Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Reverse Mortgages & Protection for Non-Borrowing Spouse

As we reported previously, Congress passed the "Reverse Mortgage Stablization Act" in August of 2013.  In both state and federal legislatures, a new law's title may over-promise and under-deliver. With respect to reverse mortgages, Public 113-29 gave authority to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to establish, by "notice or mortgagee letter, or any alternative requirements" deemed ncessary "to improve the fiscal safety  and soundness of the program," and the latest in a series of HUD requirements takes place, as detailed below, on August 1.


From a consumer perspective, one concern has been reported attempts by mortgage companies to "foreclose" on mortgages where the "borrowing spouse" has died but his or her "non-borrowing, surviving spouse" was still in the home.  Other concerns have focused on "defaults" triggered by failure of a borrower to pay real estate taxes or utilities, thus suggesting continuing  vulnerability of the elderly borrower to financial insolvency despite receiving cash from the reverse mortgage.  Taking out a reverse mortgage without careful planning for necessary home-related payments means the borrower can lose the equity in the home, equity that could have been put to better use by selling the home. As reported here, suits have challenged application of payment due status in such fact patterns. 

In June, the Department used its "Mortgagee Letter" authority to issue its latest in guidelines intended to better protect prospective borrowers of the risks of reverse morgages, including requirement that the mortgage companies make clear to borrowers the following:

  • FHA insures fixed interest rate mortgages, as well as annual and monthly adjustable interest rate mortgages;
  • The borrower has the ability to change the method of payment under the reverse mortgage ARM products at any time provided funds are available;
  • Fixed interest rate mortgages are limited to the Single Disbursement Lump Sum payment option where there is a one-time draw at loan closing and no future draws post loan closing;
  • Adjustable interest rate mortgages provide for five, flexible payment options, and allow future draws;
  • The amount of funds available to the mortgagor is currently determined by the age of the youngest mortgagor, and
  • The disbursement of mortgage proceeds during the first twelve-month disbursement period is subject to an initial disbursement limit as determined by requirements set by the Secretary.

In April, the Department issued "Mortgagee Letter 2014-07" to establish, effective August 1, that "the due and payable status will be deferred for as long as a Non-Borrowing Spouse continues to meet all the qualifying attributes...."  The nonborrowing spouse has 90 days after the death of the borrowing spouse to "establish legal ownership" or other legal right to remain in the home. 

July 29, 2014 in Ethical Issues, Housing, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

17th Annual Elder Law Institute in Pennsylvania: Packed Program on July 24-25

The growing significance and scope of "elder law" is demonstrated by the program for the upcoming 2014 Elder Law Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to be held on July 24-25.  In addition to key updates on Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans and Social Security law, plus updates on the very recent changes to Pennsylvania law affecting powers of attorney, here are a few highlights from the multi-track sessions (48 in number!):

  • Nationally recognized elder law practitioner, Nell Graham Sale (from one of my other "home" states, New Mexico!) will present on planning and tax implications of trusts, including special needs trusts;
  • North Carolina elder law expert Bob Mason will offer limited enrollment sessions on drafting irrevocable trusts;
  • We'll hear the latest on representing same-sex couples following Pennsylvania's recent court decision that struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriages;
  • Julian Gray, Pittsburgh attorney and outgoing chair of the Pennsylvania Bar's Elder Law Section will present on "firearm laws and gun trusts."  By coincidence, I've had two people this week ask me about what happens when you "inherit" guns.

Be there or be square!  (Who said that first, anyway?)     

July 20, 2014 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Medicaid, Medicare, Programs/CLEs, Property Management, Retirement, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Faculty Share Work from Australian Research Network on Law & Ageing

Representatives from some 16 countries participated in the 2014 International Elder Law and Policy Conference at John Marshall Law School on July 10-11.  There was impressive participation -- especially given the distances for travel to attend the short and intense conference -- by faculty members from Australia, including Dean Wendy Lacey from the University of South Australia School of Law, Associate Dean Meredith Blake from the University of Western Australia School of Law, Lisa Barry from Macquarie University Law School in Australia, and Eileen Webb from the University of Western Australia School of Law. 

I learned that there is a strong research network on law and ageing topics in Australia, ARNLA.  Many of the issues they are addressing mirror issues recognized elsewhere in the world, even as the laws and standards may differ between the countries.  Several of the Australian participants reported on recent research or works in progress.Flag_of_Australia_(converted)_svg

For example, Meredith Blake addressed the challenge of using advance directives to honor the directions or wishes of a principal after the individual develops dementia.  She pointed out that unlike some U.S. states that require agents to follow the principal's known wishes or directions, in Queensland the use of a "best interest" standard for agents acting under health care directives may frustrate the wishes of the principal.  Using a detailed and realistic hypothetical to illustrate concerns, Professor Blake urged adoption of a more flexible approach. 

Eileen Webb's presentation focused on how property law concepts in Australia may help or hinder efforts to respond to instances of potential financial abuse, as where an older individual allows or directs transfer of property interests to other family members or unrelated individuals "without adequate protection or for consideration which is illusory."

Professor Webb introduced me to a new but useful label,"family accommodation arrangements," which she reported was one of the most frequent sources of concern for elder abuse in Victoria.  I was particularly impressed by graphs she created to illustrate and organize potentially applicable legal theories, including fraud, undue influence, estoppel, failed joint ventures, common intention and contributions to purchase price for third parties.  The theory of law used to pursue a claim may affect the relief available. Professor Webb urged adoption of specific legislation in Australia to better address the potential for abuse through property transfers.

July 15, 2014 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Safeguarding Projects for Older Persons -- on Both Sides of the Atlantic

I'm at the mid-point in a three-week period of fairly intense focus on elder protection issues. 

Last week, I accepted the invitations of Dickinson Law alum Bob Gerhard and Judge Lois Murphy to join them at the Montgomery County Elder Justice Roundtable to discuss  practical concerns about elder abuse at the local level.  Bob and I conducted two sessions on Powers of Attorney.Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Judge Lois Murphy

This week, I've had the privilege of being part of working sessions of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Elder Law Task Force.  Judge Murphy, right, is also a part of this effort.  A fascinating mix of trial and appellate level judges, district attorneys, legal aid specialists, solo practitioners, "big firm" lawyers, court administrators, state officials, protective service case workers, social workers (and a couple of us academic types) spent two intense days discussing a year's worth of research on how better to serve the interests and needs of adults who may be at risk of neglect or intentional harm, including financial abuse.  Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Debra ToddGuided by the charge of Justice Debra Todd of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, we're looking to issuance of a comprehensive report and recommendation for actions, probably in the early fall 2014.

Next week, I land in Belfast, Northern Ireland for several days of working group meetings on law and aging topics. On Tuesday, June 24, I am part of a research team's Roundtable discussion on recommendations regarding "social care" for older persons. hosted by the independent Commissioner of Older Persons in Northern Ireland (COPNI).  Our team leader for that project is Dr. Joseph Duffy of Queen's University Belfast.   The following day, I will attend the COPNI's launch of "Protecting our Elder People in Northern Ireland: A Call for Safeguarding Legislation in Northern Ireland." Commissioner Claire Keatinge and her team have been tireless in pursuing a full agenda of safeguarding, care and dignity goals for seniors.  CK-speaking-shot-1_7443ae89515d53a077487a41aded4a9cLast winter I worked on research findings and recommendations with team leader Dr. Janet Anand, also of Queens University Beflast, that served as a base for the Safeguarding Law proposals.  These two projects have involved amazingly talented scholars from diverse backgrounds, including social work and law in Scotland, England, Wales, Australia and, of course, both the north and south of Ireland. The truth is that I've been an avid "student" during my opportunities in Northern Ireland, often facing the reality that those on the other side of the Atlantic are ahead of the U.S. in thinking about key concepts, especially "social care" goals.  I look forward to more work, writing several follow-up articles in collaboration with team members as a result of the rich research environment of the last year. 

Following this schedule, I'm probably going to take a break from "daily" blogging for a few weeks.  I fear my brain may explode if I don't give it a bit of a rest, and I hear the green hills and fields of Ireland calling to me. 

June 20, 2014 in Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pennsylvania Legislature Sends New POA Law Reform Measures to Governor

On June 18, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved  House Bill 1429 (Printer's No. 3708), thus sending the long-debated bill's new provisions on Powers of Attorney to the Governor for signing.  If, as anticipated, the bill is signed by the Governor, the new rules would be effective for POAs created on or after January 1, 2015. 

Pennsylvania pracitioners?  That means the Elder Law Institute offered by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute on July 25-26 in Philadelphia will have new relevance to your practice to prepare for the changes.  The opening session of the Institute is the always valuable "Year in Review" by elder law and estate planning specialists Marielle Hazen and Rob Clofine.

A detailed summary of the history and key provisions in H.B. 1429 is provided by Pennsylvania Attorney Neil Hendersthot on his blog. 

June 18, 2014 in Ethical Issues, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Property Management, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sears Methodist Retirement Files for Chapter 11 Reorganization in Texas

According to news reports, on June 10 Sears Methodist Retirement System, Inc. filed a voluntary petition in bankruptcy court in Texas, seeking relief under Chapter 11.  Apparently the private company, organized as a nonprofit that currently operates eleven senior living properties in Texas, including Contining Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), Assisted Living facilities and Veterans homes, is seeking to reorganize some $160 million in debts. The multi-company operation provides housing and services to some 1,500 residents.  A detailed early report by Peg Brickley at Daily Bankruptcy Reports explains the initial relief sought: 

The Texas nonprofit organization is asking the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Dallas to authorize it to quickly borrow $600,000 from existing bondholders, warning that it would be forced to cease operations without access to the funds. 

 

"Such an abrupt cessation of the...businesses would have devastating effects on the residents at the senior living facilities such debtors own and/or operate, including leaving many residents without food, medical supplies, and the health and support services that they require," Chief Restructuring Officer Paul B. Rundell said in court papers.

 

"In fact, many residents may be forced to immediately relocate, causing extreme hardship and putting both their lives and health at risk," added Mr. Rundell, of Alvarez & Marsal's Healthcare Industry Group.

 

Sears Methodist blamed the declining property market for some of its troubles. Older people are having trouble selling their homes and liquidating their stock portfolios to raise the money for the upfront payment to get into the senior-living communities, according to court papers.

I would expect some of the SMRS properties to be financially stronger than others, and thus could be spun off or taken over by other senior living operators, perhaps those with expertise in the specific type of property. When CCRCs are involved, residents have often paid very large "entrance" fees and must continue to pay substantial monthly service fees.  Even when their entrance fees are described as "refundable," CCRC residents are usually treated under bankruptcy law as "unsecured" creditors and thus become especially nervous during the proceedings.

Over the last several years, I've seen growing recognition that reassurance of existing residents, if possible, is critical to the continuation of the CCRC as a viable operation once it emerges from bankuptcy. Fortunately, despite continuing ups and downs (downs and ups?) in senior living markets since the 2008 financial crisis, the market has seen fairly strong players emerging.  There is also better appreciation for appropriate -- and inappropriate -- levels of risk and the importance of maintaining resident confidence over the long-term.

June 15, 2014 in Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management, Retirement | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Analyzing State Trust Law and Federal Welfare Programs

Maryland Elder Law and Disability Law specialist Ron Landsman provides a thoughtful analysis of use of trusts, especially "special needs trusts," to assist families in effective managment of assets.  His most recent article, "When Worlds Collides: State Trust Law and Federal Welfare Programs," appears in the Spring 2014 issue of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) Journal.   Minus the footnotes, his article begins:

"'Special needs trusts,' which enable people with assets to qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid, are the intersection of two different worlds: poverty programs and the tools of wealth management.   Introducing trusts into the world of public benefits has resulted in deep confusion for public benefit administrators. . . . The confusion arising from the merger of trust law with public benefits is sharply drawn in the agencies' [Social Security Administration (SSA) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)]  attempts to define what it means for a trust to be for the sole benefit of the public benefits recipient. Public benefits administrators have focused on the distributions a trustee makes rather than the fiduciary standards that guide the trustee.  The agencies have imposed detailed distribution rules that range from the picayune to the counterproductive and without regard, and sometimes contrary, to the best interests of the disabled beneficiary."

Drawing upon his experience in drafting trusts for disabled persons, Ron takes on the challenge of explaining how and where he sees the agencies' focus on "distribution" as misguided.  He contends, for example:

"The [better] task for CMS and SSA [would be] to use their authority to develop standards and guidelines that utilize, rather than thwart, competent, responsible, properly trained trustees as their partners in making special needs trusts an effective tool in serving the needs of people with disabilities.  If this were done properly, capable trustees would be the allies of the federal and state agencies in the efficient use of limited private resources.  Beneficiaries would live better, more rewarding lives to the extent that resources can make a difference, at a lower cost to Medicaid, with a greater possibility of more funds recovered through payback."

Ron is detailed in his critique of agency guidelines and manuals, and he provides clear examples of his "better" sole benefit analysis. 

May 15, 2014 in Estates and Trusts, Federal Cases, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Property Management, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Frolik & Kaplan: "Elder Law in a Nutshell" (6th Edition!)

It occurs to me that what I'm about to write here is a mini-review of a mini-book. Slightly  complicating this little task is the fact that I count both authors as friends and mentors.

The latest edition of Elder Law in a Nutshell by Professors Lawrence Frolik (University of Pittsburgh) and Richard Kaplan (University of Illinois) arrived on my desk earlier this month. (As Becky might remind us, both are definitely Elder Law's "rock stars.")  And as with fine wine, this book, now its 6th edition, becomes more valuable with age.  This is true even though achieving the right balance of simplicity and detail cannot be an easy task for authors in the intentionally brief "Nutshell" series.  Presented in the book are introductions to the following core topics:

  • Ethical Considerations in Dealing with Older Clients
  • Health Care Decision Making
  • Medicare and Medigap
  • Medicaid
  • Long-Term Care Insurance
  • Nursing Homes, Board and Care Homes, and Assisted Living Facilities
  • Housing Alternatives & Options (including Reverse Mortgages)
  • Guardianship
  • Alternatives to Guardianship (including Powers of Attorneys, Joint Accounts and Revocable Trusts)
  • Social Security Benefits
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Veterans' Benefits
  • Pension Plans
  • Age Discrimination in Employment
  • Elder Abuse and Neglect

The authors describe their anticipated audience, including "lawyers and law students needing an overview of some particular subject, social workers, certain medical personnel, gerontologists, retirement planners and the like."  Curiously, they don't mention potential clients, including family members of older persons.  I suspect the book can and does assist prospective clients in thinking about when and why an "elder law specialist" would be an appropriate choice for consultation.  This book is a very good starting place.

What's missing from the overview?  Not a lot, although I find it interesting that despite solid coverage of the basics of Medicaid, and even though it is unrealistic to expect exhaustive coverage in a mini-book, the authors do not hint at the bread and butter of many elder law specialists, i.e., Medicaid Planning.  Thus, there's little mention of some of the more cutting edge (and therefore potentially controversial) planning techniques used to create Medicaid eligibility for an individual's long-term care while also preserving assets that otherwise would have to be spent down. 

Modern approaches, depending on the state, may range from the simple, such as permitted use of assets to purchase a better replacement auto, to more complex planning, as in states that permit purchase of spousal annuities or use of promissory notes, allow modest half-a-loaf gifting, or recognize spousal refusal.  Even though the federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 succeeded in restricting assets transfers to non-spouse family members, families, especially if there is a community spouse, may still have viable options.  Without appropriate planning the community spouse, particularly a younger spouse, may be in a tough spot if forced to spend down to the "maximum" permitted to be retained, currently less than $120,000 (in, for example, Pennsylvania).  See, for example, a thoughtful discussion of planning options, written by Elder Law practitioners Julian Gray and Frank Petrich.    

Perhaps the Nutshell omission is a reflection of the unease some who teach Elder Law may feel about the public impact of private Medicaid planning?  

May 14, 2014 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Books, Cognitive Impairment, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid, Medicare, Property Management, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Critical Issues to Consider in Planning Via Powers of Attorney

ElderLawGuy Jeff Marshall succinctly discusses four critical issues that individuals and families should consider when using Powers of Attorney in estate and incapacity planning. Here's the link to Jeff's "Powers of Attorney: Things You Need to Know."  

April 13, 2014 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Consumer Information, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Call for a "Collaborative National Strategy" On Elder Abuse

Law Professor and Deputy Dean Wendy Lacey has published a comprehensive article detailing challenges that exist in addressing the growing phenomenon of elder abuse, including:

  • Lack of a comprehensive, national mandate for safeguard of older adults;
  • Lack of innovative legal reforms at the state level;
  • Ageism;
  • Invisibility of our older people;
  • Lack of awareness within the community of the prevalence, nature and signs of elder abuse;
  • Absence of an international normative framework for protecting the rights of older persons.

All of these points strike a chord for those who work on behalf of victims of abuse in the United States.  Of course, the fact that this list is from Professor Lacey's article on "Neglectful to the Point of Cruelty? Elder Abuse and Rights of Older Persons in Australia," published in the Sydney Law Review in March, 2014, does not change the significance of her call for a "collaborative" strategy, "incorporating a rights-based approach to the review and reform" of laws, whether on a state, territorial, national or international basis.    

March 24, 2014 in Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Updated: The Importance of Accountability to Residents of CCRCs

Paula Span, writing for the New York Times' column, The New Old Age, offers several perspectives on the Vi of Palo Alto lawsuit filed by residents at this high-end, California continuing care retirement community (CCRC). In her first piece, "CCRC Residents Ask, 'Where's the Money?'" she sets forth competing viewpoints of the parties:

Though their suit covers several matters, concern over eventual refunds is at heart of the battle. In their complaint, the plaintiffs call the transfer of money from the local provider to its Chicago parent company “upstreaming.”

 

Management calls it standard business practice. Entrance fee repayments come not from a reserve, but from the eventual resale of an apartment after a resident moves out or dies, said Paul Gordon, a lawyer for Vi. “Once I pay someone, I can’t tell them what to do with it afterwards,” he said. “It’s their money.”

 

“The payments are going to be made,” Mr. Gordon said. “The rest is eligible for distribution as a return on investment” — i.e., as profit.

 

That’s a different arrangement from what residents believe they signed up for. Because the Chicago company has not assumed the debt owed for eventual refunds, residents “lost all the security and peace of mind they had paid for,” Mr. McCarthy [the attorney for Vi plaintiffs] said.

In her second article released the next day,  Ms. Span takes a broader view than the single lawsuit involving Vi of Palo Alto, noting that "In Many States, Few Legal Rights for CCRC Residents," citing some of my work with states where resident-inspired changes are under consideration, and noting the important work of the National Continuing Care Residents Association, also known as NaCCRA.   

March 21, 2014 in Current Affairs, Federal Cases, Housing, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Student Comment on Expansion of Medicaid Estate Recovery

From 3L student Katie L. Summers at my own law school, Penn State Dickinson,  a recently published Penn State Law Review comment titled "Medicaid Estate Recovery: To Expand, or Not to Expand, That is the Question."  Here is a taste, from the abstract:

"To recoup some of the costs of Medicaid, the states are required to implement a Medicaid estate recovery program.  There are certain mandated requirements, but the reach of the recovery program is primarily left to the discretion of the states.  Pennsylvania recently contemplated expanding its Medicaid estate recovery program, but the proposed changes were not enacted.  This Comment provides an overview of Medicaid estate recovery in Pennsylvania by exploring the background of Medicaid, Medicaid estate planning, and Medicaid estate recovery generally.  In addition, this Comment examines the arguments for and against Medicaid estate recovery.  Finally, this Comment recommends the creation of a system that expands Medicaid estate recovery in Pennsylvania, while retaining certain protections for the deceased Medicaid recipient’s heirs."

March 17, 2014 in Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Webcast: Dealing with Financial Institutions on POAs (or with other Fiduciary Authority)

Recently I received a communication from a professional agent, the head of a nonproft guardianship organization, and someone I have watched in action for eight years.  He and his team of carefully supervised agents work on behalf of elderly clients, disabled persons, and family members to handle financial matters. They are paid modestly, on a sliding scale, based on the client's income or estate. Sometimes they are operating as the court-appointed guardians, while other times their authority was granted by the principal through a POA, often with the cooperation (and sometimes the gratitude) of the family. 

This professional reported to me that they "are having increasingly difficult times using our authority for legitimate purposes, to the point where we have to subpoena information from banks as the guardian, because they will not accept our appointment."  Further, he reports "some banks are not honoring our POA or are adding unreasonable burdens, not required by law, leaving us unable to assist an older person."

Here is an experienced agent, who is trying do the job as a fiduciary in a highly professional manner. On the other side of the aisle are banks and other financial institutions, who have become understandably "gun shy" because of increasingly high profile cases of "bad" agents -- often family or "friends" -- who have misused their authority.

Well, as you might guess, this very topic has generated a timely CLE program!  "Dealing With Financial Institutions in Estates, Trusts and with POAs" is the title of a half-day program sponsored by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute that will take place at the following dates and times:

  • Tuesday, February 4, 2014, from 9 to 1:15, in Philadelphia, PA
  • Wednesday, February 26, 2014, from 9 to 1:15 in Pittsburgh, PA
  • Monday, March 3, 2014, from 9 to 1:15, in Mechanicsburg PA
  • Live Webcast on Monday, March 3, 2014 via webcasts.pbi.org

The program will focus on "bridging the divide" between financial institutions and agents, to help both sides better understand the powers and limitations conferred by law.  In additional to "family" fact patterns, the program will offer insights into fiduciaries acting on behalf of business owners. The faculty include experienced lawyers representing financial institutions and individuals -- plus one of those pesky law professor types. 

Pennsylvania, as is true in other states, has a number of potential changes in law pending at the state legislature, influenced in part by the Uniform Power of Attorney Act changes, first recommended for adoption by the states in 2006.  The program will provide the lates updates and trends.

For more, including remote access to the live webcast, go to the Pennsylvania Bar Institute's webpage, here.

January 30, 2014 in Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Programs/CLEs, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Recent Moves to Protect Seniors from Fraud in Sale of Investment Products

A few years ago, one of the more perplexing cases handled by Penn State's Elder Protection Clinic involved the sale of deferred annuities (specifically, an annuity that would not fully mature for 20 years) to a senior, a widow in her early 80s. 

The individual was a ripe target for a manipulative sales pitch, having recently been diagnosed with early stages of dementia, even though at the moment of sale she was still living independently in her home.  She was able to talk and communicate; arguably she did not seem impaired.  She was told the product would save on taxes -- a pitch alluring to the frugal woman -- except for the fact that she really didn't need to save on taxes.  

If one lives long enough or has looming care needs even at an earlier age, an individual's post-death estate planning goals can conflict with pre-death care needs. In the clinic client's case, the woman's  annual income was modest, and her total estate was not large enough to trigger other major taxes.  The assets used to fund the annuity were virtually her entire savings.  Several months later, her daughter learned of the purchase, while exploring care options for her mother. Her mother was facing ineligibility for Medicaid, as the purchase of the deferred annuity would be treated as transfer, while the alternative was a large penalty if she cashed in the annuity "early." 

How often does this -- or worse -- happen? 

In "Still No Free Lunch: Recent Regulatory Initiatives to Protect Seniors From Fraud in the Sale of Investment Products," 41 Securities Regulation Law Journal 397 (Winter 2013) (paywall protected; available on Westlaw as 41 No 4 SECRLJ Art 2), attorneys  Ivan B. Knauer and Michele C. Zarychta address recent efforts to prevent or address fraudulent practices by an array of regulatory bodies. The 2013 piece updates their 2008 article (available at 36 No 4 SECRLJ Art 3). They outline several types of fraud and various financial products often marketed specifically to elders.  For example, they observe:

"One of the most pressing concerns of the regulatory entities is the improper -- or at least confusing-- use of 'senior' designations by professionals, implying that a professional has expertise or training in senior-specific issues.  FINRA [the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority] 'Rule of Conduct 2210 prohibits brokerage firms and brokers registered with FINRA from referencing nonexistent or self-conferred degrees or designations or referencing legitimate degrees or designations in a misleading manner.'  Misleading use of such designations may also violate federal securities laws or state laws."

The authors, who are experienced in representation of investment and financial service companies, recognize that business lawyers can help clients recognize the need to "take measures to ensure that their own policies and procedures protect seniors."  "Still No Free Lunch" is a reminder that attorneys who are advisers to companies can and should be a larger part of the solution, rather than be viewed as part of the problem. 

In reading the article, which emphasizes  regulators' programs to "educate" the public, I am struck by the likelihood that a key tipping point occurs when a senior's susceptibility to a manipulative pitch is outweighed by his or her weakened ability to recognize risk, regardless of any fraud-prevention education. That was true, for example, with our clinic's client.  Her life-time frugal nature was still intact; however, her judgment about whether she needed to "save" money on taxes was diminished. More education was not the solution for her, as she had probably lost the ability to appreciate its application.  Indeed, a common marketing practice to seniors -- free lunches or dinners disguised as "educational seminars" -- trades upon that very fact, thus giving rise to the "no free lunch" theme in both articles by authors Knauer and Zarychta.

The authors detail stepped up enforcement efforts, including recent measures by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, established in 2010. 

Hat tip to Penn State Dickinson Law Professor Lance Cole, who shared this interesting article.

January 13, 2014 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Property Management, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Medicaid Puts New "Wrinkle" on Old Topic of Marriage Penalties

I can remember when tax-savvy couples might plan their wedding dates according to the tax impact, and thus there was talk in political circles about the "Marriage Tax Penalty." 

Recently, one of our Elder Law Prof Blog readers wrote to suggest we post articles about the impact of late-in-life marriage on Medicaid eligibility.  Good idea!  Many might assume that a well-drafted prenuptial agreement should preserve a split in retirement savings.  That assumption could well be dangerous -- in the context of Medicaid.  Here are links to a few recent articles, with brief excerpts to whet the appetite for reading more:

Late Life Love (Part II), by Monica Franklin, 49 Tennessee Bar Journal 30 (Feb. 2013):

"When discussing prenuptial agreements and marriage, we need to advise our clients that if one spouse needs Medicaid to pay for long-term care, the assets of both spouses will be considered by the Medicaid agency ([Tennessee] Department of Human Services, DHS). However, if the couple chooses cohabitation, DHS only considers the assets of the disabled partner. This information is crucial for couples considering late-life marriage."

Paying for Long-Term Care in Illinois, by William Siebers and Zach Hasselbaum, 100 Illinois Bar Journal 536 (October 2012), noting that with changes to Medicaid law, effective in Illinois in 2012:

"Eligibility for long-term care assistance will be denied  [in Illinois] if the community spouse or institutionalized spouse refuses to disclose assets during the application process. Prior to this change, a community spouse with separately owned assets held for at least five years could decline to have those assets considered in the application process for the institutionalized spouse.  This scenario commonly arose in second marriage situations. . . . "

Gray Divorce and Remarriage, by William DaSilva and Steven Eisman, 83 New York State Bar Journal 26 (July/August 2011):

"Another growing trend in the practice of elder law -- relating to both matrimonial law and health care planning -- is the use of so-called 'Medicaid divorces.' In fact, the use of Medicaid gifting and Medicaid planning received judicial sanction from New York's highest court in 2000 in [the case of] In re Shah, [95 NY 2d 148 (2000)].  In this type of divorce, the 'spouse in the community' ... stands to lose a lifetime's worth of savings unless a health care plan is devised that provides care for the ill or incapacitated spouse and simultaneously protects the assets of the spouse in the community so that both spouses do not end up impoverished wards of the state.  A prenuptial agreement alone will not defeat a claim of Medicaid."

In my admittedly quick search for articles on the topic of prenuptial agreements and Medicaid, I did not find a comprehensive discussion by academics or law students in an academic law review. Rather, as suggested by the above citations, the articles I found were all state specific, from state bar journals.  Perhaps one of our law school colleagues has a work-in-progress or article to share?  Or, alternatively, perhaps some of our academic readers are looking for a good, comprehensive research topic for the future.

For our lay readers, this is a good opportunity to remind you this Blog is not intended to be a source of legal advice for specific issues.  Of course, we do recommend that you consult with an experienced elder law attorney for state-specific advice!  

January 10, 2014 in Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Property Management, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Common misconceptions about Roth IRAs...

Via Bankrate:

Sometimes what you don't know can hurt you, especially when it comes to individual retirement accounts. For instance, if you don't know that contributions for the prior year can be made up until the April 15 tax deadline of the current year, you may be missing out.  Some misconceptions are innocuous while others can lead to serious tax blunders. Don't feel bad; even financial advisers get tripped up by the intricate rules of IRAs. Figuring out how the accounts work and what's allowed could be a full-time job. As a result, the list of things most people don't know about IRAs could fill a book.

This article list nine common misconceptions about IRAs--read about them here.

 

January 7, 2014 in Property Management, Retirement | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Stanford: Getting a Better Picture of Financial Fraud

A study released in December by the  Stanford Center on Longevity addresses one of my frequent concerns.  Reports on elder abuse, particularly those on financial abuse and exploitation, routinely include a statement to the effect that "X number of financial fraud cases were examined during the year" but that that more time/money/energy should be devoted to addressing the problem "because X plus Y number of cases exist" but are unreported.  There is rarely any explanation for the prediction.  While I accept that there is likely to be underreporting, don't we need better measurement tools than intuition? 

In "The Scope of the Problem: An Overview of Fraud Prevelance Measurement," Stanford researchers address exactly this issue.  "'Without accurate and reliable estimates of fraud,' wrote Martha Deevy, director of the Financial Security Division at the Stanford Center on Longevity, 'it is difficult to understand what works or does not work to protect victims from harm.'"  The problem may be not just underreporting, but "underadmitting," especially for victims of elder abuse.

The Stanford report illustrates how analysis of recent sources and methodology can explain variations in predictions, thus also helping to design better tools for the future, including better surveys.  For example, they point to the 2011 study of elder abuse in New York State by Lachs & Berman, "notable as a comprehensive endeavor that used multiple sources of data and collaboration among community, governmental, and academic partners to get a sense of the 'big picture' problem." 

Thanks to my colleague, Laurel Terry, for sharing this report.  Laurel and Howard are the justifiably proud parents of a Stanford sophomore. 

December 18, 2013 in Crimes, Ethical Issues, Property Management, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Elder Exploitation: PA Hearings on Protective Services Tackle Tough Topics

Pennsylvania State Capitol December 2013Pennsylvania's House of Representatives has been holding a series of hearings on elder abuse, in anticipation of potential amendments to the state's Older Adult Protective Services Act.  The hearings offer presentations and panel discussions with experts speaking from different perspectives, including administration, law enforcement, providers, and advocates from various organizations. 

I was invited to speak at the last panel on the topic of "financial exploitation," as a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Elder Law Section, and because of my experience as the former head of Penn State Dickinson's Elder Protection Clinic. [UPDATE: Here's a link to my written testimony, submitted in advance of hearing.]  Other speakers included representatives of the Pennsylvania Bankers Association; community banks; credit unions; and from Area Agencies on Aging that are charged with investigation of reports of suspected abuse.  A particularly strong speaker was Linda Mill, a certified financial examiner and former banker, who is now the investigations manager for Temple University's Institute on Protective Services.

During the bankers' presentations, speakers emphasized their institutions' training for all levels of personnel to spot red flags of abuse.  This was part of their argument against any need for the state to adopt "mandatory reporting" of suspected abuse by banks and other financial institutions. ElderAbuseHearing- Panel of Witnesses   In contrast, Mills testified that during the last ten years, despite her history of working on the bankers' side, she had come to the personal conclusion that mandatory reporting is necessary in order to provide more timely, effective investigation by public authorities. Mills pointed to Maryland's 2012 adoption of mandatory reporting as precedent.  

ElderAbuseHearing-CoChairsThe interaction between panelists and legislators was robust. For example, Committee Co-Chair Steve Samuelson (in the photo on the right, seated next to Chairman Tim Hennessey) asked whether agents under powers of attorney should be required to file annual reports to facilitate greater accountability.  Representative Stephen McCarter asked about the practicality of "bonding" for agents using POAs. Representative Harold English had a detailed list, including the possibility of "payback" to fund investigative services and mandatory "recording" of current documents in order to make it clearer about which POAs are "in effect." He also expressed concern about annuity sales to elders.      

Draft legislation updating Pennsylvania's Older Adult Protective Services Act is expected to circulate for comment later this month.  

Special thanks to Eric Kovac from the Pennsylvania Bankers Association for sharing copies of his "insider" photos from the hearing. 

December 13, 2013 in Crimes, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Property Management, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Working Paper: Older Adult Debt & Financial Frailty

From the University of Michigan Retirement Research Center, a paper on "Older Adult Debt and Financial Frailty" by  Annamaria Lusardi (George Washington Univ. of Business) and Olivia Mitchell (Wharton, Univ. of Penn.).  The authors compare data from three different time periods to analyze older persons' debt, debt management practices and corresponding potential for financial insecurity.  Key findings include:

  • Older Americans now on the verge of retirement are more likely to have substantial debt than in the past.  "Median debt for those age 56-61 has more than quadrupled, from about $6,200 in 1992 to $28,300 in 2008 (in 2012 dollars)."
  • Housing purchased with small down payments and subject to large mortgages are key reasons for higher debt for Boomer retirees.
  • Income, level of education, marriage status, race, number of children, health, were also factors identified as affecting risk of financial insecurity after retirement. 

One sentence that particularly stood out: "Baby Boomers are more likely to have engaged in expensive borrowing practices." 

December 12, 2013 in Property Management, Retirement, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Elder Dispute Resolution Resources

A recent issue of the ABA's Dispute Resolution Magazine (Fall 2013) included an article on "Elder Mediation: Coming of Age," authored by two mediation trainers, that tracks the growth of mediation for elder disputes in a variety of settings.  The authors conclude: "Skilled, dedicated professionals can help parties find paths to agreements on some of the toughest and most emotional issues that families face." 

Included within the article was a listing of elder dispute resolution resources:

Hat tip to my colleague at Penn State Dickinson, Professor Nancy Welsh, for sharing a copy of the issue.  Nancy is co-chair for the editorial board for Dispute Resolution Magazine.

December 6, 2013 in Consumer Information, Health Care/Long Term Care, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)