Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Monday, November 10, 2014

Lynn Bynes Seeks Conservatorship Assistance From Private Trust Firm

Amanda_BynesAs I have previously discussed, actress Amanda Bynes is currently out of the psychiatric facility that she was admitted to in October, but her mother Lynn Bynes remains her conservator. Bynes' parents are planning to move to Texas, and Lynn Bynes will continue her long distance conservatorship with the assistance of a private trust firm. Bynes', who lives in California, will receive the financial assistance that she needs from a professional conservator.

See Frank Lovece, Amanda Bynes' Mother Cedes Part of Daughter's Conservatorship to Private Trust Firm, Newsday, Nov. 7, 2014.

November 10, 2014 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Spotting Elder Abuse


Seniors wear a large target for financial abuse and exploitation.  Telemarketers sell auto-club memberships to seniors who no longer drive, caregivers who help with banking withdraw cash for themselves, and adult children drain their elderly parent’s retirement savings and change their wills. 

According to the Federal Trade Commission, people 60 and older accounted for 27 percent of fraud complaints last year, up from 22 percent in 2011.  Scams against the elderly ranked as the worst complaint category in 2013.  Yet, these statistics illustrate only a fraction of the problem because most senior financial abuse goes unreported.  However, an array of new tools and techniques are helping seniors with financial abuse and prevent it from occurring. 

New research is pinpointing which seniors are most susceptible to financial scams.  Health problems, primarily those involving cognitive impairment, make seniors vulnerable to cons.  Because of the links between physical and financial health, investor-education groups have begun training doctors and pharmacists to spot elder financial abuse.  Family members can also look for many of the red flags that doctors are taught to evaluate.

Planning can go a long way toward protecting your finances in the event of declining health.  Tell trusted relatives where to locate your financial documents in case you fall seriously ill.  Set up direct deposit of any income and benefit checks you receive regularly.  If you designate a power of attorney for finances, put safeguards in place to prevent abuse. 

See Eleanor Laise, Retirees, Protect Yourself From Fraudsters, Kiplinger, Nov. 2014. 

November 6, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Exploitation by Court-Appointed Conservator Fuels Reform Discussion

Gavel2The exploitation of 96-year-old veteran Louis Russo by his court-appointed conservator has supporters and advocates calling for reform of how Connecticut probate courts appoint conservators. Russo was appointed a conservator that he did not know because he did not have any family that could care for him. The conservator put Russo in a nursing home instead of a veterans home, which incurred additional cost, spent his life savings and Social Security, and rented out Russo’s home without permission. Russo now has a new conservator that is working to get Russo back in his home. Advocates are calling for reform to the court-appointed conservator system, including monitoring systems, training for conservators, and requirements such as social work experience

See Rob Ryser, WWII Veteran’s Plight Brings Call for Probate Court Reform, Connecticut Post, Oct. 25, 2014.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

November 5, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Amanda Bynes Plans to Fight Reinstated Conservatorship

Amanda_BynesLast Monday, a judge reinstated the temporary conservatorship over actress Amanda Bynes. Bynes mother, Lynn Bynes currently has control of Bynes’ financial and medical decisions. Bynes is currently out of the psychiatric hospital that she was involuntarily admitted to on October 10. Bynes plans to attempt to have the conservatorship removed at a hearing scheduled for February 24, 2015. The psychiatric hold and conservatorship come after a series of angry tweets and extravagant shopping sprees.

See Natalie Finn, Wait, So Why Was Amanda Bynes Released From a Psychiatric Hold Right After It Was Extended?, E Online, Oct. 31, 2014.

November 4, 2014 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Planning for Special Needs

Special needs 2

For families caring for those with special needs, estate planning takes time and thoughtful consideration.  With advances in care and modern medicine, individuals with special needs live longer, healthier lives, making planning more important than ever. 

Once you begin planning for your loved one’s future, keep these documents on hand with your estate planning records:

  • Legal papers. These include birth certificate, Social Security Card, and health insurance cards. 
  • A letter of intent. This provides future caregivers important information about your child.  It can relay information about care needs, food preferences, and other day-to-day information. 
  • Your advance health care and financial directives. Powers of attorney and living wills can save loved ones time and heartache should you become incapacitated.
  • Information regarding assets. Create a list of all your major assets and include account numbers and contact information for your banker, broker, and insurance agent.
  • Copies of special needs trusts. Having a copy of these documents will protect the assets intended for your special needs child.  Include information about where the original document is kept and who should be contacted when it is needed.
  • Guardianship documents. This will help expedite the process of obtaining guardianship to include these documents. 
  • Government benefits. Include a list of government benefits your child receives and copies of the application forms.  This will help future guardians when applying for benefits.

See Richard Newman, Special Needs Planning: Important Documents to Keep on Hand, Examiner, Oct. 30, 2014. 

October 30, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Planning for Alzheimer's Patients


According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2014 Americans will spend more than $214 billion to care for those affected by Alzheimer’s disease.  This number is expected to drastically increase in the coming years. 

Establishing a legal plan is critical for Alzheimer’s patients.  The sooner the planning begins, the more likely it is that the person with dementia will be able to participate in decision-making.  Every adult should have basic estate planning documents that include a financial power of attorney, advance health care directive, and last will and testament.   

Families confronting Alzheimer’s disease should also consider how they will cover long-term care costs.  At an average cost of more than $7,500 per month, some families are unable to cover this expense on their own.  Medicare may be available to cover nursing home costs, provided certain financial requirements are met.  Also, veterans and their spouses may be eligible for aid through the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

A good resource to consult on these matters is the Alzheimer’s Association free monthly “Legal and Financial Planning for Alzheimer’s Dementia” class.  This class gives you the tools to ensure you are legally and financially protected in the wake of this debilitating disease. 

See Patrick J. Haase, Legal, Financial Planning for Alzheimer’s Patients, UT San Diego, Oct. 23, 2014.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 24, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Catching the Early Signs of Alzheimer's

SearchIt is important for estate and financial planning strategies to include a plan for if forms of mental disability develop, such as Alzheimer's. This was the topic of a recent symposium earlier this month, held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, entitled Financial Planning in the Shadow of Dementia. In addition to having plans in place, such as financial power of attorney, it is also important that estate planners know the early signs of mental disability. Early warning signs often include confusion or difficulty with understanding financial concepts and difficulty computing basic mathematical calculations. One message of the symposium, stressed the importance of planners noticing changes in a client's ability to understand financial concepts, and of having someone designated as the point of contact for the client who is familiar to the planner before the signs begin to develop.

See Richard Eisenberg, When Alzheimer's Strikes: Losing Your Money Mind, Forbes, Oct. 8, 2014.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 18, 2014 in Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Special Needs Estate Planning Considerations

ChecklistSpecial needs children often need additional medical care and financial assistance. In addition, they may need additional assistance throughout their adult life, which may be provided for by their parents in a will or trust. Here are four considerations when including special needs children in an estate plan:

  1. The amount of financial assistance that is needed in addition to the child's other financial options to adequately provide the needed care
  2. How an inheritance may affect the child's ability to receive benefits such as Supplemental Security Income or Medicare
  3. If the child's siblings will feel left out or treated unfairly if unequal inheritances are received
  4. What safeguards should be put in place to make sure the funds are used for the intended purposes

See Janet Brewer, 4 Considerations When Estate Planning with a Special Needs Child, JD Supra, Oct. 9, 2014.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 14, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Estate Planning for the 30-Somethings

30 somethings

With thirty being the new twenty, the last thing this generation wants to do is plan for their demise.  Yet, financial experts suggest that his could be the best time to protect your family and your assets in case the unexpected occurs.  “It is imperative that those in their 30s have their estate plans in order, because they have as much to lose as their elders—in fact, sometimes more.”  To get started, experts recommend meeting with an attorney to get the following in place:

1. Last Will and Testament. A will establishes who will inherit your assets when you die, along with other vital aspects including information such as who you want to place in charge of administering your estate and who you want to be the guardians of your minor children.

2. Living Will. This outlines your wishes if you are incapacitated or death is imminent.

3. Power of Attorney. This will identify someone who can make financial decisions for you if you are incapacitated.

4. Health Care Proxy. You will specify a person to make medical decisions on your behalf.  “It even may make sense to have a conversation with the person you identify so that they clearly understand what your wishes are—God forbid these circumstances arise.”

5. Life Insurance. Term insurance is an effective way to cover current debts that you do not want to burden your significant other with should something happen to you.

6. Retirement Fund. It is vital that 30-somethings start saving for retirement, especially if their employers offer incentives such as profit-sharing or matching contributions to a 401(k).

See Michael Lerner, 6 Estate Planning Moves You Should Make in Your 30s, Daily Finance, Oct. 10, 2014.

October 13, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Article on Preying on the Graying: A Statutory Presumption to Prosecute Elder Financial Exploitation

Andrew McClurgAndrew Jay McClurg (University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law) recently published an article entitled, Preying on the Graying: A Statutory Presumption to Prosecute Elder Financial Exploitation , Hastings Law Journal, Vol. 65, No. 4, 1099-1143, 2014. Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:

Already widespread and with seventy-eight million baby boomers in or nearing retirement, elder financial exploitation has been labeled “The Crime of the 21st Century,” yet little is being done to address the problem. While states and the federal government have passed hundreds of laws protecting children based on the assumption they are vulnerable and unable to protect themselves, older at-risk adults have been comparatively ignored despite extensive research showing they too are vulnerable.

A substantial roadblock to prosecuting elder financial predators is the inability to prove the financial transfers at issue were the result of exploitation rather than legitimate transactions. By their nature, most elder exploitation cases do not involve taking property by force or even stealth. Many victims “voluntarily” part with their assets. To outsiders, the transfers may look like gifts or loans, when in fact they occur because of undue influence, psychological manipulation, and misrepresentation.

Arising from a Florida criminal case involving the financial exploitation of the author’s 93-year-old father in a “sweetheart scam,” this Article proposes an aid to prosecuting elder exploitation in the form of state criminal statutes creating a permissive presumption of exploitation with regard to certain financial transfers from elders. The Article offers a specific statute and explains that it would be workable and constitutional. Preliminarily, the Article explores the scope of elder financial exploitation, discusses why it is grossly underreported and under-prosecuted, and analyzes practical, cognitive, and psychological reasons older adults are vulnerable, focusing on emerging research showing that even elders who lack obvious impairments are at risk.

September 3, 2014 in Articles, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)