Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Stan Lee has died

Stan Lee has died at age 95.  Many will recognize him as the creator of many famous superheroes in the Marvel comic universe.  Movies based on his superheroes have been blockbusters and his cameos were one of the highlights of the films. More recently though, he has been in the news because of an issue familiar to elder law attorneys.  As the New York Times reported in his obituary, 

In Mr. Lee’s final years, after the death of his wife, the circumstances of his business affairs and contentious financial relationship with his surviving daughter attracted attention in the news media. In 2018, Mr. Lee was embroiled in disputes with POW!, and The Daily Beast and The Hollywood Reporter ran accounts of fierce infighting among Mr. Lee’s daughter, household staff and business advisers. The Hollywood Reporter claimed “elder abuse.”

In February 2018, Mr. Lee signed a notarized document declaring that three men — a lawyer, a caretaker of Mr. Lee’s and a dealer in memorabilia — had “insinuated themselves into relationships with J. C. for an ulterior motive and purpose,” to “gain control over my assets, property and money.” He later withdrew his claim, but longtime aides of his — an assistant, an accountant and a housekeeper — were either dismissed or greatly limited in their contact with him.

In a profile in The New York Times in April, a cheerful Mr. Lee said, “I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” adding that “my daughter has been a great help to me” and that “life is pretty good” — although he admitted in that same interview, “I’ve been very careless with money.”

November 14, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Call for Proposals-National Center for Victims of Crime

The National Center for Victims of Crime has released a call for proposals for its 2019 training institute. The website announcing the call for proposals explains:

The National Center is pleased to present the National Center for Victims of Crime 2019 National Training Institute. As in past years, this training will emphasize a multidisciplinary approach to sharing promising practices, current research, and effective programs and policies that are victim-centered, practice-based, and research-informed. Our National Training is a forum for law enforcement, victim service professionals, allied practitioners, policymakers, and researchers to share current developments and build new collaborations. Conference sessions will highlight practical information to better support services for the wide range of persons victimized by crimes of all types.

 Call for Workshop Proposals

The National Center for Victims of Crime is seeking presenters for its National Training Institute, to be held September 4-6, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. Workshops will address a wide range of topics organized into separate conference tracks. Workshops are scheduled for 90 minutes (1.5 hours) in length, unless otherwise specified in the proposal. Accepted presenters will be assigned day and presentation time by the Institute planning committee.

Click here  to submit a proposal.

November 8, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Programs/CLEs, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

8 Briefs-Financial Exploitation by Conservators

The National Center for State Courts project on  Elders & Courts, with other organizations have published  a series of 8 research briefs on Financial Exploitation by Conservators.  The topics include

  • Examples of Conservator Exploitation: An Overview
  • Conservator Exploitation in Minnesota: An Analysis of Judicial Response
  • Detecting Exploitation by Conservators – Court Monitoring
  • Detecting Exploitation by Conservators – Systemic Approach
  • Court Actions Upon Detection of Exploitation
  • Innovative Programs that Address Financial Exploitation by Conservators
  • Data Quality Undermines Accountability in Conservatorship Cases
  • Supporting Victims of Conservator Exploitation

as well as key resources for these cases.

The introduction explains the impetus for the work, the 8 briefs, definitions of common terms and the reason for the project

NCSC in 2016 estimated, based on projections, that there are approximately 1.3 million active adult guardianship or conservatorship cases in the United States and at least $50 billion in assets under conservatorships (see Data Quality Brief). Also in 2016, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that “the extent of elder abuse by guardians nationally is unknown due to limited data . . .” While many conservators are trustworthy, dedicated, and provide critically needed services, multiple media accounts over many years profile instances in which conservators have breached their fiduciary duty – taking advantage of those they were charged with protecting. (citations omitted)

 

November 8, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 5, 2018

A 22 Year Retrospective of Elder Abuse Prosecutions

Paul Greenwood, a rock star prosecutor known widely for his successes in elder abuse prosecution recently retired (huge loss for all of us).  He authored The Changing Landscape of Elder Abuse Prosecutions: A 22-Year Journey. He writes about the changes

Today prosecutors and law enforcement have an abundance of materials at their disposal to assist in the investigation and prosecution of criminal elder abuse cases. One such outstanding example is the newly released Elder Abuse Guide for Law Enforcement [EAGLE] operated by the National Center on Elder Abuse. Another great tool is the Elder Justice Initiative created by the Department of Justice.

The quandary that we face is not where to find the information but rather whether to make elder abuse prosecution a priority.

It is no exaggeration to say that elder justice is fast becoming a critical national issue. Demographics, availability of technology to seniors, the opioid epidemic, and the expanding number of dementia patients are just a few factors that have combined to create the perfect climate for predators. Elder abuse has been called the “crime of the 21st century”.

He writes about the upcoming challenges and steps prosecutors are taking to face them. Those preparations include trainings for prosecutors, in-state collaborations between prosecutors and state attorney generals, and multi-disciplinary teams.  Paul writes that two areas present hurdles:

  1. "Financial elder abuse is exploding and many of the perpetrators are able to hide in anonymity thanks to the proliferation of such internet ruses as romance, IRS, sweepstakes and grandma scams. Moreover, many exploiters are using nontraditional methods to steal from their elderly victim and then claiming that the transaction represents either a gift or a loan. We are having to find new ways to argue lack of consent aggressively and effectively and also educate ourselves as to the ways in which undue influence impacts this crime."
  2. "Secondly, we are still figuring out how to uncover, investigate and prosecute crimes – particularly sexual abuse – that occur in long term care facilities. Prosecutors need to reach out to the various state agencies that oversee the issuance and revocation of facility licenses along with the Long Term Care Ombudsman programs."

Paul Greenwood has done amazing things in advancing the prosecution of elder abuse cases. We all should thank him and wish him well as he moves to his retirement. Thank you Paul!

 

November 5, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 29, 2018

Elder Justice Coordinating Council-Save the Date

The next meeting for the Elder Justice Coordinating Council is December 6, 2018. The EJCC was created as part of the Elder Justice Act and is intended 

to coordinate activities related to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation across the federal government. The Elder Justice Coordinating Council is directed by the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary serves as the Chair of the Council. The HHS Secretary has assigned responsibility for implementing the Coordinating Council to the Administration on Aging (AoA) within ACL. AoA has long been engaged in efforts to protect older individuals from elder abuse including financial exploitation, physical abuse, neglect, psychological abuse, and sexual abuse. Through the Older Americans Act, AoA endeavors preserve the rights of older people and protect those who may not be able to protect themselves.

The final 2018 meeting is set for December 6, 2018 from 9:30-noon. You can register here to attend.  It will also be live streamed.

October 29, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Programs/CLEs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Need for Fiduciary Service Organizations

In a perfect world, everyone will be able to handle all of their own affairs, right until the day they die.  In a perfect world, even if that was not possible (or even desirable), there is always some trustworthy family member or friend to step in to help.  

Alas, it isn't a perfect world.  For a number of years, when I was supervising an Elder Law Clinic, our clients sometimes needed the assistance of a professional agent or guardian, someone who was experienced in providing fiduciary management services for people of modest means, and who had a track record and references to demonstrate competence.  We also wanted to see their certificate of insurance or bonding.

Recently I was looking for a guest speaker for a Nonprofit Organization Law class and I reached out to a company in my address book.  I learned it had ceased doing business.  In contrast to the dramatic stories from locations such as New Mexico, where nonprofit entities failed to carryout their fiduciary duties, Neighborhood Services, based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania found it necessary to close their doors for 300 vulnerable clients because of gaps in charitable funding.

Some clients had behavioral health needs. Approximately 150 of the clients were incapacitated people living in nursing and personal care homes in a multiple county region.  New representatives were needed for all of them.  A 2017 news story explained:  

Founded in 1964, nonprofit Neighborhood Services fell over $400,000 in debt after losing most of its United Way funding a couple of years ago and failing to secure key federal grants, said Stanley, who joined the agency in October 2015 as its woes were mounting.

 

The agency, which never prioritized fund-raising, has lost several staff members in recent months and currently employs five.

 

Neighborhood Services’ most visible role has been serving as the representative payee for more than 150 clients with intellectual disabilities, mental illness or addiction issues. The agency received the clients’ monthly disability checks and prioritized the payment of their rent and other basic needs.

 

"I'll miss all the staff," said Nathan Wilson, 57, who relied on Neighborhood Services to manage his finances.  "Whenever I need extra, they always get it for me."  

This history is a reminder that more than good intentions are needed to run a successful nonprofit organization.   

October 23, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

FTC Releases New Report on Older Consumers

The Federal Trade Commission has released a new report, Protecting Older Consumers: 2017-2018: A Report to Congress of the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC report, available here, runs 41 pages and is divided into sections addressing effective strategies, enforcement activities, and outreach and education.  For those of you unfamiliar with the FTC's work on behalf of consumers who are older, the report explains

As the nation’s primary consumer protection agency, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC” or “Commission”) has a broad mandate to protect consumers from unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices in the marketplace. It does this by, among other things, filing law enforcement actions to stop unlawful practices and educating the public about consumer protection issues. Through strategic initiatives, research, and collaboration with federal, state, international, and private sector partners, the FTC targets its efforts to achieve the maximum benefits for consumers, including older adults.

The Commission’s anti-fraud program tracks down and stops some of the most pernicious frauds that prey on U.S. consumers, such as imposter scams, deceptive credit schemes, prize promotion fraud, business opportunity scams, and more. In addition, the advertising substantiation program protects consumers from the harm caused by unsubstantiated product claims, such as fake opioid addiction treatments and cancer cure products. The agency also works to protect consumer privacy and data security, combat illegal telemarketing and email spam, and enforce a variety of consumer protection rules and other statutes covering topics such as funeral industry practices, used car sales, and consumer
product warranty protections, to name only a few. These programs provide tremendous benefits to older and younger consumers. (citations omitted).

Be sure to check out Appendix A-the table of cases from the FTC for year 2018.

October 21, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations | Permalink

Thursday, October 18, 2018

University Students Do Year-Long Investigation on Elder Abuse in R.I.

Last month, the Providence Journal published a series of articles about the year-long project by Brown University students on elder abuse in Rhode Island.  The first,  Elder abuse in R.I.: Reported attacks on the rise, yet most perpetrators avoid prison noting "that 87 percent of those charged with elder-abuse offenses in R.I. between 2000 and 2017 did not go to prison for those crimes, leaving their elderly victims vulnerable to repeated attacks."  There are 9 parts to the series, published in the Providence Journal, all of which can be accessed from here.  Parts 6 and 7 deal with guardians while Part 8 deals with scammers and 9 with friends.  Part 2 deals with barriers to prosecution and part 5, police training. 

This is a great series. Read it!

October 18, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

EAGLE: Elder Abuse Law Enforcement Guide

EAGLE is the new guide on elder abuse for law enforcement is a joint effort from the U.S. Department of Justice along with USC's Keck School of Medicine (host of the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA)) as well as the USC Keck School of Medicine Department of Family Medicine & Geriatrics, the USC-Irvine Center of Excellence on Elder Abuse & Neglect & USC-Davis School of Gerontology. EAGLE includes a first responder checklists, a checklist for gathering evidence, information about state statutes, a section on interviewing victims  and photography tips, to highlight a few.  This is a significant tool and you need to take a look at it. Make sure your local law enforcement folks know about this website.

 

October 17, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Other, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 15, 2018

Rural and Tribal Elder Justice Summit

Registration is now open for the Rural and Tribal Elder Justice Summit scheduled for November 14-15, 2018 in Des Moines, Iowa. Here is info about the program

On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2018, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Agriculture announced a joint Statement of Action to promote elder justice in rural and tribal communities. Although more than 20 percent of older adults live in rural America, rural and tribal communities face unique challenges in their efforts to combat elder abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation.

To advance this priority, the Department of Justice is hosting a Rural and Tribal Elder Justice Summit on November 14–15, in Des Moines, Iowa. This Summit will bring together a diverse group of experts and elder justice professionals to: (1) identify the challenges rural and tribal communities face in responding to elder abuse; (2) identify promising practices, resources, and tools available to rural and tribal communities; and (3) explore what more can be done to break down silos and foster greater collaboration at the tribal, local, state, and federal levels.

Please join us for this important event and help us to advance elder justice in rural and tribal communities.

For more information about the summit and rural elder justice topics, please visit the Elder Justice Initiative website

 

To register for the summit, click here.

October 15, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Pennsylvania's Legislature Stalls Guardianship Reform But Moves Forward on Controversial "Protection" Bill

As recent readers of the Elder Law Prof Blog will know, the Pennsylvania legislature is in the waning days of the 2018 legislative year.  Despite strong support for basic reforms of adult guardianship laws, the legislature has once again stalled action on Senator Greenleaf's guardianship reform package, Senate Bill 884. Apparently the latest delay arose when one senator objected to a provision requiring criminal background checks for proposed new guardians, because of his own experiences as a guardian for an adult child.   

Guardianship reform has been on the legislative docket since at least 2014 when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Elder Law Task Force issued its comprehensive report recommending much needed changes, including higher standards for appointed guardians.  But this one senator's late-breaking concerns triggered another delay.  Similar legislation was approved by the Senate in the previous legislative term, only to be stalled that time in the House.  

Thus, the contrast with another bill affecting seniors, one that is rushing through the Pennsylvania Legislature in 6 months, is particularly dramatic.  House Bill 2291, as most recently amended in Printer's Version No. 3917, was introduced for the first time in April 2018 and cleared the Pennsylvania House with a unanimous vote on October 9, 2018.  

The bill has been cast as "protection" of seniors against unwanted intrusions on their privacy by government investigators.  Sounds like a commendable purpose.  But the much larger purpose seems to be about protecting "providers" of certain types of housing for seniors, including "independent living units" in continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs, also called Life Plan Communities) and publically-funded "senior multifamily housing units," from investigation by Pennsylvania authorities where there are potential concerns about suitability of that type of unit for the needs of particular seniors, especially those at risk of self-neglect or third-party exploitation because of dementia.  One member of the  House, a legislator from Westmoreland County where a CCRC has been investigated (apparently the only such investigation in the state), has been quite successful in attracting support for his bill to prevent such investigations from happening in the future. 

Now the Pennsylvania Senate will have all of three days -- its last three working days in 2018 -- to consider HB 2291 for the first time. 

Has HB 2291 been carefully considered by all the stakeholders, including seniors and their families?   It may not matter when the train is running at full steam.

 

October 10, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Retirement, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 5, 2018

Dwindling Numbers in Traditional Skilled Care Facilities Have Implications for Other Forms of Senior Living

The New York Times tracks more demographic information about occupancy in skilled care facilities:  

For more than 40 years, Morningside Ministries operated a nursing home in San Antonio, caring for as many as 113 elderly residents. The facility, called Chandler Estate, added a small independent living building in the 1980s and an even smaller assisted living center in the 90s, all on the same four-acre campus.

 

The whole complex stands empty now. Like many skilled nursing facilities in recent years, Chandler Estate had seen its occupancy rate drop.

 

“Every year, it seemed a little worse,” said Patrick Crump, chief executive of the nonprofit organization, supported by several Protestant groups. “We were running at about 80 percent.”

 

Staff at the Chandler Estate took pride in its five-star rating on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website. But by the time the board of directors decided it had to close the property, only 80 of its beds were occupied, about 70 percent.

 

Revenue from independent and assisted living couldn’t compensate for the losses incurred by the nursing home.

As seniors elect to stay "at home" and as families struggle to make that happen, we are seeing ever evolving concepts in how to provide appropriate care and companionship.  For more read, In the Nursing Home, Empty Beds and Quiet Halls.  

October 5, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Medicaid | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Is a Power of Attorney a "Contract"?

I teach contract law and I teach elder law, and often those silos overlap.  But recently someone asked me whether a "power of attorney" was a contract.  Somehow I had not not considered this topic before.  My first reaction was "no, not usually," although certainly POAs have contract-like implications once the agent takes action using the POA as authority.  I tend to think of POAs and similar appointments of an agent as bound by rather distinct "fiduciary law" obligations, as well as the limitations of the language in the POA itself and any statutory law, rather than traditional contract law principles. But perhaps my first instinct is wrong.  One significance of categorization is when determining what statutes of limitation applies to any violation.  It turns out the issue usually arises in the context of liability for allegations of misuse of authority.       

What do you think? At least one court believes POAs are contracts, at least for purposes of applying principles of interpretation.  A Court of Appeals opinion notes, when deciding whether family-member agents had authority to "self-deal" when handling real estate transactions in the name of the principal, that "Because a power of attorney is a contract, we interpret its provision pursuant to the rules of contract interpretation. . . . "  See Noel v. Noel, 225 So. 3d 1114, 1117(Louisiana Ct. of Appeals, 2017).    

For additional perspectives see the discussion of the Alabama Supreme Court, including the dissent, in Smith v. Wachovia Bank, 33 So. 3d 1191, 1202 (Ala. 2009).  

 

 

October 4, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (3)

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Update on 2018 Elder Abuse Legislation

The USC Center for Elder Mistreatment has released an update on federal and state elder abuse legislation passed in 2018.  According to the website, "[t]he elder justice legislation found in this document was elicited and finalized from the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) Listserv and independent websites in August 2018. The compilation is intended to reflect highlights across the nation and does not include all legislation related to elder justice. However, updates will be sent quarterly and states are encouraged to send updates on significant legislative action to Ageless Alliance. This document reflects activity in 21 states and highlights at the federal level. "  The elder justice policy highlights cover February through August of 2018 and can be accessed here. The document features federal legislation and well as state legislation listed alphabetically.

October 3, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink

Monday, October 1, 2018

Podcast: The Long-Distance (Elder) Con

The New Yorker has a podcast that offers another take on a topic that we often explore on this Blog: Why do older persons sometimes "fall" for an obvious con job, such as as offshore lotteries or stranded grandchild scams?  The wilder the facts, the greater the "obvious" risk, but that doesn't deter some "investors."  One daughter is determined to get to the bottom of her deceased father's tragic loss. of his entire life savings.  I recently heard the first of a two-part podcast called "The Long-Distance Con" (it aired for the first time 3 days ago) and found it pretty darn interesting.  Here's a summary of the first part:

On the day that Maggie Robinson Katz learned that her father had only a few days to live, she also found out that her wealthy family couldn’t pay his hospital bills: his fortune had disappeared. Katz didn’t learn how until several years later, when she began listening to a box of cassette tapes given to her by her stepmother.

 

The tapes record her father, Terry Robinson, speaking on the phone with a man named Jim Stuckey, a West Virginian based in Manila, about a kind of business proposition. Hidden in jungles and caves in the Philippines, Stuckey said, were huge caches of gold bullion, uncut U.S. currency, and Treasury bonds; if Robinson put up the money to pay the right people, Stuckey could get the treasures out.

 

It seemed absurd to people around Robinson, and the Treasury Department warns of scams that sound just like this.

 

But Robinson, a successful retired executive, fell for it hook, line, and sinker. His daughter Maggie struggles to understand why and how, talking with TheNew Yorker’s Maria Konnikova and others.

This is part one of a two-part series.  Here is the link to the first, 27 minute podcast.  

October 1, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 28, 2018

Aging, Law and Society CRN Call for Papers in Advance of 2019 Annual Meeting in D.C.

The Aging, Law and Society Collaborative Research Network (CRN) invites scholars to participate in a multi-event workshop as part of the Law and Society Association Annual Meeting scheduled for Washington D.C. from May 30 through June 2, 2019.

For this workshop, proposals for presentations should be submitted by October 22, 2018. 

This year’s workshop will feature themed panels, roundtable discussions, and rapid fire presentations in which participants can share new ideas and research projects.

The CRN encourages paper proposals on a broad range of issues related to law and aging.  For this event, organizers especially encourage proposals on the following topics:

  • The concept of dignity as it relates to aging
  • Interdisciplinary research on aging
  • Old age policy, and historical perspectives on old age policy
  • Sexual Intimacy in old age and the challenge of “consent” requirements
  • Compulsion in care provision
  • Disability perspectives on aging, and aging perspectives on disability
  • Feminist perspectives on aging
  • Approaches to elder law education

In addition to paper proposals, CRN also welcomes:

  • Volunteers to serve as panel discussants and as commentators on works-in-progress.
  • Ideas and proposals for themed panels, round-tables, or a session around a new book.

If you would like to present a paper as part of a the CRN’s programming, send a 100-250 word abstract, with your name, full contact information, and a paper title to Professor Nina Kohn at Syracuse Law, who, appropriately enough also now holds the title of "Associate Dean of Online Education!"  

September 28, 2018 in Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, International, Programs/CLEs, Property Management, Retirement, Science, Social Security, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics, Web/Tech, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Financial Caregivers Now Can Request Security Freezes

The FTC has announced that effective September 21, 2018, financial caregivers can now request security freezes for those for whom they manage money.  Managing someone else’s money: New protection from ID theft and fraud explains that "[a] security freeze restricts access to your credit reports and makes it hard for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. Under the new law, it’s free to freeze and unfreeze your credit file at all three of the nationwide consumer reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion." The law extends the ability to those who have "certain legal authority [to] act on someone else’s behalf to freeze and unfreeze their credit file. The new law defines a “protected consumer” as an incapacitated person, someone with an appointed guardian or conservator, or a child under the age of 16." The article explains that the law does require proof of legal authority, which the article notes includes a DPOA or guardianship order. This is a great idea! Make sure you tell your clients about this.

September 27, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Property Management | Permalink

Good News/Bad News on Guardianship Reform Legislation in Pennsylvania

First the bad -- or at least frustrating -- news.  On Thursday, September 27, we received word that Senate Bill 884, the long-awaited legislation providing key reforms of guardianship laws in Pennsylvania, was now "dead" in the water and will not move forward this year.   Apparently one legislator raised strong objections to proposed amendments to SB 884, amendments influenced by recent high-profile reports of abuse by a so-called professional guardian who had been appointed by courts in multiple cases in eastern Pennsylvania. 

The objections reportedly focused on one portion of the bill that would have required both law guardians (typically family members) and professional guardians to undergo a criminal background check before being appointed to serve.  The amendment did not condition appointment on the absence of a criminal record, except where proposed "professional guardians" had been convicted of specific crimes.  For other crimes or for lay guardians, the record information was deemed important to permit all interested parties and the court to make informed decisions about who best to appoint.  

What is next?  Pennsylvanians will look to new leadership in the 2019-20 session in the hope for a new bill that resolves differences and that can make it through both houses.  In the meantime, the courts are already moving forward with procedural reforms, adopted in 2018 at the direction of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  

And that leads us to a more positive note about guardianship reform in Pennsylvania.  Pennsylvania Common Pleas Judge Lois Murphy testified this week during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting about the Pennsylvania Courts' new Guardianship Tracking System (GTS).  It is now operational in 19 counties (out of 67 total counties) in Pennsylvania, including coming online in the major urban counties for Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  Judge  Murphy reported that GTS is "already paying dividends," and she gave the example of a case in which the reporting system triggered a red flag for an estate worth more than $1 million, much higher than originally predicted, making appointment of different guardian more appropriate.   

Judge Murphy predicts that as the tracking system becomes operational statewide, it should generate valuable answers, such as how many persons are subject to guardianships at any point in time, how much in  assets are under management, what percentages of the pointed guardians are family members (as opposed to professionals), and what percentages of those served are over or under age 60.   The hope is that GTS will also permit coordination of information about appointed guardians in state courts with information in the federal system on those appointed as Social Security representative payees, thus, again, providing more comprehensive information about trustworthiness of such fiduciaries.  

You can see Judge Murphy's testimony, and hear her reasons for criminal background checks and appointment of counsel to represent alleged incapacitated persons, along with the views of retiring Senator Greenleaf and Senator Art Haywood, in the recording of the September 24 hearing recording below.   

Judge Murphy testifies from approximately the 35 minute mark to the 43 minute mark, and again from 1 hour 33, to one hour 44.  

Bottom line for the week -- and perhaps the session?  You can certainly grow old just waiting for guardianship reform in Pennsylvania. 

 

 

  

September 27, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rhode Island's Brown University Student Investigators Tackle Topic of Elder Abuse Prosecutions

Recommended reading!  The Rhode Island Providence Tribute published a series of in August and September 2018 that flow from a student journalism project at Brown University in Rhode Island.  The team of students conducted an investigation over the course of a year, looking for the outcome of elder abuse allegations in the state.  What they found were plenty of arrests but very few successful prosecutions.    

Over two semesters, four student reporters pulled hundreds of court files and police reports of people charged with elder abuse to explore the scope of the problem and the way law enforcement and prosecutors handle such cases. In addition, the reporters used computer data purchased from the Rhode Island judiciary to track every elder-abuse case prosecuted in Rhode Island’s District and Superior courts over the last 17 years.

 

The student project, sponsored by a new journalism nonprofit, The Community Tribune, was overseen by Tracy Breton, a Brown University journalism professor and Pulitzer Prize winner who worked for 40 years as an investigative and courts reporter for The Providence Journal.

 

As part of the year-long investigation, the students analyzed state court data to evaluate how effective Rhode Island has been at prosecuting individuals charged with elder abuse. This had never been done before — not even the state tracks the outcomes of its elder-abuse cases. The data, based on arrests made statewide by local and state police, was sorted and analyzed by a Brown University graduate who majored in computer science.

 

The investigation found that 87 percent of those charged with elder-abuse offenses in Rhode Island over the 17-year period did not go to prison for those crimes. Moreover, fewer than half of those charged were convicted of elder abuse. This left victims in danger and allowed their abusers to strike again and again.

The above excerpt is from the first article documenting the students' amazing  investigation. I definitely recommend reading the following articles.  Caution: there is a paywall that appears after you open some number of articles on the Providence Tribune website, so if you aren't in the position of being able to pay for all the articles, you may want to prioritize the order in which you "open" the individual parts.  

Part 1: Reported Attacks Are on the Rise, Yet Perpetrators Avoid Prison

Part 2:  Barriers to Prosecution Leave Victims at Risk

Part 3: Creating a Stronger Safety Net for Victims

Part 4:  Mother and Son Locked in a Cycle of Violence

Part 5:  Police Training is Crucial Part of Solution

Part 6: When a "Guardian" Becomes a Fiscal Predator

Part 7:  Gaming the Systems is Easy for Guardians

Part 8: Scammers Prey on Victims' Trust and Fear

Part 9: Exploitation Puts a High Price on Friendship

Part 6 is somewhat different, as it tracks the "successful" prosecution of a court-appointed guardian who pled "no contest" in 2015 to charges of embezzling money from an 80-year old elderly client.  The embezzlement scheme allegedly involved false claims for services and double-billing.  According to other news sources, the guardian, an attorney who was eventually disbarred in connection with her plea, was required to pay more than $130k in restitution and serve 30 months of home confinement in lieu of a "suspended" sentence of seven years in prison. 

September 27, 2018 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Latest News on Pennsylvania's Adult Guardianship Reform Legislation - SB 884 is still lingering in the Senate

I was hoping to be able to report by today, the last of a three-day working session for the Pennsylvania Senate, that Senate Bill 884 on adult guardianship law reforms had passed the state's Senate, allowing the bill to move on to the House of Representatives.  But no vote yet on the floor of the Senate. The next opportunity for movement is Monday, October 1. 

For more on the history of the bill presenting several key items of reform for Pennsylvania's Adult Guardianship Laws and process, see our posts from last week, here, here, and here, or a memo I prepared earlier last week, here.   

Will the Pennsylvania Legislature take action before the November elections?  Stay tuned!  

September 26, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)