois

Harvard Law Professor Robert H. Sitkoff is speaking at University of Illinois School of Law on Monday, March 9.  The topic is "Revocable Trusts & Incapacity Planning: More then Just a Will Substitute." Sitkoff-Publicity-HLS 

Here are details provided by Illinois Law Professor Richard Kaplan

The use of trusts has evolved from means of transferring property to mechanisms for managing assets and more recently, to will substitutes for avoiding probate and simplifying post-death transfers. But lawyers increasingly use revocable trusts in planning for possible client incapacity to avoid the costs and publicity associated with custodianship and guardianship. State-level reforms of trust law to accommodate older uses of these devices are not, however, well-suited to this newer use of trusts, and this lecture will examine those reforms in this context.

 

Professor Sitkoff was the youngest professor to receive a chair in the history of Harvard Law School. He previously taught at New York University School of Law and at Northwestern University School of Law. After graduated from the University of Chicago Law School with High Honors, he clerked for then Chief Judge Richard A. Posner of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Professor Sitkoff is an active participant in trust and estates law reform. He is a liaison member of the Joint Editorial Board for Uniform Trusts and Estates Acts within the Uniform Law Commission and has been a member of several drafting committees for acts involving trusts and estates matters. Sitkoff is also a member of the American Law Institute’s Council and has served on the consultative groups for the Restatement (Third) of Trusts and the Restatement (Third) of Property: Wills and Other Donative Transfers.

Word from Dick Kaplan is that Rob's  presentation will be available (eventually) via a recording, and his presentation will also be captured as an article in University of Illinois' Elder Law Journal

My students often ask why all casebooks can't be as engaging to read as the "Dukeminier" text on Wills, Trusts & Estates -- and I suspect one reason is that Rob Sitkoff, although uniquely prolific and gifted, is still only human and cannot write them all! 

Postscript:  I asked Rob to send me something other than his "official" Harvard photo.  The one above seems to capture his spirit and the smile I sometimes detect in his footnotes. 

March 6, 2015 in Books, Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Estates and Trusts, Health Care/Long Term Care, Programs/CLEs, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)