Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Older Americans Robbed Of $20 Billion A Year by People They Know

Estate planningThe improper or illegal use of older adult's funds, property, or assets is "elder financial exploitation." It often goes unreported, and in 88% of cases, the victim knows the individual who is exploiting them. 

The AARP Public Policy Institute conducted a study in 2022 which concluded that the rate of financial exploitation has doubled since COVID-19 sent the world into lockdown in March 2020, fueled by the pandemic's social isolation. Most older victims do not get their money back, which can impact the entire family if loved ones contribute more money to care for their family members. 

For more information see Suzanne Wooley “Older Americans Robbed of $20 Billion A Year by People They Know” Financial Advisor, June 15, 2023.

Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

June 27, 2023 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

A Story of Dementia: The Mother Who Changed

AlzheimersA bitter family dispute in Iowa hinged on one crucial question: When cognitive decline from dementia changes someone's personality, should we respect their new desires?

Diane Norelius of Denison, Iowa, was the center of a heated legal dispute between her daughters and her new beau over her cognitive abilities and capacity after being diagnosed with dementia in 2017.

Norelius was the sole beneficiary of a trust after her husband of 53 years passed away. After his death, Diane became tasked with making significant financial decisions for the first time in her entire life. Daunted by the task, she asked her daughter Juli to be the trustee of the Diane F. Norelius Trust. This arrangement worked for several years until Diane's personality began to change.

She found love again with a horseshoer named Denzil, and Juli began to receive questions about how the trust was being handled. Denzil tells the story of a woman finding her voice and taking control of her life. Yet her daughters describe the abusive situation of an incapacitated woman being taken advantage of.  

This article explores the emotional and legal journey of a family to discover when someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s loses their decision-making capacity and how this impacts the estate planning process.

For more information see Katie Engelhart “A Story of Dementia: The Mother Who Changed” The New York Times Magazine, May 9, 2023.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention. 

May 17, 2023 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 20, 2023

Journal of Elder Policy -- New Issue Released and a Call for Papers

The just published copy of the fifth issue of the Journal of Elder Policy was a special issue relating to older adults' access to health care and provider-patient interactions in later life. The issue can be viewed online here.

Autonomy in Later Life 

Invitation to Submit a paper for the Journal of Elder Policy, Issue 7, Summer 2023
Editor-in-Chief: Eva Kahana PhD, Distinguished University Professor,

Department of Sociology, Case Western Reserve University
Abstracts of 500 words are due by March 1, 2023
Full papers (8000 -10000 words) are due by May 1, 2023.

Older adults are more diverse and active than ever. Despite this, many portrayals and stereotypes of older adults allude to their dependence on others. While later life does tend to come with unique challenges (e.g. health issues, functional impairment), older adults tend to be far more proactive and adaptive than society (and research) gives them credit for.

This issue of the Journal of Elder Policy seeks to explore issues related to autonomy in later life.

We welcome both empirical (qualitative and quantitative) and conceptual papers from diverse disciplines with an emphasis on policy implications.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Meaningful employment in later life (new or continuing)
  • Finding new directions in retirement
  • Relocation in later life
  • New relationships in later life
  • Managing identity when having to rely on others due to illness/functional impairments
  • Shifts in family dynamics (e.g. adult children attempting to manage care/finances, suggestions of downsizing)
  • Speaking up in health care contexts
  • Adaptation to widowhood in later life

Authors should send a 500-word abstract related to their paper by March 1, 2023 to Managing Editor, Kaitlyn Langendoerfer, PhD ([email protected]).

​The Journal of Elder Policy is an Open Access Journal sponsored by Policy Studies Organization. There is no publication fee. All articles will be peer-reviewed. More information about the Aims and Scope of the journal and previous issues can be found here: https://journalofelderpolicy.org/   

Please contact Prof. Naomi Cahn at [email protected] or Prof. Nina A Kohn at [email protected] if you have any questions or concerns.

January 20, 2023 in Elder Law, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Ring v. Harmon (2021)

Estate planning
In Ring v. 
Harmon, the Court of Appeal in California considered "an alleged loan scheme to drain equity out of a house held in a probate estate." 

When Awana Ring was 80 years old, she lost her daughter Vickie Atiyeh. Vickie left Awana a house when she passed away. According to Awana, her son and grandson developed a scheme to "swipe much of the equity in the house—an inside job without outside help. "

Awana's son Scott and grandson Zachary collaborated with a loan broker to pushed Away to be appointed as personal representative of Vickie's estate, and then baited Away into taking out a predatory loan at a rate of 10.99 percent. "Scott and Zachary took the loan proceeds for themselves while the loan broker received fees and an income stream on the loan." 

Although the San Bernardino County Superior Court found that Awana only had claims as a personal representative of Vickie's estate, since it was in that capacity that she received the loan. However, the Court of Appeal found that Awana's "dual position" as both personal representative and beneficiary was a "special circumstance that justified allowing her to sue based on her beneficial interest in the estate." 

See Ring v. Harmon (2021) (Cal.App.5th). 

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

December 30, 2021 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, New Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 12, 2021

Digital Health’s Newest Unicorn Provides Lonely People With A ‘Family On Demand’

Estate planningMore than a quarter of the U.S. population—and 28% of seniors—live alone. Social isolation can create serious health effects like raising the risk of heart disease or stroke, which is estimated to cost the federal government $6.7 billion a year.

Andrew Parker's grandfather needed help with groceries and rides to doctors appointments, but Parker was unavailable to help his grandfather with these tasks. Parker decided to turn to Facebook, on which he posted, "Who wants to be a pal to my PaPa?" 

Since that post several years ago, Parker has been helping seniors and low-income families "get access to companionship and help around the house as the cofounder and CEO of PaPa—and it's being reimbursed by insurers." 

In describing what the company's purpose is Parker stated, "We drive you to the doctor. We help you around the house. We teach you these computers. We engage you with your health. We take you on walks."

Papa is contracted with more than 65 health plans to send what the company calls "PaPa Pals" into people's homes. However, PaPa is not limited to seniors, as the company also works with Medicaid Plans for low-income families and with employers as a benefit for family caregivers. 

See Katie Jennings, Digital Health’s Newest Unicorn Provides Lonely People With A ‘Family On Demand’, Forbes, November 4, 2021. 

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

November 12, 2021 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 24, 2021

Article: Study Paper on Health Care Consent and Capacity Assessment Tribunals

The British Columbia Law Institute and the Canadian Centre for Elder Law recently published an article entitled, Study Paper on Health Care Consent and Capacity Assessment Tribunals, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law ejournal (2021). Provided below is the abstract to the Article: Estate planning

A finding of mental incapacity to give informed consent to health care, or to decide whether to accept or refuse admission to a care facility, results in a very significant loss of personal autonomy. A mature legal system must provide a readily accessible means to obtain review of a finding of incapacity by an independent decision-making body. This imperative has been accentuated by Canada’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

British Columbia once experimented with an administrative tribunal as a forum for review of decisions about mental capacity to consent to health care, and for resolution of disputes connected with substitute decision-making. The experiment was aborted well before reliable conclusions could be drawn about its merits.

At the present time, British Columbia nominally provides a mechanism for review of incapacity assessments, and of health care or care facility admission decisions of substitute decision makers, by application to the Supreme Court. In the course of the Canadian Centre for Elder Law’s project on Health Care Consent, Aging and Dementia: Mapping Law and Practice in British Columbia, it came to light that the court-based remedy is not utilized to any extent. In all likelihood, this is because it is inaccessible as a practical matter to most persons whose mental capacity is in question and their supporters.

A recommendation by the Advisory Committee on Health Care, Consent, Aging and Dementia called on government to consider the restoration of a non-court review mechanism, and for robust research to shed light on a model that would be appropriate for British Columbia.

This study paper is a response to that call for research. It examines existing tribunals in Canada and Australia that deal with mental capacity and consent to health care, and analyzes issues and considerations that would enter into the design of a tribunal suited to British Columbia. In so doing, the study paper lays groundwork for the public policy exercise that it is hoped will follow to bring a truly accessible non-court review mechanism into being in the health sector.

September 24, 2021 in Articles, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Seeking Early Signals of Dementia in Driving and Credit Scores

AlzheimersLearning your odds of eventually developing dementia requires medical testing and counseling. However, everyday behavior may provide early warning signs of dementia. Examples of this everyday behavior include overlooking a couple of credit card payments, habitually braking while driving, and others. 

According to Sayeh Bayat, the lead author of a driving study funded by the National Institutes of Health and conducted at Washington University in St. Louis, "[e]arly detection is key for intervention, at the stage when that would be most effective." 

These efforts could help "identify potential volunteers for clinical trials, researchers say, and help protect older people against financial abuse and other dangers." 

Many once-promising dementia drugs have failed int rials, which researchers suggest may be due to the drugs being administered too late to be helpful. 

By identifying risks earlier, before the brain has sustained a great amount of damage, researchers could more easily find a pool of participants with "preclinical" Alzheimer's disease. Researchers could then test preventive measures or treatments.

See Paula Span, Seeking Early Signals of Dementia in Driving and Credit Scores, N.Y. Times, August 23, 2021. 

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

August 26, 2021 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 23, 2021

‘Grandfamily’ Housing Caters to Older Americans Raising Children

Estate planningWhen Jackie Lynn's niece gave birth to a baby who was addicted to heroin, Ms. Lynn had to take immediate action. 

Although Ms. Lynn's parenting days were apparently over since her two children had been on their own for 14 years. However, Ms. Lynn stepped in to care for her niece's 5 children when her niece pursued treatment. This required Ms. Lynn to move to Oregon from Washington State, which required her to take a pay cut, despite her expenses increasing. 

“The kids were there. They needed me,” Ms. Lynn, now 67, said. “It’s not like you can choose to walk away from something like that.”

For almost a year, Ms. Lynn rented an apartment and commuted almost four hours a day between child care and work. Ms. Lynn adopted three of the children, while two others moved in with other relatives. 

It was just when Ms. Lynn was "at her breaking point" when a child welfare worker told her about Bridge Meadows. Bridge Meadows is a "multigenerational housing community for older adults with low incomes, adoptive families or 'grandfamilies'—with a grandparent, adult family member or friend raising a child." 

Ms. Lynn eventually moved into Bridge Meadows. 

Communities like Bridge Meadows are becoming more and more popular as older Americans are seeking out "grand family housing." "Roughly 2.7 million children are being raised in grand families, and communities like Bridge Meadows "aim to provide stable housing." 

See Carly Stern, ‘Grandfamily’ Housing Caters to Older Americans Raising Children, N.Y. Times, August 19, 2021. 

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

August 23, 2021 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 16, 2021

Trailblazing 'Star Trek' Actress Nichelle Nichols At The Center Of Conservatorship Battle

NicholsStar Trek actress Nichelle Nichols has found herself in a situation strikingly similar to Britney Spears. Nichols is currently in a conservatorship struggle that involves her only child, Kyle Johnson, her former manager Gilbert Bell, and a concerned friend, Angelique Fawcette—who Nichols named as her successor). 

Nichelle Nichols is known for breaking the color barrier in television in the 1960s with her role as Lt. Nyota Uhura in Star Trek. 

Similar to Britney Spears, Nichols' conservatorship battle is "raising public consciousness about conservatorships." Nichols' former agent and her concerned friend have taken steps to intervene because they feel that "Nichols is being denied the opportunity to live a life free of unwarranted restrictions." 

A specific catalyst for the conservatorship struggle is Nichols' dementia. Nichols' son, Kyle Johnson, claims that his mother could be "exploited due to her mental instability" and sought a petition for her conservatorship three years ago. 

In August of 2018, Fawcette filed an objection to Johnson's petition in which she argued that Nichols was still of sound mind and body and was capable of managing both her personal and financial affairs with some limited assistance. 

Fawcette also alleged that Johnson is simply using the conservatorship to take advantage of his mother by abusing his role to access Nichols' income and personal possessions. 

In 2019, Johnson was appointed conservator of his mother's estate, which Bell quickly opposed. 

The conservatorship battle continues, while Nichols' condition is unclear—at least to the public. 

See Okla Jones, Trailblazing 'Star Trek' Actress Nichelle Nichols At The Center Of Conservatorship Battle, Essence, August 16, 2021. 

Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

August 16, 2021 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Older Singles Have Found a New Way to Partner Up: Living Apart

WidowLinda Randall, a Chicago psychotherapist, became a widow in 2016 but began to have romantic feelings for someone else about three years later. Linda had dated the man when she was in her 20s and had reconnected with him as a friend in 2015.

Linda was taken aback when she began to feel romantic feelings with this man. According to Linda, "[h]e was not in great shape. . .He'd had two heart attacks and two stents. I thought a lot about what to do." 

After dating for more than a year, the couple expressed their mutual love for one another. However, when the man asked to move in with her, Linda declined. Linda stated that "[h]e was hurt at first. . .but I like my space, and we're different in how we live." 

Less than a year ago, when he underwent surgery and needed recuperative care, Linda hired a live-in caregiver for him. While he was recuperating, his caregiver would walk him over to Linda's place. As the couple's intimacy continues, he can now manage on his own with his walker and he and Linda spend weekends together at Linda's place when his caregiver is off. 

As social relationships and social norms evolve, older people like Linda Randall are "increasingly re-partnering in various forms." Cohabitation following divorce and widowhood is an area where things are becoming what some may call "non-traditional." 

Older adults that are seeking and finding love as an "antidote to loneliness" may fear that "a romantic attachment in later life will shortly lead to full-time caregiving." 

This fear may very well lead older adults to avoid romantic relationships later in life, and may look to their friends and families for that fix. 

See Francine Russo, Older Singles Have Found a New Way to Partner Up: Living Apart, N.Y. Times, July 16, 2021. 

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.  

July 18, 2021 in Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0)