Friday, September 10, 2021
A number of years ago, I had an especially wonderful sabbatical experience with the help of the U.S. Fulbright Program that provided opportunities to conduct research in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Queen's University Belfast was my host institution, and there I met Professor Joe Duffy (on the left), who was working in social work, aging services and law. We have become forever friends, as well as co-workers on several projects.
One of the key educational concepts I learned from Joe's work was the importance of involving service users in the classroom, as well as in research. I experienced this as a "student" in Northern Ireland as I listened to speakers with Loyalist (Unionist) and Republican (Nationalist) perspectives on the historic "Troubles" in Ireland. I'd been working for years with U.S. law school clinics, which are inherently involved with "user" (client) voices, but when I returned from my time in Belfast I began to more actively include older adults in my doctrinal classes, usually as guest speakers about a particular case or experience. I confess, however, that I've drifted away a bit from that, but today I have a fresh reminder of why it is important to bring clients into the classroom.
Joe Duffy did his own Fulbright-sabbatical in the U.S. recently, and as part of that experience he worked at NYU with social work students and survivors of 9/11. This week, Queen's University offers Joe's detailed written account of how the NYU team planned carefully for including survivors as speakers in the classroom, and how the experiences were valuable for everyone. We can -- and I believe should -- remember to make time for similar outreach and listening exercises with students in law school. Here's a brief taste from Joe's experience with bringing 9/11 survivors into the classroom:
I knew from the beginning that trust building was at the heart of this process. I was indeed mindful of this throughout, where would I start in terms of asking people to share such difficult and personal experiences? The answer was to start with the people themselves and to create a safe environment where people felt valued and respected. In planning, we met as a group over a number of weeks and decided how the programme would evolve. Every aspect was therefore co-produced and together we agreed the following questions as the basis for the Conversation:
- Can you share with these students a summary of your experiences from 9/11?
- To what extent does the aftermath of such a traumatic event still impact on your life today and others close to you?
- How has this experience affected your identity?
- What sort of help did you receive to support you after these experiences?
- What are the skills that these students need to focus on when helping an individual cope with trauma related issues and also what are the behaviours they should avoid?
- What are the students take away messages from today.
The 90-minute classes ran for three consecutive weeks with two/three group participants joining me each week with the students. The students listened attentively and respectfully to the dialogue and there was total silence in the classroom, such was the emotional magnitude of the atmosphere. After each class we gathered for a coffee at a nearby café which helped the group support each other and reflect on what we had learned from the process.
I encourage you to read Joe's full article, Changed Lives: Voices from 9/11 in the Classroom. The voices of both survivors and students are captured succinctly here -- and provide wonderful reminders of the importance of a simple (or, perhaps not-so-simple) skill that all lawyers need to cultivate, the ability to listen. That seems especially relevant as a reminder during the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
Sunday, May 16, 2021
The ABA Journal recently ran an article, As the legal profession ages, dementia becomes an increasing concern. "There is no comprehensive information about how often ethics officials and lawyer assistance programs deal with lawyer dementia, according to Bloomberg Law. But the percentage of lawyers older than age 65—about 14%—is higher than the 7% of workers generally in that age group, suggesting that the problem could be worse in the legal profession." The article discussed the potential difficulty for identifying lawyers who may have dementia as well as the variety of state requirements regarding the obligation to notify the disciplinary authority of an attorney who may have dementia. ABA ethics opinion 03-429 is discussed, as well as the Illinois story of Robert Fritzshall.
May 16, 2021 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Ethical Issues, Legal Practice/Practice Management, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (1)
Tuesday, July 7, 2020
Upcoming in July: AALS/CLEA Virtual Clinical Conference to include Pandemic-Impact Speakers on Clinics that Serve Older Adults
AALS's Clinical Section and CLEA are hosting a free Virtual Clinical Conference that begins Tuesday, July 21, running through Thursday, July 23. The conference offers two plenary sessions, a webinar, asynchronous videos, large group discussions, small group discussions focued on specific topics or within affinity groups, very timely programs sponsored by Clinicians of Color, and a final community building session.
Jam-packed! -- but also easy to navigate through the virtual platform. Here's the link to the full schedule. The sessions will begin each day at noon, Eastern Daylight Savings Time. Register for the Conference here.
And did I mention it is FREE?!
Elder Law/Disability Law Clinical gurus Martha Mannix (University of Pittsburgh) and Mary Helen McNeal (Syracuse) will be facilitators for three afternoon sessions on "Student Representation of Elderly and Special Needs Clients in Virtual and COVID World" and the brainstorming topics include:
1. Discussion on how we might reimagine our encounters with our elderly clientss or clients with disabilities through communications technology or creative reconfiguring of in-person client meetings.
2. Discussion on the role of students. Does the COVID-19 emergency require us to restructure or reimagine the role of the clinic student and our supervision of them in light of the challenges presented by remote learning and representation and institutional desires to shield student from risk?
3. Discussion on whether we might consider altering the nature of our legal work in clinical settings: Is this the moment best met by continuing individual representation or should we turn our ckubucak efforts to addressing systemic issues or engagement in policy advocacy?
And to add to the intrigue -- the final session of the three-day program includes a Dance Party! Let your inner "Hairspray" shine!
Wednesday, July 1, 2020
Although not specifically elder law, still an important update for us. According to a recent article in the ABA Journal, Washington Supreme Court sunsets limited license program for nonlawyers. As originally planned, the program would focus on family law and then expand into elder law. "The court’s 7-2 vote last Thursday to prohibit anyone not already in the LLLT pipeline to pursue the license comes just eight years after the court approved the creation of the first such legal license for nonlawyers in the country. Several other states have since approved—or have considered approving—similar programs." The article notes that costs of the program and the lack of interest in the program as the reasons for the Court's decision. Those licensed will be able to continue as an LLLT but no new individuals will be licensed after July 31, 2021.
Thursday, April 30, 2020
The AALS Section on Law and Aging is joining forces with the Sections on Civil Rights, Disability Law, Family and Juvenile Law, Minority Groups. Poverty, Sexual Orientation, Gender-Identity Issues, Trusts & Estates and Women in Legal Education to host a program for the 2021 Annual Meeting, scheduled to take place in San Francisco in January. The theme for the program is appropriately broad -- "Intersectionality, Aging and the Law."
I like this definition of "intersectionality":
The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. Example: "Through an awareness of intersectionality, we can better acknowledge and ground the differences among us."
We need great presenters!
We are interested in participants who will address this subject from numerous perspectives. Potential topics include gray divorce, incarceration, elder abuse (physical or financial), disparities in wealth, health, housing, and planning based on race or gender or gender identity, age and disability discrimination, and other topics. The conception of the program is broad, and we are exploring publication options.
If you are interested in participating, please send a 400-600 word description of what you'd like to discuss. Submissions should be sent to Professor Naomi Cahn, firstname.lastname@example.org, by June 2, 2020, and the author[s] of the selected paper(s) will be notified by July 1, 2020.
AALS is planning on hosting the annual meeting from January 5-9 and I personally feel the overall theme for the conference is apt in these fraught times: The Power of Words
April 30, 2020 in Advance Directives/End-of-Life, Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Discrimination, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Grant Deadlines/Awards, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, International, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Programs/CLEs, Property Management, Science, Statistics, Webinars, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)
Saturday, March 21, 2020
Everyone should sign up for this upcoming webinar from the National Center on Law & Elder Rights. O March 25, 2020 they will offer this webinar, Strategies for Providing Remote Legal Services to Older Adults.
Here's the info about the webinar:
Legal assistance providers and aging services advocates are evolving their service delivery models in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote legal services are particularly important for older adults and people of all ages with compromised immune systems who are at high-risk if exposed to COVID-19. This webinar will share strategies and highlight technology-based tools that can enhance the provision of virtual legal assistance. The Administration for Community Living will provide an introduction to this topic and will share information on their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.Presenters: • Hilary Dalin, Administration for Community Living, Office of Elder Justice and Adult Protective Services • Sarah Galvan, Justice in Aging • Liz Keith, Pro Bono Net.
Monday, January 20, 2020
End of life options. Allows individuals with a terminal illness who meet certain requirements to make a request to an attending physician for medication that the individual may self-administer to end the individual's life. Specifies requirements a physician must meet in order to prescribe the medication to a patient. Prohibits an insurer from denying payment of benefits under a life insurance policy based upon a suicide clause in the life insurance policy if the death of the insured individual is the result of medical aid in dying. Establishes a Level 1 felony if a person: (1) without authorization of the patient, willfully alters, forges, conceals, or destroys a request for medication or a rescission of a request for medication with the intent or effect of causing the individual's death; or (2) knowingly or intentionally coerces or exerts undue influence on an individual to request medication to end the individual's life or to destroy a rescission of a request for medication to end the individual's life.
The bill includes a sample form for requesting the medication, found in proposed IC 16-36-7 I, sec. 3(e).
Wednesday, October 30, 2019
The D.C. Bar recently released a new ethics opinion addressing the obligations when an attorney becomes impaired. Ethics Opinion 377 Duties When a Lawyer is Impaired starts by explaining
The District of Columbia Legal Ethics Committee has examined the ethical duties of partners; other managerial or supervisory lawyers and subordinate lawyers; and non-lawyer employees to take appropriate measures when they reasonably believe another lawyer in the same law firm or government agency is suffering from a significant impairment that poses a risk to clients.1 A related question involves the duties owed to clients and the profession when an impaired lawyer leaves a law firm or government agency, particularly when the lawyer may continue to practice law, regardless of whether clients are, or may be, terminating their relationship with the firm in order to remain clients of the departing lawyer.
This Opinion deals only with mental impairment, which may be a chronic or temporary condition arising out of or related to age, substance abuse, a physical or mental health condition or other circumstance affecting the lawyer. This Opinion supplements the guidance contained in Legal Ethics Opinion 246, with a specific focus on the issue of impaired lawyers, whose conduct may or may not trigger mandatory reporting obligations under the Rules, as discussed herein. This Opinion also relies, in part, upon ABA Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility Formal Opinion 03-429 (2003).
The impairment of a lawyer may fluctuate over time, regardless of its cause. However, if a lawyer’s periods of impairment are on-going or have a likelihood of recurrence, then partners, or other lawyers with managerial or supervisory authority may have to conclude that the lawyer’s ability to represent clients is materially impaired.
A range of ethics rules are implicated, including those setting forth the duties owed by lawyers to clients and the profession, and those addressing issues of supervising lawyers and non-lawyer employees. At the outset, and as discussed within this opinion, the Committee recognizes that there are tensions between ethical duties that arise under the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct (the “Rules”) and requirements or prohibitions that may exist under the substantive law, specifically with respect to employee privacy and other rights. Lawyers and law firms must be cognizant of the legal landscape in which these difficult issues occur.
Mental impairment may lead to an inability to competently represent a client as required by Rule 1.1, to complete tasks in a diligent and zealous manner as required by Rule 1.3, and to communicate with clients about their representation as required by Rule 1.4.
Rule 5.1 requires partners or other lawyers with managerial or supervisory authority to make reasonable efforts to ensure that all lawyers and those under their supervision comply with the applicable Rules and to ensure that their law firm or government agency has in effect measures giving reasonable assurance that all lawyers in the firm or agency conform to the Rules. These provisions require managerial or supervisory lawyers who reasonably believe or know that a lawyer is impaired to closely supervise the conduct of the impaired lawyer because of the risk of violations of the Rules and resulting harm to clients. Rule 5.2 may also apply to subordinate lawyers if they know of and ratify the conduct of the impaired lawyer.
Rule 8.3 requires a lawyer, regardless of managerial or supervisory authority, to report an impaired lawyer to the appropriate professional authorities including, but not limited to, the District of Columbia Office of Disciplinary Counsel,if the impaired lawyer has committed a violation of the Rules that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness to practice law, unless such disclosure would be prohibited under the duty of confidentiality owed to clients under Rule 1.6 or other law.... Further, if the firm or government agency removes the impaired lawyer from a matter, it may have an obligation under Rule 1.4 to discuss with the client the change in staffing on the matter. The duty to discuss removal of government lawyers from a matter may be different because of government policies or regulations.
If the impaired lawyer resigns, is removed or otherwise leaves the law firm, the firm may have additional disclosure obligations under Rule 1.4 to clients who are considering whether to remain with the firm or to transfer their representation to the departing lawyer. However, the firm should be cautious to limit any disclosures to necessary information permissible to disclose under applicable law. The obligation to report misconduct under Rule 8.3 is not eliminated if the impaired lawyer leaves the firm.
Beyond the ethical obligations embodied in the D.C. Rules, a fundamental purpose of identifying and addressing lawyer impairment is to encourage individuals who are suffering from mental impairment to seek and obtain assistance and treatment. This purpose should not be forgotten as lawyers, firms and agencies seek to comply with the ethical mandates discussed herein. (citations omitted)
The lengthy discussion examines the duties of others who supervise or have some managerial duties, as well as the duty to report. It concludes that:
In circumstances where a law firm or government agency addresses the issue of an impaired lawyer, there is a crucial balancing between protecting the interests of the clients and properly discharging the law firm or government agency’s obligations to protect the privacy of the lawyer under substantive law. Having appropriate policies and procedures designed to encourage reporting and to address issues of impairment within the law firm or government agency are important steps in ensuring that an impaired lawyer does not violate the Rules and that partners, and managerial and supervisory lawyers properly discharge their duties under the Rules.
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
Mark your calendars for this important webinar. The National Center for Law and Elder Rights is offering this webinar, Elder Abuse: Mandatory and Permissive Reporting For Lawyers, on April 3, 2019 from 2-3 edt.
Here is the info about the webinar
When working with older adults, lawyers may be faced with legal and ethical decisions about when and how to report suspected elder abuse. In making these decisions, lawyers must balance the ethical need to honor their client’s autonomy, with potential legal requirements to intervene. An understanding of mandatory and permissive reporting laws is essential for lawyers working in this field.
This webcast will introduce lawyers to the concept of mandatory and permissive reporting, and provide an overview of the analysis a lawyer should take when determining how to proceed in circumstances of suspected abuse. Participants will learn how to:
• Analyze reporting obligations
• Determine who is a mandatory reporter in their state
• Inform clients about mandatory reporting requirements
• Weigh the benefits and burdens of reporting
The webcast will build on previous NCLER trainings, including Legal Basics: Elder Abuse and Legal Basics: Signs of Elder Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation.
To register, click here.
Thursday, January 10, 2019
This is the time of year when students stop by to chat. Perhaps they are first year students who want to talk about exame, or grades or class rank. But more often for me, it is students who want to talk about how to get into elder law.
Along that line, a short article written by experienced attorney Monica Franklin, a CELA in eastern Tennessee, is helpful. She begins with some values questions -- such as "do you have a social worker's soul and a nurse's curiosity?" She points to the different subject matters that can be addressed under the heading of "elder law," from what she calls the meat and potatoes of estate planning, probate and conservatorship, to th more complex areas of "public benefits, health care advocacy, and special needs trust" planning.
She recommends resources, including accreditation courses offered by the National Elder Law Foundation, cautioning that she personally found the certification exam to be "more difficult than the bar exam." But she makes it clear she also found certification worthwhile, both as a goal to increase her own knowledge base, and because the recognition that attends status as a Certified Elder Law Attorney helps her practice base.
In her own state of Tennessee, she recommends becoming familiar with the Tennessee Justice Center, a "nonprofit law firm that has served vulnerable families since 1995." Is there a similar specialized practice in your own region?
Ms. Franklin concludes that her own state "needs more qualified elder law attorneys. It is a field where governmental actors often misinterpret the law to the detriment of our most vulnerable citizens: older adults and individuals with disabilities."
For more, see So, You Want to Be an Elder Law Attorney (available on Westlaw and behind a registration firewall), published in the Tennessee Bar Journal, February 2018.
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
The more I work in the field of elder law, and teach classes, the more I am convinced that enterprises who market to families and seniors fail to realize greater transparency can help their commercial products and enterprises succeed.
Thus, it is useful to read a New York Times' column on annuities, one that appears to be the first of a series. The author, Ron Lieber, begins his column on The Simplest Annuity Explainer We Could Write:
Annuities can be complicated. This column will not be.
After I wrote two weeks ago about getting tossed out of the office of an annuity salesman, there was a surprising clamor for more information about this room-clearing topic. One group of readers just wanted a basic explainer on how annuities work. For that, read on.
Another group of readers worried that those hearing of my experience might assume that all annuities are bad, and that all people who sell them use subterfuge to do so. Neither of those is true: Next week, I’ll introduce you to some reasonable people who are trying to use certain annuities in new and improved ways.
My thanks to Dickinson Law colleague Laurel Terry for the heads up!
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
The DC Bar is offering a CLE program on "Faultlines and Eruptions: Legal Ethic in Perilous Times." Here are some of the included topics:
Widespread discord in our current culture places unusual stress on professional ethics, and –
unfortunately – the legal profession is not immune. The past year saw many legal professionals, including famous names in the law, make questionable decisions and breach legal ethics standards, providing both cautionary tales and fodder for analysis. This challenging and interactive class will explore important developments and looming perils that every lawyer should be ready to face.
- Legal ethics for "fixers"
- Direct adversity vs. "general adversity," and whether it matters
- Sexual harassment as a legal ethics problem, and the profession's vulnerability to "The King's Pass"
- Defying a client for the client's own good
- Fees, referrals, and gaming the rules for fun and profit
- Professional responsibility vs. legal ethics
- The increasing threat to law firm independence and integrity
- The technology ethics earthquake
All topics seem relevant to today's "interesting" times.
Thursday, December 6, 2018
The Kansas Supreme Court released a lengthy disciplinary opinion on November 30, 2018 that concerns, among other things, excessive fees. The case, In re: Crandall, resulted in a 6 month suspension. The opinion is available here. The Kansas Supreme Court addressed several procedural issues in its opinion. As far as fees, the court found that "testimony provides clear and convincing evidence and establishes that the representation of [clients] was straightforward and did not require the time and labor needed to justify the amount ... charged." The opinion goes step-by-step through the provisions of Rule 1.5(a) criteria to determine reasonableness of a fee. The Court found that there was clear and convincing evidence that the attorney had violated Rule 1.5. The opinion also examines other issues and concludes "that the fees in two cases were unreasonable in violation of KRPC 1.5(a) and that [the attorney] violated KRPC 1.1 (competence), 1.3 (diligence), 1.4(b) (communication), 1.7(a) (concurrent conflict of interest), and 8.4(d) (conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice)."
Wednesday, December 5, 2018
I've been a bit busier than usual lately and haven't felt I could take the time to Blog regularly even though I'm constantly seeing intriguing topics to discuss. I'm buried in a manuscript with a looming deadline! Fortunately, I'm seeing that Becky Morgan is keeping everyone updated and I've been benefiting from her regular reports. I hope to get back to daily posts of my own by January.
In the meantime, I can report on a smaller, interim task of serving as a co-presenter for a half-day Continuing Legal Education program at the Pennsylvania Bar Institute on new developments in Guardianship Practice and Procedure on Friday, December 7. Among the important developments, the Pennsylvania Courts is nearing completion on its statewide implementation of a Guardian Tracking System or GTS. In 2014, the Supreme Court's Elder Law Task Force strongly recommended adoption of such a system, having determined just how little was actually known across the state about open guardian cases. Implementation of the new system began with a pilot in Allegheny County in July 2018. As of today, 60 counties are "live" in the system. The remaining 7 counties are scheduled to be included by the end of this month.
With the help of the new tracking system, I learned that we currently have more than 14,000 active guardianships in Pennsylvania.
Key features of the GTS system include:
- Automation: a means of automatically running a process to check specific aspects of guardianship reports for missing information or other concerns;
- Flagging: when a concern is detected, the item is automatically flagged, allowing court personnel to review and respond to the potential problem;
- State-wide Court Communications: providing the court system with a means of immediate and cost-effective state-wide communications whenever a judge in one case is alerted to suspicion of neglect or other improper conduct by a guardian; and
- Alerts on Specific Guardians: when an "alert" is triggered on a specific guardian in one case, the system will generate notices to all of the other courts in the state, alerting them to the potential need for action on that individual in their cases.
Such a system required entirely new software, new reporting forms, and new court rules to make implementation effective. We will be talking extensively about the new rules and forms on Friday. The migration from the older system of record-keeping imposes a huge learning curve on many involved in guardianship matters, including lawyers.
The need for better systems in Pennsylvania has been highlighted during the last year of controversies surrounding appointment of one particular individual as guardian for alleged incapacitated persons in three Pennsylvania counties. She is accused of mismanaging cases, plus it turned out she had a criminal history for fraud in another state.
See also the recent news reports about another Pennsylvania guardianship matter that asks the troubling question "Where's Grandma?" The reporter on this case, Cherri Gregg, who also happens to be a lawyer, opines that everyone in the case, including the lawyer appointed as guardian, and the family members of the person subject to the guardianship, needed better education about their roles after the grandmother's own children passed away, as the grandmother became more vulnerable, and especially when it became necessary to place her in a nursing home.
My special thanks to Karen Buck, Executive Director of the SeniorLAW Center in Philadelphia, and the good folks at Pennsylvania Courts' Office of Elder Justice for helping me with my part of the presentation for Friday!
December 5, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Programs/CLEs, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, October 29, 2018
Law students from Penn State's Dickinson Law attended sessions hosted by LeadingAge and National Continuing Care Residents Association (NaCCRA) on October 28 in Philadelphia. It was my pleasure to share this experience with students. I see these opportunities as a great way to think about the wider world of business and law opportunities, and to consider how law and aging can intersect.
In the morning, we heard from A.V. Powell about best practices for actuarial evaluations to promote greater understanding of financial issues for continuing care and life plan communities across the country. At lunch we met Parker Life's CEO Roberto Muñiz, shown here on the right with Dickinson Law student Mark Lingousky, and discussed Roberto's ongoing projects such as working to established coordinated care options not just in Parker's center of operations in New Jersey, but also in Roberto's family home in Puerto Rico.
After lunch we attended a LeadingAge educational program on "Legal Perspectives on Provider Operational Issues," presented by four attorneys from around the country. Afterwards the students commented that they were surprised by how many of the topics had come up in one of Dickinson Law's unique 1L courses, on Problem Solving and Lawyering Skills. It is great to see such correspondence between real life and law school life. Of particular interest was hearing how residential communities are coping with issues connected to legalization of marijuana, including medical marijuana and so-called recreational marijuana, both from the context of resident use and potential use by employees.
On the drive home from Philadelphia, I had the chance to debrief with the students about what most interested them at the conferences. They quickly said they appreciated the opportunity to talk with engaged seniors about what matters concerned them. Indeed, after the attorneys leading the afternoon program took a quick poll at the outset to ask how many of the members of the audience were attorneys (outside or inside counsel), operational staff, or board members, one student leaned into me and said, "They forgot to ask how many people in the audience were residents or consumers of their services!"
Music to our ears, right Jack Cumming?
October 29, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, International, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Programs/CLEs, Property Management | Permalink | Comments (1)
Friday, October 26, 2018
My first close look at filial support law in Germany arose in 2015, when I met a German-born, naturalized U.S. citizen living in Pennsylvania who had received a series of demand letters from Germany authorities asking her to submit detailed financial information for the authorities to analyze in order to determine how much she would be compelled to pay towards care for her biological father in German. Her father had become seriously ill and did not have inadequate financial resources of his own. As I've come to learn, the name for Germany's applicable legal theory is elternunterhalt, which translates into English as "parental maintenance."
Since 2015, I've heard from other adult children living in the U.S., but also in Canada and England, about additional cross-border claims originating in Germany. They write in hopes of getting objective information and to share their own stories, which I appreciate. In some instances, such as the first case I saw in Pennsylvania, a statutory defense becomes relevant because of past "serious misconduct" on the part of the indigent parent towards the child. The misconduct has to be more than mere alienation or gaps in communication. Sometimes misconduct such as abuse or neglect is the very reason the child left Germany, searching for a safer place.
Most of the adult children who reach out to me report they had never heard of elternunterhalt. Their years of estrangement are often not just from the parent but from the country of their birth. Even those who still have a relationship with the parent in Germany often learn of the potential support obligation only after their parent is admitted to a nursing home or other form of care. They face unexpected demands for foreign payments, while they are often still looking to fund college for children or their own retirement needs.
National German authorities began to mandate enforcement of elternunterhalt in 2010 in response to increasing public welfare costs for their "boomer" generation of aging citizens. Enforcement seems to have been phased in slowly among the 16 states in the country. I've read news stories from Germany about confusion and anger in entirely domestic cases.
A claim typically begins with letters from a social welfare agency in the area where the needy parent is living. The first letters usually do not state the amount of any requested maintenance payment, but enclose forms that seek detailed, documented information about the "obligated child's" income and certain personal expenses or obligations (such as care for minor children). The authorities also seeks information about any marital property and for income for any spouse of "life partner."
Whether or not the information is supplied, at some point in a wholly domestic German case the social welfare office may initiate a request for a specific amount of back pay as well as current "maintenance." Such a request cannot be enforced unless the child either agrees to pay or a court of law decrees that payment must be made. The latter requires a formal suit to be initiated by the agency and litigated in the family divisions of the German courts. The amount of any compelled payment is determined by a host of factors, including the amount of the parent's pension, savings, and any long-term care insurance, and the child's own financial circumstances.
Cross border cases have been pursued within the EU with some reported results. As for parental maintenance claims presented to U.S. children, enforceability is less clear. According to some of the letters sent by German authorities, Germany takes the position that a German court ruling in a cross border elternunterhalt claim can be enforced in the United States under "international law." The letters do not explain what legal authorities are the basis for such enforcement.
The Hague Convention on International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance was approved by the European Union, thereby affecting Germany, in 2014. The treaty is mostly directed to the mechanics of international child support claims and is built on past international agreements on child support; however the treaty also provides that the Convention shall apply to any contracting state that has declared that it will extend the application "in whole or in part" to "any maintenance obligation arising from a family relationship, parentage, marriage or affinity, including in particular obligations in respect of vulnerable persons." See Article 2(3).
October 26, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, International, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (1)
Thursday, October 25, 2018
A friend sent a good news story today. Charles "David" Jones has received a top award from the State Bar of Michigan -- the John W. Cummiskey Pro Bono Award -- for his service to older clients in that state as a volunteer working under the auspices of Elder Law of Michigan.
The numbers are staggering. Since first volunteering with Elder Law of Michigan in 2013, Charles "David" Jones has helped approximately 900 seniors with their legal issues and donated nearly 2,000 hours of his time to the effort. It's pretty remarkable stuff for a guy who helps out a couple of days a week.
Jones isn't just an asset to the clinic's clients, who often can't afford legal services and need help with creditors, Medicaid and Medicare issues, and landlord-tenant disputes. He's also a terrific resource for Elder Law of Michigan, sharing his knowledge and expertise with staff members and volunteers.Jones's diligence and the sheer number of cases he's handled have been a boon to Elder Law of Michigan. As a private nonprofit organization with a limited budget, his efforts free up other volunteers to take on cases that may otherwise fall by the wayside. In 2017, Elder Law of Michigan assisted more than 4,700 clients.“Without David, these seniors may not have had access to any legal service,” wrote Jadranko Tomic Bobas, Elder Law of Michigan managing attorney, in his letter supporting Jones's nomination. “Getting legal advice from experienced attorneys ... empowers *19 and improves seniors' economic security and provides them with much-needed peace of mind.”
Jones was an administrative law judge for the Michigan Administrative Hearing System from 1996 until his retirement in 2013. Before that, he was an administrative law judge for the Department of Health and Human Services for nearly 20 years and spent just under two years as a staff attorney for Legal Aid of Western Michigan.
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
A notice about an upcoming continuing legal education program struck me as an apt sign of the times in elder law planning. The Pennsylvania Bar Institute explains:
Many clients are members of "modern family" structures. Our experienced faculty — with different legal perspectives — will explore the issues and opportunities available when planning for the long term care needs of clients in blended and non-traditional families. At the intersection of family law and elder law, they will examine various techniques, including long term care planning for clients with children from previous marriages and planning for unmarried partners.
Receive practical guidance on counseling clients
• Representation and conflict issues
• Information gathering tips
Examine issues at the intersection of family law and elder law
• Pre and post nuptial agreements
• Cohabitation agreements
• Gifts to divorced or separated children, alimony & child support issues
Explore long term care planning tools and techniques
• To marry or not to marry for long-term care
• Use of irrevocable trusts
• High assets/income: private pay, life insurance, and long term care insurance
• Spousal refusal
• Transfers by the community spouse after Medicaid eligibility
• To gift or not to gift: single individual vs. community spouse
For more, see Long Term Care Planning for Blended and Non-traditional Families, scheduled for first airing on November 27, 2018.
October 24, 2018 in Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Legal Practice/Practice Management, Programs/CLEs, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, September 27, 2018
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 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)
Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Last weekend, Penn State's Dickinson Law held our annual alumni weekend, combined with a convocation ceremony for first year law students. I also happened to attend a non-law school function. In breaks during scheduled events, I had time to chat with alums and friends and by the end of the weekend, I realized there was a bit of theme to my conversations the last few days. In several of the conversations, someone described to me scenarios where an older individual had become involved with a new friend or a new caregiver, or a long-lost family member and was "allowing" that third person to take advantage of them, usually in the form of monetary gifts or "loans," that would never be repaid.
As we talked, I think we mostly agreed that one possible motivating factor for the older person was some level of fear, and not fear of the third person, but fear of being alone. The exploitive behavior was tolerated because it was apparently preferable to being alone, or worse, being compelled to living in the dreaded nursing home.
Another analysis I heard, but was less willing to agree with, was the lament, "what can you do, because X is competent and he has a right to give away his money if he wants to do so?"
In one example, the elderly person removed all of his life savings from a long-time professional money manager and placed the assets with a "new" manager, all because the new manager promised to charge "no" management fees. The new manager held no licenses or professional qualifications. A few months later, the client passed away -- and the new manager turned out to be the sole beneficiary of the estate.
In another instance, the observation about competency or capacity was made about an older person over the course of several months, even as that person became more and more entangled with seemingly opportunistic "befrienders" who were viewed as untrustworthy by others. Several weeks after the man seemed to disappear, his body was found in a shallow grave, while someone was still accessing his Social Security income. A pretty dramatic end to that story of misplaced trust.
My question: How is it that we all tend to emphasize that the older person was competent -- or appeared to have capacity -- even as there is also evidence he or she is trusting the wrong persons?
What I have learned from working with neuropsychologists is that so-called mini-mental exams used by primary care physicians do not necessarily evaluate an important, core component of capacity, a person's ability to exercise judgment in a sound way. Some screening tools tend to focus on cognitive components that are more easily evaluated through a brief exercise, such as asking the individual to perform exercises that tend to focus on short-term memory or even delayed-recall abilities. This is important because one aspect of judgment is the ability or inability to evaluate risk. Impaired judgment is viewed as an executive dysfunction or impairment, but it can exist without (or with only modest) memory impairment. Plus, impaired executive function can also be associated with lack of awareness or denial that there is a problem.
The significance of loss of executive function has been tracked by legal practitioners, such as Patterns in Cases Involving Financial Exploitation of Vulnerable Adults (2014 Michigan Bar Journal). On the important differences in screening tests used, see also Assessing Executive Dysfunction in Neurodegenerative Disorders: A Critical Review of Brief Neuropsychological Tools, published November 2017 in Frontiers in Aging: Neuroscience.
September 25, 2018 in Cognitive Impairment, Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Legal Practice/Practice Management | Permalink | Comments (0)