Monday, November 23, 2015

Mass. Appellate Court Reinstates Legal Malpractice Verdict Following Flawed Medicaid-Planning Advice

In October 2015, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals addressed the question of whether there were damages flowing from a lawyer's Medicaid advice to an older couple. The lawyer had counseled that, for Medicaid planning reasons, the couple should not retain a life estate in a house purchased with their money but held in the name of their adult children. The court found the surviving mother suffered real damages, even if eviction from the house by her children was unlikely.  Key allegations included:

Thirteen years later, in July of 2007, the Brissettes [the parents] and two of their four children, Paul Brissette and Cynthia Parenteau, met at [Attorney] Ryan's office to discuss the Brissettes' desires to sell the South Hadley home and to buy property located in Springfield. They discussed the prospect of putting the Springfield property in the names of Paul and Cynthia. Ryan told the Brissettes that if they reserved life estates in the Springfield property, they could be ineligible for Medicaid if they applied any time within five years of getting the life estates. He also told them that if they took life estates in the Springfield property, there could be a Medicaid lien against that property when they died. There was evidence that the Brissettes asked about “protection,” but Ryan told them that he did not feel that the Brissettes needed protection because they could trust their children to do what they wanted them to do. In reliance on Ryan's advice, the Brissettes decided that the Springfield property would be bought with their money  but put in Paul's and Cynthia's names, and that the Brissettes would not have life estates in the Springfield house.

After her husband's death. Mrs. Brissette concluded she wished to own "her" home in her own name, but the children declined to re-convey the property to her. 

During the malpractice trial, Lawyer Ryan conceded his advice about the effect of a life estate on Medicaid and/or a Medicaid lien was wrong, and expert witnesses also testified that the incorrect Medicaid advice was "below the standard of care applicable to the average qualified attorney advising clients for Medicaid planning."

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November 23, 2015 in Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

New York Court Addresses "Medicaid Transfer" Issue in Context of Continuing Care Community (CCRC)

On November 6, 2015 the appellate division of New York's Supreme Court addressed an issue long brewing in some states, whether Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) can insist on "private pay" for skilled nursing care despite a resident's "eligibility" for Medicaid under state and federal laws.  In Good Shepherd Village at Endwell, Inc. v. Yezzi, the unanimous panel affirmed summary judgment in favor of the CCRC on the payment question.

The decision highlights Congressional DRA action in 2005/6 that amended federal Medicaid law to expressly permit CCRCs to offer contracts that require residents to "spend on their care resources declared for the purposes of admission before applying for medical assistance."  The DRA amendment was a response to the industry's lobbying efforts, following a 2004 decision by a Maryland appellate court in Oak Crest Village, Inc. v. Murphy that held such a contractual provision violated the federal Nursing Home Residents' Bill of Rights, viewed as prohibiting nursing homes from conditioning admission on guarantees of private pay.

In the New York case history, the couple apparently signed two separate documents, beginning with a "contract" at the time of their entrance into the CCRC that required them to pay both an entrance fee ($143,850) and "basic monthly fees" of approximately  $2,550 to cover the cost of independent living.  Any need for skilled nursing care would be assessed "an additional charge."  That contract provided that residents could "not transfer assets represented as available" for less than fair market value.  When the wife needed skilled care, the couple signed a second document, referred to in the case as an "admission agreement," for treatment in the CCRC's skilled nursing unit. The "admission agreement" reportedly required the Yezzis to "pay for, or arrange to have paid for by Medicaid" all services provided by the CCRC.

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November 10, 2015 in Consumer Information, Estates and Trusts, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Are There Limitations on Estate "Re-Planning" Following Adult Adoptions, Especially for Same-Sex Couples?

In my course on Wills, Trusts and Estates, students always seem to be intrigued by "adult adoptions." There can be a variety of reasons for an adult adoption, often tied to estate planning goals, including attempts to create statutory heirs that can nullify challenges by other family members to bequests in traditional estate documents, such as wills or trusts on the grounds of "undue influence."  Sometimes the cases are connected to sad facts, such as the troubled life of tobacco heiress Doris Duke, who at age of 75 adopted a much younger woman, but came to regret that fact, leading to a mostly unsuccessful attempt at disinheritance. Robert Sitkoff's casebook on Wills Trusts & Estates has a fascinating profile of the Duke case, even though the original reasons for the adoption were not entirely clear. 

In the news this week is a less unhappy, but still complicated case -- and I imagine there could be similar cases around the country -- where in 2012,  after forty years as a same-sex couple, a retired teacher adopted his partner, a retired writer: 

Now, they're trying to undo the adoption to get married and a state trial court judge has rejected their request, saying his ability to annul adoptions is generally limited to instances of fraud.


"We never thought we'd see the day" that same-sex marriage would be legal in Pennsylvania, Esposito, 78, told CNN in a telephone interview. The adoption "gave us the most legitimate thing available to us" at the time, said Bosee, 68.

 For more on the facts, see "Couple Seeks Right to Marry.  The Hitch? They're Legally Father and Son," by CNN writers Evan Perez and Ariane de Vogue.  
And a hat tip to Dickinson Law student Kadeem Morris, who spotted this interesting piece. 

November 5, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

WSJ: Are Guardianship Systems Under Critical Review?

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal focuses on challenges in state courts to how guardianships operate and the role of courts in appointment and oversight of guardians.  Titled "Abuse Plagues Systems of Legal Guardianships for Adults," the on-line version of the article carries the subtitle of "Allegations of financial exploitation and abuse are rife, despite waves of overhaul efforts."  The article uses extensive details from just two guardianship caess, one in the state of Washington involving a 71 year-old woman, and one in Florida involving an 89 year-old "mother," to  develop its theme of financial exploitation and abuse, pointing to critics that say "many elderly people with significant assets become ensnared in a system that seems mainly to succeed in generating billings."

The article includes statements from National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys president elect, Catherine Seal, providing a contrasting view of properly-managed guardianships.  She is quoted as saying, "The worst cases that I see are the ones where there is no guardian."

Arizona is identified in the article as a state that has adopted safeguards on unnecessary or abusive fees "by establishing fee guidelines" in 2012. Of course it did so after a significant 2010-2011 investigative news series by the Arizona Republic in Maricopa County that exposed a series of cases in which court permitted  fees and delays significantly impacted the alleged incapacitated persons' financial resources. 

The WSJ article, I think, can be criticized for using just two cases of conflict to dramatize allegations of systemic problems, characterized as exploitation.   We need to talk about systemic reform needs by looking beyond single case reports 

It seems clear, however, if you follow the pockets of deeper investigations from across the nation, including recent challenges in Florida and Nevada where allegations focused on an array of court-permitted problems, including delays generating more costs, or overly cozy relations between court-appointed guardians and courts, or the absence of monitoring systems, that there are larger systemic issues in need of watchful eye and, in certain jurisdictions, critical examination and reform.

My thanks to Marilyn Berquist and Rick Black for recommending the WSJ article.

November 3, 2015 in Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

NYT: Dying Alone Is Not -- in the Long Run -- a Solo Activity

In one of those feature articles that The New York Times does so well, N.R. Kleinfeld reports The Lonely Death of George Bell.  It is a sad story, as Mr. Bell died in his apartment at the age of 72 and no one "missed him," so his body was not discovered for days.  You may have stopped reading precisely because it is such a sad story.  But, at the same time, George's story is a surprising tale of the potential consequences of dying alone.  The article lays out the layers of necessary decision-making, from the simplest of questions -- where will George be buried -- to the complex, where public authorities must hunt for an executor and for beneficiaries named in George's 30-year old will.  Then, in turn they must hunt for their heirs, when it turns out that this modest man's death left behind almost a half million dollar estate and few living connections.

My thanks to Penn State law student Kevin Horne who shared with me the link to this interesting story.  As he points out, this story gives another side to our course on Wills Trusts & Estates.     

October 22, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Importance of Understanding Trusts in Family Law, Especially If Divorce Looms

The ABA Section on Family Law has devoted the entire Fall 2015 issue of its Family Advocate magazine to "Crossing Paths with a Trust."   The paper copy of the issue just appeared on my desk. The opening editorial advises family law attorneys advising clients considering divorce not to fear trusts:

Lawyers who simply take a deep breath and read the trust will often be surprised to learn that they have in their hands a road map for how assets will be managed, who gets what, when they get it, and under what terms. 

The articles in the issue include a "plain English guide to trusts as a means of orchestrating assets in divorce cases," how trusts can interact with disclosure requirements for premarital agreements, how to address equitable division of interests assigned to trusts, the use of child support or alimony trusts, and the unique potential advantages for using trusts for "special needs" planning for disabled children.  The issue ends with a bonus -- a primer on "will basics."

The articles underscore what I sometimes find myself saying to law students, that courses on "wills, trusts and estates" are about advanced family law issues, and that if families fail to address disputes among family members while they are still living, the issues may not be any less complicated when the asset-holding family member passes away. 

The entire issue seems like a good resource for a wide audience, including law students.  Unfortunately, the on-line version of Family Advocate issues is restricted to ABA Family Law Section members, at least during the first few weeks of  publication.  Apparently you can purchase paper copies (see for example the rates for the previous issue, for  Summer 2015) , including bulk orders, although I find there is often a lag time for specific issues to become available to purchase.  I guess you have to keep checking!    

October 21, 2015 in Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Property Management, Retirement, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

When One Spouse Uses Community Funds to Care for His Infirm Parent, Is That A Breach Of Fiduciary Duty to His Spouse?

Last week I spoke on filial support duties, and one question from the audience was whether Pennsylvania's filial support law could obligate someone to provide for a stepparent.  My answer under Pennsylvania law was "probably not." My analysis was based on Pennsylvania cases, such as Commonwealth v. Goldman, that had used a strict definition of parent-child relationship for purposes of calculating the limits on indigent support obligations, although doing so in the context of in-laws rather than stepparents.

But something in the back of my mind was itching, and of course, over  the weekend I started scratching.  I remembered a case, which did seem to recognize a potential for indirect obligations to "parents-in-law." 

The case is from California, where divorcing spouses were arguing over division of community property.  One focus of the disputes was proceeds of the sale of a former house.  While rejecting an argument that the sale of the property transmuted the funds into 50/50 separate property, a California appellate court was willing to consider the expenditure by the husband of some of these funds to care for his "infirm mother" to be a "community debt."  Further, the court observed that unlike the obligation to "reimburse the community" for payment out of community funds to support a child not of that marriage, there was no statutory obligation to "reimburse the community" if the funds were used to care for one spouse's parent.

Pointing to California's "not commonly known" filial responsibility law, the court held that if the funds were actually spent for care of his indigent mother, such use did not constitute an "unauthorized gift."  

The court went further, however, noting that "a spouse's debt payments may constitute a breach of fiduciary duty and run afoul" of California law dealing with contracts with third parties, when entered into by only one married party. A bit of a Catch-22 problem, right? However, this interesting fiduciary duty issue "was not raised" in the parties' briefs and therefore was not resolved on this appeal.

On remand, husband was "entitled to establish the funds were expended to support his mother, who was in need and unable to maintain herself."  For the full analysis, including citations to the relevant California statutes, see In re the Marriage of Leni (2006).

October 15, 2015 in Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Marshall Kapp Discusses Legal and Pecuniary Aspects of Family Caregiving

I'm always playing catch-up on my "must read" list, but fortunately, others keep me on task.  One such article is Florida State Medicine and Law Professor Marshall Kapp's piece, inspired in part by Hendrik Hartog's 2012 book, Someday All This Will Be Yours

In For Love, Legacy, Or Pay: Legal and Pecuniary Aspects of Family Caregiving, published by the Springer Journals of Case Management, Professor Kapp begins with this overview and note of caution about legal planning:

Most caregiving and companionship provided by family members and friends to elder individuals in home environments occurs because of the caregiver's feelings of ethical and emotional obligation and attachment.  From a legal perspective, though, it might be ill-advised for an informal caregiver to admit to such a motivation.

He advises consideration of personal service or personal service agreements, explaining:

We must reject an analytically attractive and pure, but never really socially realistic, tendency to dichotomize the caregiver experience, recognizing instead that a person may simultaneously be both a family member, with the related emotional and ethical connotations of that label, and a business employee.  Morality and materiality are not incompatible.  Caregiving can be both an act of love and a marketable commodity bought and sold between non-strangers.

As Professor Kapp points out, if we as a society really wanted to encourage family caregiving without all too vague promises about future inheritances, we could go beyond mere tax credits and "instead use public funds to pay family caregivers directly."   

October 14, 2015 in Consumer Information, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Social Security | Permalink

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Let's Get this Right: "Who Is Your Client?" in Elder and Disability Law

In the last few months, I've been getting calls about folks involved in disputes with what I would call two levels of concern. First, there is the concern about how to represent a client with a disability, especially a disability such as dementia, that can make it problematic to ascertain whether the client fully understands his or her own safety or personal care needs.  But, the second level is perhaps even more important, the question of whether the lawyer or lawyers involved in the dispute have fully analyzed the questions of "who is my client?" and "do I have a conflict of interest?"

A case that demonstrates well the potential tensions between client capacity, client best interests, and the needs for attorneys to be self-aware, is Dayton Bar Association v. Parisi, 565 N.E. 2d 268 (Ohio 2012). The disciplinary proceeding arose out of two separate client matters, both involving "older" clients.  In the first matter, what I call the classic elder law issue of "who is my client" is at the heart of the problem.  The decision emphasizes that just wanting to keep the "client safe" is not a defense to a conflict.

In this matter, the attorney in question "began to provide legal services for ... a 93-year-old woman who claimed that she was being held against her will in a nursing home."

The lawyer became concerned about the client's "financial welfare, ... confusion and disorientation," and  therefore "applied for a guardianship on the ground the individual was incapacitated as a result of Alzheimer's-related memory loss."   

As the Disciplinary proceedings analyzed, the decision of the lawyer to file a guardianship petition may have been consistent with Ohio Rule of Professional Conduct (similar to ABA Rule) 1.14(b) which the Court viewed as permitting "a lawyer to file a petition for guardianship of a client when no less-restrictive alternatives are available." 

However, the attorney then had the client "sign a durable power of attorney" and the POA appointed the lawyer as her agent.  Next the attorney withdrew her own application for the guardianship, and filed a separate application for guardianship on behalf of the niece.

Compounding this series of conflicts of interest, the disciplinary proceeding addresses the fact that the attorney eventually used the POA as authority to pay "her own fees of more than $18,000 without first obtaining the court's order."

The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the Disciplinary Board's finding that representing both the woman and her niece in a guardianship  violated Rule of Professional Conduct 1.7(a)(2) on conflict of interest.  Further, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed with the Board that the attorney's use of the POA to pay her own legal fees while the guardianship application was pending was improper.

The full opinion is well worth reviewing, especially as the second matter leading to the lawyer's suspension from the practice of law involved the attorney billing for legal services plus "non-legal" services she performed as an agent under a POA for an older man whose "extended family was either unwilling or unable to assist in his care." 

The Disciplinary Board found, and the Ohio Supreme Court affirmed, that doing a "good job" and helping the man avoid a nursing home did not suffice to justify the $200K plus fees in question. The Court singled out a prime example of the attorney's overbilling, charging "approximately $13,000 in fees and expenses for overseeing the partial restoration of [the man's] beloved Jaguar."

October 13, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 9, 2015

Filial Friday: Freakonomics Asks "Should Kids Pay Back Parents for Raising Them?"

In a convergence of my teaching, research and public outreach work, this week I've found myself in several overlapping conversations about whether adult children have obligations -- moral or legal -- to care for or financially support their parents.  

This week, following my Elder Law Prof Blog post recommending Hendrik Hartog's fascinating book, Someday All This Will Be Yours, which I also recommended to my Trust & Estate students, I had a nice series of virtual conversations with Dirk about his book. What a thoughtful historian he is.  We were talking about his research-based observation in the book about adult children and needy parents:

Adult children were not legally bound to remain and to work for their parents.  Nor were they obligated to care for the old.  Adult children were, paradigmatically and legally, free individuals, "emancipated," to use the technical term. . . . Furthermore, there was little -- perhaps nothing-- to keep an uncaring or careless adult child from allowing a parent to go over the hill to the poorhouse.

I asked, "what about filial support laws?"  Turns out that was a timely question because Professor Hartog  had just been interviewed for a Freakonomics Radio episode, "Should Kids Pay Back Their Parent for Raising Them?" The program became publically available, via podcast or written transcript, on October 8, 2015.  In the interview Professor Hartog was asked to comment on filial support laws.  He said in part:

Filial responsibility statutes are very weak efforts to ensure that the young will support the old if they are needy.... They rarely are enforced.  Very, very, very, very rarely.  So, you know, in a sense, every time they are enforced they become a New York Times article or they become an article in the local newspapers. 

Professor Hartog was speaking in large measure from the perspective of his important historical research, including review of a body of case reports from New Jersey spanning some 100 years from the mid 1880s to the mid 1900s.  And based on my own historical research, I would also say that in the U.S., filial support laws have been rarely enforced, although I would characterize the enforcement as often "episodic" in nature, especially after the growth of Social Security and Medicaid benefits.  But...

I think the modern story is quite different in at least one state -- Pennsylvania.  Part of this difference is tied to the fact that Pennsylvania's filial support law permits enforcement by commercial third-parties, including nursing homes, as I discussed in my 2013 article on Filial Support Laws in the Modern Era.  Other U.S. jurisdictions with "modern" enforcement cases are South Dakota and Puerto Rico.

Indeed, I'm speaking on October 9, 2015 at the invitation of a Bench and Bar Conference in Gettysburg, PA about "The Festering Hot Topic" of Filial Support Laws in Pennsylvania. In the presentation, I report on controversies arising from recent, aggressive collection efforts by law firms representing nursing homes, as well the latest examples of successful enforcement suits by nursing homes and family members. I also analyze a disturbing additional claim, where Germany is seeking to enforce its filial support law to compel a U.S. resident to pay toward the costs of care for an ailing father in Germany. 

Ultimately, I think that Professor Hartog and I agree more than we disagree about the lack of behavioral impact flowing from filial support laws. As demonstrated by Professor Hartog in his book, much care and support is provided by children, but flowing from complicated moral or personal inclinations, rather than statute-based lawsuits.

This seems a more realistic paradigm, although  not without opportunities for misunderstanding and disappointment. But, as I often observe, the very last person I would want involved in my care would be someone who is doing it "only" because a statute -- much less a court -- is telling them they must care for me.

October 9, 2015 in Books, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, International, Medicaid, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

"Over the Hill" as an Evolving History Lesson

We have mentioned Hendrik Hartog's book, Someday All This Will Be Yours: A History of Inheritance and Old Age, (Harvard Press 2012) on this Blog as we did on this post outlining a recent symposium law review with articles inspired by the book.  I've been remiss, however, in not recommending the book directly. 

So let me correct that oversight now.  If you haven't read Princeton Professor Hartog's book, or if (as was true for me for too long) you have allowed the book to sit on your "to read" stack, it's time to get to it.  The book is a treasure of analysis, commentary, legal history, critique and provocation arising from the simple proposition that in many relationships, someone often utters (or thinks they have heard) words to the effect, "when I'm gone, someday, all this will be yours."  The underlying legal question is what happens when no document (such as a will, a trust, or a contract) puts that pledge into writing.

I find much to talk about when reading Hartog's words.  One curious item he describes is a poem, "Over the Hill to the Poor House," published by Will Carleton in 1872.  Hartog explains that the poem is the source for the now common saying "over the hill" to refer to persons of a certain age.  But Hartog points out that the poem's poignancy comes from its all-too-true narrative by one woman about what it can be like to grow old, frail and widowed, even if you have a large family of loving children.

From the closing lines of the poem:

An’ then I went to Thomas, the oldest son I’ve got,
For Thomas’s buildings’d cover the half of an acre lot;
But all the child’rn was on me—I couldn’t stand their sauce—
And Thomas said I needn’t think I was comin’ there to boss.

An’ then I wrote to Rebecca, my girl who lives out West,
And to Isaac, not far from her—some twenty miles at best;
And one of’em said’twas too warm there for any one so old,
And t’other had an opinion the climate was too cold.

So they have shirked and slighted me,an' shifted me about-
So they have well-nigh soured me,an' wore my old heart out;
But still I've borne up pretty well, an' wasn't much put down,
Till Charley went to the poor-master, an' put me on the town.

Over the hill to the poor-house--my chil'rn dear, good-by!
Many a night I've watched you when only God was nigh;
And God 'll judge between us; but I will al'ays pray
That you shall never suffer the half I do to-day.

And for a colorful "sung" version of the poem, with a change in gender for point-of-view, go to Lester Flatt and Earl Scrugg's version of Over the Hills to the Poorhouse

Over 140 years later, we still hear the phrase "over the hill" in less-than-kind contexts, but one hopes the prospects for care and assistance are not quite as grim as described in these verses. 

October 6, 2015 in Books, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 5, 2015

Webinar on October 6: The "A to Zahner" on Medicaid Annuities

Sorry for the short notice, but on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 from noon to 1 p.m. (Eastern time), the Pennsylvania Bar Institute is hosting a very timely (and cleverly titled) webinar, focusing on the impact of the Third Circuit's recent decision in Zahner on Medicaid planning generally and specifically on the sue of annuities. 

Here is a link to PBI's details on "The A to Zahner on Medicaid Annuities," including how to register.

October 5, 2015 in Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Medicaid, Property Management, Webinars | Permalink

New Illinois Law on "Presumptively Void" Bequests to Non-Family Caregivers Has "Starring" Role

Illinois adopted a new law, Public Act 098-1093, effective on January 1, 2015 that assigns a "presumptively void" status to bequests made to non-family caregivers, if the transfer would take effect upon the death of the cared-for person.  The law applies only to post-effective date bequests that are greater than $20,000 in fair market value.  The statutory presumption can be "overcome if the transferee proves to the court" either:

1. by a preponderance of the evidence that the transferee's share under the transfer instrument is not greater than the share the transferee was entitled to receive under ... a transfer instrument in effect prior to the transferee becoming a caregiver, or


2. by clear and convincing evidence the transfer was not the product of  fraud, duress or undue influence.

The law only applies in civil actions where the transfer is challenged by other beneficiaries or heirs. 

(Fun) Spoiler Alert:  The new law plays a clever "starring role" in the Fall 2015 season premiere of  The Good Wife.  Let's see how many of our law students were watching!

October 5, 2015 in Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Film, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, October 2, 2015

Planning Well For The End of Life (as a Foundation)

I've long been fascinated by the history of Atlantic Philanthropies (AP), starting when I first became aware of the behind-the-scenes role of the founder, Chuck Feeney, in funding extraordinary educational endeavors in Ireland, and, as I soon learned, also funding important social and health advocacy movements around the world.  The end of AP as a multi-million dollar grant-making foundation is near at hand, although not the end of its impact.

Linked here is the latest report from the CEO of AP, Christopher Oechsli, with linked reports on AP's final grants, including its support for a groundbreaking National Dementia Strategy in Ireland.

October 2, 2015 in Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, International, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Do Tontines Have a Valid Role in Modern Retirement Planning?

Jeff Guo, writing for the Washington Postrecently offered a provocative look at "tontines" as a theoretical retirement planning alternative to "annuities." Apparently these are advocated by some modern legal and financial experts:

Economists have long said that the rational thing to do is to buy an annuity. At retirement age, you could pay an insurance company $100,000 in return for some $5,000-6,000 a year in guaranteed payments until you die. But most people don’t do that. For decades, economists have been trying to figure out why....


But there’s also some evidence that people just irrationally dislike annuities. As behavioral economist Richard Thaler wrote in the New York Times: “Rather than viewing an annuity as providing insurance in the event that one lives past 85 or 90, most people seem to consider buying an annuity as a gamble, in which one has to live a certain number of years just to break even.”


Here is where tontines come in.  If people irrationally fear annuities because them seem like a gamble on one's own life, history suggests that they irrationally loved tontines because they see tontines as a gamble on other people's lives.


A simple modern tontine might look like this:  At retirement, you and a bunch of other people each chip in $20,000 to buy a ton of mutual funds or stocks or whatever.  Every year, the group withdraws a predetermined amount and divides it among the remaining survivors.  You might get a bonus one year, for instance, because Frank and Denise died....

 Want to know more?  Read It's Sleazy, It's Totally Illegal, and Yet It Could Become The Future of Retirement.  Hat tip to David Pearson for sharing this story. 

September 30, 2015 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Does LegalZoom Compete with Law Firms? Co-Founder Brian Liu Says "No"

Over the weekend I caught an interview with Brian Liu, co-founder of LegalZoom, broadcast on From Scratch, a radio show about "entrepreneurial life."  The host, Jessica Harris, who has an interesting business background of her own, is a very good interviewer, encouraging guests to explore strengths and weaknesses of their ideas, moving from first inspiration to current goals.  She also asks "work/life balance" questions, often getting candid admissions of the private struggles some have to achieve balance.

I was intrigued with Liu's central premise, that his company does not compete, at least not directly, with law firms for business.  Rather, he believes that the vast majority of clients are drawn to his company precisely because they would never go to a lawyer, whether because of cost, unease about attorneys, or perceptions about value. 

It was also interesting to hear that Legal Zoom's first ten clients, accessing the company's on-line document portal on a Friday night, were seeking "living wills."  That fact tells us a lot about underserved legal and health care needs, doesn't it.  

September 29, 2015 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Ward vs. Incapacitated Person? The Challenges of Labels in Modern Proceedings

Catching up on a bit of reading, I notice that the Uniform Laws Commission has a committee hard at work on drafting proposed revisions to the 1997 Uniform Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Act  (UGPPA).  University of Missouri Law Professor David English is Chair of that committee,  with many good people (and friends) on the working group.

In reviewing their April 2015 Committee Meeting Summary, available here, I was interested to see the following note under the discussion heading about "person-first language:"

Participants engaged in a lively discussion of the desirability of person-first language, and possible person-first terminology.  There was general agreement that the revision should attempt to incorporate person-first language.  For the next meeting, the Reporter [University of Syracuse Law Professor Nina Kohn] will attempt a draft that uses language other than "ward" or "incapacitated" to the extent possible and utilizes person-first language instead (precise wording still to be determined).  The Reporter will also attempt to use a single term that can describe both persons subject to guardianship and those subject to conservatorship.

I've struggled with "labels" in writing and speaking about older adults generally, and incapacitated persons specifically.  It will be interesting to see what the ULC committee recommends on this and even more daunting tasks, including how to better facilitate and promote "person-centered decision-making" and limited guardianships.

September 16, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Property Management, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

New York Ethics Opinion Addresses Potential Conflicts in Elder Law Practice

A New York ethics opinion issued July 27, 2015 is a useful reminder of the possibility -- indeed probability -- that law firms well known for specializing in elder law or estate planning may be approached by successive generations of family members, thus creating potential issues of confidentiality (and more). 

In the matter under consideration, involving a small law firm that practiced "primarily in the fields of estate planning and administration, trusts  and elder law," two of the lawyers had a long relationship with a "father," including representation of the father in a contested adult guardianship case. 

Later, a different lawyer in the firm met with a "son" of the father to discuss personal estate planning following a "public seminar" hosted by the firm.  That lawyer did not conduct a "conflict check" before a first meeting, one on-one, with the son.  (One can see how a law firm might be tempted to skip or delay a step in conflict-checking when organizing these kinds of business-generating efforts, a potential not directly addressed in the New York opinion. Would disclaimers or warnings about "client relationships" not forming immediately remedy potential problems -- or perhaps make them even more complicated?)

The law firm, upon discovering the potential for concerns, made the decision not to go forward with representation of the son, and then asked the New York State Bar Association's Committee on Professional Ethics for guidance on whether rules either "required" or "permitted" the law firm to disclose to the father the son's request for representation, or whether the firm was prohibited from further representation of the father.

For the New York ethics committee's interesting analysis,  see New York Ethics Opinion 1067.  For a contrasting "multi-generational" representation problem involving a husband's undisclosed "heir," see A. v. B., decided by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 1999, a case that is a good springboard for discussion of professional responsibilities for attorneys in the course on Wills, Trust & Estates (as I discovered in the Dukeminer/Sitkoff textbook). 

September 10, 2015 in Books, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Legal Practice/Practice Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Deadline 9/14/2015: Comments Due to CMS re "Binding Arbitration" in Nursing Home Admission Agreements

Erica Wood, a director for the ABA Commission on Law and Aging,  writing for the August 2015 issue of the ABA's Bifocal Journal, reminds us that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is seeking comments on proposed changes to rules affecting Long-Term Care Facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs, including the issue of whether CMS should prohibit "binding" pre-dispute arbitration provisions in nursing home contracts.  The deadline for public comments is 5 p.m., on Monday, September 14, 2015.  Electronic comments, using the file code CMS-2360-P, can be submitted through this portal:

How do you feel about pre-dispute "agreements" binding consumers, including consumers of long-term care, to arbitration? Your comments to CMS can make a difference! 

I remember my first encounter with "binding" pre-dispute arbitration provisions in care facilities. In the early years of my law school's Elder Protection Clinic, a resident of a nursing home had purportedly "given away" possessions to an aide at nursing home, who promptly sold them on EBay.  The resident was lonely and the "friendship" included the aide taking her out the front door of the facility, via a wheel chair, on little outings, including trips where the resident could visit her beloved house, still full of a life-time of antiques and jewelry.  (The resident might have recovered enough to go home -- although eventually a second stroke intervened.)

Continue reading

September 8, 2015 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 7, 2015

"Safe Travels" (but, should you pass away, can I have your Frequent Flyer Miles?)

I hope everyone is lucky enough  to have a colleague such as Professor Laurel Terry here at Dickinson Law.  In addition to being the guru on regulation of lawyers, particularly for lawyers working across international borders, she's a good friend, organized, AND a guru of travel.  Whenever I have a travel question, I know she probably has sorted out the options and will have  great advice. 

So, I wasn't surprised on this holiday Labor Day weekend that she had considered "generational" travel issues, including whether you can devise or inherit "frequent flyer miles." 

Turns out you can ... depending.  Professor Terry pointed to this Smarter Travel blog, addressing which airlines have clear policies on inheritance.  You will want to look for your own favorite (least unfavored?) airline, but to summarize:  "In sum, American, Continental, and US Airways say "yes," Air Canada says "maybe," Jet Blue and United say "no way," and the others ignore the issue."

September 7, 2015 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, International, Property Management, Travel | Permalink | Comments (2)