Thursday, June 3, 2021
In Carlisle, a classic college town in Central Pennsylvania, the hottest topic at the moment is, surprisingly enough, the "county" nursing home.
"Save Claremont" signs outnumbered the political signs in the recent primary election.
A robust advocacy movement seeks to prevent the sale of Claremont Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, a publicly-administered facility with 282-beds to private enterprise. In a detailed story carried by local newspaper, The Patriot News, both sides of the issue are making their pitches:
The members of Citizens Saving Claremont are arguing the county not only can keep Claremont afloat, but with some effort, investment and leadership, they can make it thrive.
"It has been sustained for 192 years," said Tim Potts, one of the founding members of Citizens Saving Claremont. "This year, 2021, is the first year that we've had to use county money to support Claremont, and that's only on a temporary basis because of the impact of COVID." . . .
But that doesn't change the fact that Claremont is hemorrhaging money, Cumberland County Commissioner Gary Eichelberger said. Projections show it will only get worse and will have to be propped up by taxpayer dollars.
And the completion of a sales agreement could be just days away.
For some advocates, keeping the facility in public hands is about maintaining a commitment to citizens of all income levels, and they point out that Claremont's Medicare "star" rating has usually been higher than private enterprise nursing homes in the region. As recently as 2002, as many as 40 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties had "public homes"; but, currently just 21 remain in county hands.
For more see Citizens Group Pushes to Save Claremont, published online behind a paywall on June 1, 2021 and on the front page of the traditional newspaper format on June 4, 2021.
With lockdowns being lifted in commercial arenas, I'm once again hearing from residents in Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), also sometimes called Life Plan Communities, as well as other similar senior living settings. The most frequently raised concern is "how can management of my community make major changes in services and amenities without asking us if we agree to a new contract?" Sometimes I am able to recommend local legal counsel for the callers.
As a matter of theory, there's a traditional "law-based" answer to this question, with state-specific tweaks. And then there is what happens all too often in real life.
Generally speaking, the law provides that unilateral attempts by one party to make significant changes in the parties' duties under a contract are not legally effective. Here's one state Supreme Court's typical statement of the rule of law (written in the context of considering an employer's unilateral attempt to change an employment contract):
The cases dealing with employment contracts are merely part of the general rule that recognizes no difference between an express and an implied contract.... As a result, to effectively modify a contract, whether implied-in-fact or express, there must be: (1) an offer to modify the contract, (2) assent to or acceptance of that offer, and (3) consideration."
Demasse v. ITT Corp., 984 P.2d 1138, 1144 (Az. 1999). As my law students know, "consideration" is a legal term of art, and generally means a "bargained for exchange." In the context of modification of existing agreements, this often involves new financial terms or mutual concessions in the parties' respective duties.
But, the real-life situation is that the party with the greater bargaining power simply ignores the bargaining process altogether. In employment contexts, that's the employer. They treat their notice of major changes as "the new agreement" simply because no one objected. That's not how the rule of law is supposed to work, but it does, all too often. Indeed, I will confess that the very reason I started teaching Contract law was my growing familiarity with disputes in senior living scenarios that made me wonder if there was something about contract law I'd missed back in my own days as a law student. There wasn't (although the full explanation would require a law review article) -- but the world keeps spinning along with the more powerful party in many commercial contexts able to avoid the contract because they are "in charge."
Residents don't, however, have to put up with this. Resident groups in individual CCRCs and those living in states where there are regional organizations have learned to flex their considerable muscle, both in negotiations with management and with state regulators or legislators. I'm also hearing from more attorneys who are representing residents in negotiations, or when necessary, in arbitrations or on lawsuits alleging breaches of contract and fiduciary duties. Plus, I'm hearing from more states officials who are asking good questions.
It not a secret that I like CCRCs and I like them a lot. I've visited CCRCs throughout the U.S. and they tend to be vital examples of senior living, offering community engagement, social networks, friendly-settings, caring service providers, and the reassurance of assistance if needed. Many forms of senior living options are struggling with the impact of the pandemic, with enhanced pressures on facilities to balance their budgets. This is probably triggering a new upswing in attempts to make unilateral changes.
I have worried, long before the pandemic, that an episodic history of paternalistic or peremptory changes by management in CCRCs can undermine public confidence in this format as a viable alternative for seniors. CCRCs have their highest value for consumers when residents are making the transition before becoming too frail to appreciated the amenities and services. New residents may be unlikely to "invest" in CCRCs if they lack confidence that promised services will be available when needed.
June 3, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management, Retirement, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, May 9, 2021
Published recently in the New York Times, She Bought a Truck on eBay, Then Forgot It. A Dementia Diagnosis Came Later. discusses how a lack of financial capacity may be an indicator of dementia.
[M]oney troubles aren’t unusual among people who are beginning to experience cognitive decline. Long before they receive a dementia diagnosis, many people start losing their ability to manage their finances and make sound decisions as their memory, organizational skills and self-control falter, studies show. As people fall behind on their bills or make unwise purchases and investments, their bank balances and credit rating may take a hit.
The isolation that came from COVID may have allowed a number of cases to go undetected, since there wasn't the same level of interaction with folks. "Many older people have remained isolated from loved ones who might be the first to notice unpaid bills or unopened bank notices." Check out the finding from one of the studies mentioned in the aticle
Another study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine in November, used data on Medicare claims and from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York/Equifax Consumer Credit Panel to track people’s credit card payments and credit scores. The study found that people with Alzheimer’s and related dementia were more likely to miss bill payments up to six years before their diagnosis than were people with no diagnosis. The researchers also noted that the people whose dementia was later diagnosed started to show subprime credit scores 2.5 years before the others.
Read this article---it's important!
Thursday, April 8, 2021
A recent study, Family Matters: Multigenerational Living Is On The Rise And Here To Stay, was recently published.
Generations United wanted to learn more about the effect of the vast COVID-19 pandemic on multigenerational living specifically, and at the end of January 2021 commissioned a public opinion poll, conducted online by The Harris Poll, to determine if multigenerational households were growing and what makes them tick. The survey results reported here give us insights as to the growth, why families plan to continue living together – and why it helps them be strong and resilient.
The findings are very interesting:
Our results are clear: multigenerational living is indeed on the rise in 2021, with more than 1 in 4 Americans (26%) living in a household with 3 or more generations. Given our finding in 2011 that 7 percent of Americans lived in a multigenerational household,4 this means that multigenerational living has nearly quadrupled in the past decade (a 271 percent increase from 20115 to 2021). This finding is incredibly striking, and our survey reveals some of the impetus for this staggering growth. As expected, the pandemic does play a strong role. Among those living in a multigenerational household, nearly 6 in 10 (57%) say they started or are continuing to live with multiple generations because of the pandemic.
The full report is available here.
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Today, Veterans' Day, I caught an interesting radio piece on the marketing of supposedly low-interest-rate loans for those who are or have service in U.S. military branches. I've been teaching a Nonprofit Organizations Law course this semester at Dickinson Law, and the lack of transparency in the various loan programs reminded me of a student's presentation about a "veterans' benefit" nonprofit organization that, until recently, seemed to be doing more fundraising for the organizers than for the military service people. Misuse of "charitable" missions is a topic we explore in the class.
But, I caught the program a second time while driving. The second time around I realized that the story started with a curious segment with a particular veteran who was describing his recent struggle with a misleading veteran-friendly loan company that charged more, not less, than conventional loans. This time, I realized the interview included a tour of the older vet's lovely home on the water in Florida, and of his various boats. The borrower was clearly proud, and rightly so, and the interviewer even admitted to a bit of envy. The loan he was seeking was to refinance about $350k for what seemed to be pretty high-end living and it was easy to be glad the older gentleman has done well in his post-service life.
The radio interview and the accompanying article at NPR's Morning Edition site described low-interest loans, "backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs" as a "perk" offered to vets and service members in honor of their service. Wait a minute. This wasn't a struggling veteran getting started in civilian life, perhaps needing help to buy a first or second home or to fund to start a new business. This veteran was struggling to find the best terms in a veteran-friendly program -- not to "get" a loan.
My reaction the second time while listening to the program about misleading loans to veterans was "wouldn't it be better if all consumers could rely on transparency and fairness in lending rates and terms?"
Friday, October 9, 2020
As many of our regular readers know, I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. One of the developments I have followed over the years is the number of homeless residents of Phoenix. I'm a cyclist in my spare time and one of my regular downtown bike routes in Phoenix takes me past an ever-growing encampment. In addition, a large park near my parents' home now serves as a daytime gathering spot for many. In the scorching heat of the summer, and the desert cold of the winter, there are more and more people without adequate shelter. The New York Times recently pointed out that in contrast to historical statistics suggesting that nationwide, "elderly" persons make up a small percentage of the homeless population, in the last few years we are seeing a surge among older adults. See Elderly and Homeless: America's Next Housing Crisis, a feature article published on September 30, 2020, that, in part, profiles the issues in Arizona.
So, it was with great interest that I read a report on a federal appellate decision, limiting the ability of municipalities to use criminal laws to penalize individuals, in an attempt to discourage or remove people who are living on the streets. The report is by one of Dickinson Law's third year law students, Jacqueline Stryker. She writes in part:
"The city of Boise, Idaho attempted to fight homelessness in the community through a combination of its public camping ordinance and its disorderly conduct ordinance. In Martin v. City of Boise, 920 F.3d 584 (9th Cir. 2019), the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals considered whether the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment bars a city from criminally prosecuting people for sleeping outside on public property when those people have no shelter. The Court concluded that it does. A municipality cannot criminalize people who sleep outside when no sleeping space is practically available in any shelter. "
Ms. Stryker observes in her conclusion, "Whether the decision of the Ninth Circuit in Martin will gain traction a local governments grapple with the growing problem of homelessness and homeless encampments is yet to be seen."
For more of Ms. Stryker's timely, concise case analysis, see: Municipal Efforts to Combat Homelessness.
Tuesday, June 2, 2020
For more than ten years it is probably fair to say that the most ubiquitous appellate "elder law" cases are those involving attempts by nursing homes to compel arbitration, rather than court-based litigation, usually raised as a defense to personal injury suits brought by residents or family members of residents. Admission contracts routinely include mandatory arbitration clauses. Arbitration is often promoted by nursing homes to prospective customers as offering efficient, cost-effective resolution for any disputes; however, seasoned attorneys also know that limiting disputes to arbitration is a means by which care-providers avoid trials by jury, publicly reported trials, and most court-based rules on procedure, rights to discovery and admissibility of evidence.
This month, a California appellate court (Second District, Division 6) ruled that residents of continuing care communities are protected because of California laws interpreted as prohibiting mandatory arbitration in "rental agreements." From the June 1, 2020 opinion in Harris v. University Village Thousand Oaks, CCRC, LLC:
Civil Code section 1953, subdivision (a), states, “Any provision of a lease or rental agreement of a dwelling by which the lessee agrees to modify or waive any of the following rights shall be void as contrary to public policy: [¶] ... [¶] (4) [Their] procedural rights in litigation in any action involving [their] rights and obligations as a tenant.”
... The plain language of Civil Code sections 1940 and 1953 applies to the continuing care contracts here because the fees paid by appellants include payment for the right to live in a residence. Appellants are thus “persons who hire dwelling units.” (Civ. Code, § 1940, subd. (a).) Thus, the protections for “boarders” and “lodgers” (Civ. Code, § 1940, subd. (a)) apply to the “board, or lodging” portions of continuing care contracts (Health & Saf. Code, § 1771, subd. (m)(1)). Because the allegations in the complaint here include claimed violations of “rights and obligations as a tenant” (Civ. Code, § 1953, subd. (a)(4)), the arbitration agreements are void.
The court discussed the reasons legislatures enacted statutory laws to "protect the rights of tenants." It continued:
Elders entering continuing care contracts are entitled to the same protection as mobile home owners. Both groups face significant economic barriers to relocating. The Legislature recognizes that “elderly residents often ... expend a significant portion of their savings in order to purchase care in a continuing care retirement community,” and that there is a need “to protect the rights of the elderly.” (Health & Saf. Code, §§ 1770, subd. (b), 1776.)
The court acknowledged that CCRC residents also have some express statutory protections under state laws regulating CCRCs, but concluded that the lack of any bar on arbitration in that statutory scheme does not preclude protection for residents under landlord-tenant law.
Moreover, the continuing care contract statutes “shall be liberally construed for the protection of persons attempting to obtain or receiving continuing care.” (Health & Saf. Code, § 1775, subd. (e). To deny residents of a continuing care retirement community the protection given others who contract for lodging would be inconsistent with this express policy. The legislative purposes of both the landlord-tenant laws and the continuing care contract laws are best served by applying the arbitration prohibition to the housing component of continuing care contracts.
The full opinion is currently available on Westlaw at 2020 WL 2831923.
Monday, May 18, 2020
In 2011, Joshua R. Wilkins, then a graduating student at Dickinson Law, won one of the top awards for a student writing competition sponsored by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). Joshua wrote about "Consumer Directed Negotiated Risk Agreements." His introduction began:
Negotiated risk in the assisted living context is a largely misunderstood concept. Opponents and proponents of the concept often fail to agree on fundamental concepts underlying negotiated risk. Similarly, states have enacted legislation authorizing or prohibiting what is described as negotiated risk – however those states have defined the concept so differently than other states that it is difficult to understand the concept as a cohesive whole. Negotiated risk can be broadly defined as the shifting of responsibility for certain consequences between the resident and the assisted living facility. Further concepts of definition vary greatly between lawyers and industry actors, and will be discussed later.
As a polestar, the general opinions regarding negotiated risk should be summarized. Opponents of the concept believe that negotiated risk is an illegitimate and unenforceable imposition upon the rights of assisted living residents by facilities attempting to contract away liability for resident injuries. Proponents color negotiated risk as a method for residents to exercise greater control over their living conditions and tailor the services supplied and guidelines imposed by the resident’s facility.
This paper proposes an alternative approach to negotiated risk that incorporates concerns of opponents of negotiated risk, and the selling points of proponents. A consumer directed negotiated risk agreement – one prepared by the resident’s independent attorney, would assist the resident in directing their standard of assisted living, while protecting their interests. A document of this type would require new state legislation authorizing the enforceability of risk shifting, and also delineating the boundaries that such an agreement could be used for. Additional benefits to this type of negotiated risk is that concerns over resident safety and welfare during the admissions process could be addressed without completely overhauling the market-based approach that is a hallmark of assisted living. Also, because residents seeking negotiated risk agreements would have to enlist the aid of an independent attorney, they would be more likely to benefit from advice regarding many other aspects of aging that they may not have otherwise obtained – including Medicaid and estate planning, education about possible exploitation, and review of pertinent resident admissions forms and contracts.
In proposing a consumer-driven approach, Joshua recognized critics' past reasons for opposing "negotiated risk" agreements, including the serious concern that facilities could mandate such "agreement" as an automatic wavier of all appropriate standards for care. That's not true choice. Attorney Eric Carlson, long-known for his advocacy for seniors, wrote an early article, Protecting Rights or Waiving Them? Why 'Negotiated Risk' Should be Removed from Assisted Living Law, Journal of Health Care Law & Policy (2007).
The specific risk that I'm thinking of these days is the risk that attends continued interaction with family members and friends for residents of assisted living or dementia care facilities. Coronavirus is just one of the risks that comes about through such interaction, and certainly the emerging details of facilities that fail to adopt or enforce sound infection control measures are, at best, disturbing even without this particular disease. Further, just because one resident is willing to "accept" risk coming from outside interactions, that doesn't mean the entire resident community would feel the same, and yet their own exposure to the risk increases with every fellow resident's outside contact. And staff members' safety is also impacted by third-party interactions.
Perhaps negotiation of the risk agreement provisions regarding community/family interactions should be made viable only where stronger safeguards can be developed against "casual" infection sources. We have standards for "green" architecture. Are there similar standards for "clean" architecture in senior living settings (and beyond)?
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, email@example.com, 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)
Wednesday, September 25, 2019
Kiplinger recently ran an article, How a Special Needs Trust for Your Child Can Fall Apart, which explains
Parents of disabled children must juggle a lot of responsibilities: work, bills and of course caregiving. But one ball they can’t afford to drop is special needs planning. One wrong move in this complicated ballet balancing benefits and services with asset rules could be disastrous. While every family’s situation is unique, the laws regulating special needs trusts are complex and can require some strategizing by families and trust companies — and if necessary, utilization of available government and nonprofit support programs.
The article reviews the laws, the requirements for a valid third party SNT and highlights one person's experiences, an attorney's advice for the person and advice for parents of children with special needs.
The key takeaway from this story is that it is essential that parents of a disabled child learn about federal, state, local community, charitable and other nonprofit support programs that may help. They must also discuss eligibility rules with relatives who may want to make gifts for the child, leave a share of their estate, include the child in a beneficiary designation for a retirement plan or life insurance or provide other types of in-kind support and maintenance.
Finally, setting up a special needs trust requires planning, legal and financial expertise, and the proper and compassionate administration of a professional trustee.
September 25, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Property Management, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Friday, July 26, 2019
The Pennsylvania Bar hosted our annual Elder Law Institute in Harrisburg on July 18 and 19. One of my favorite parts of the conference every year is the opening session, when Marielle Hazen gives a "year in review" on legislative and regulatory changes, and Rob Clofine does the same for case law. This year, Marielle began with a survey of the audience (250+) and asked attendees about frequency of issues arising in their practices. She asked about Medicaid, Medicare, estate planning, special needs planning and more. The most hands went up when the question was about guardianships. That surprised many at first, but then Rob Clofine also pointed out that several of his "top 10 cases" for the year involved disputes arising in the context of guardianships. As I'm now involved in a very big project about education for guardians in Pennsylvania, the informal survey is another reminder of the growing need for better planning to avoid unnecessary guardianships, as well as the concerns among families that can arise when a guardian must be appointed by a court. I'll write more about these issues and my project soon.
I wasn't able to stay for the whole conference (I really should own stock in Southwest Airlines!), but I did serve as a moderator for a 90-minute session on Continuing Care Retirement Communities in Pennsylvania. Our panelists included attorneys Linda Anderson (addressing topics from the perspective of consumers and their family members), Karen Feather, Special Assistant for Licensing in Pennsylvania's Insurance Department, and Kimber Latsha, who has deep experience representing both for-profit and non-profit CCRCs in Pennsylvania. In addition, in the audience we had Dave Sarcone, Associate Professor of International Business and Management at Dickinson College, who coauthored an article with me earlier in the year about Ongoing Challenges for Pennsylvania Continuing Care and Life Plan Communities. The session proved to be, shall we say, vibrant, with lots of interaction between panel members and the audience, and with fairly strong opinions emerging at times.
Points of strongest interaction included issues surrounding an individual or couple's assets. CCRCs typically use an underwriting process for both health and financial qualifications for applicants seeking to become new residents. Applications require disclosure of "assets" -- and the question was whether that meant "all" assets, or only those the individual or couple believe are needed in order to qualify for admission. One concern is whether an individual is "allowed" to spend "other" assets without seeking permission from the administrators of the CCRC. A similar question arose in connection with "refundable" entrance fees. In states, such as Pennsylvania, without deadlines for refunds, the waiting period can stretch to months or even years. We learned that the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance has recently revisited that fact, and is issuing new guidelines to providers about reasonable waiting periods. I can see another article in my future on these topics.
July 26, 2019 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Housing, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0)
Thursday, February 21, 2019
Kiplinger published a slide show that focuses on reasons why folks may outlive their retirement savings. 15 Reasons You'll Go Broke in Retirement include explanations, some of which are out of an individual's control but most are not. These explanations include: abandoning stocks or investing too heavily into stocks, not saving enough for your anticipated life span, living beyond your means, only having one source of income, not working long enough, getting sick, failing to take state taxes into account, financially supporting the kids, being under-insured, falling victim to a consumer scam, using retirement savings as collateral and lacking a rainy day fund.
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!
Monday, December 17, 2018
University of Cincinnati College of Law Professor of Practice Emerita Marianna Brown Bettman has a very interesting and well-written Blog report on the Ohio Supreme Court's December 12th decision in Embassy Healthcare v. Bell. The issue is under what circumstances a surviving spouse can be held liable for her deceased husband's nursing home costs under a statutory theory of "necessaries." Lots to unpack here.
December 17, 2018 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Estates and Trusts, Ethical Issues, Health Care/Long Term Care, Property Management, State Cases, State Statutes/Regulations | 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 4, 2018
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)
Friday, September 28, 2018
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
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
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)