With July less than a week away, it’s time for our monthly edition of elder law news and developments. For the June review, there’s politics, planning, and some very, very special pets.
June 14 was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and President Biden issued a proclamation to “highlight the signs of this crisis, lift up the voices of survivors, and strive to improve resources for those on a path to healing.” The statement listed various administration initiatives including strengthening Adult Protective Services and the Violence Against Women Act. A proclamation is of course meaningless, but it all sounds nice.
Here in Arizona, a report from the FBI showed our state had 3,543 victims of elder fraud in 2022 — the fifth highest in the country. Ahead of us: California, Florida, Texas, and New York. In response, Attorney General Kris Mayes’ office will create a new department, the Elder Affairs Unit, devoted to handling cases where seniors are abused and defrauded. Only time will tell if that’s meaningless, too.
SB1291 Becomes Law
Meanwhile, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs signed SB1291, a bill that includes two provisions that many believe might put the vulnerable among us at higher risk. The new provision, to take effect in September, creates a new kind of relationship called “supported decision-making” for people with disabilities and revamps rules for guardianships and conservatorships. These bills will have a real impact on state protective proceedings, and many practitioners believe it will not be in a good way.
Two interesting Court of Appeals decisions this month suggest that journalists are trying to dig into the effectiveness of agencies serving vulnerable Arizonans. Freelancer Amy Silverman and the Arizona Daily Star sought records from agencies governing APS and ALTCS and ran into roadblocks. Lower court judges ruled to release records in the APS case and sided with the ALTCS on the other. The Court of Appeals remanded both for additional findings.
Estates & Planning
Trusts are not just for wealthy people; they have benefits for a lot of different circumstances. This article from Fortune explains various options. It also suggests that trust are easy to create with online tools; we have to say that’s not something we would recommend. Here’s a similar Fortune piece on wills.
Once your estate plan is finalized, if you really want things to go smoothly for your agents and executors, consider one more document: a letter of instruction.
Everyone who has a formal estate plan should review it from time to time. (How about half way through the year in June?). This article says that’s a four-step process. We would add an important fifth: check all your beneficiary designations.
Another Asset of Concern: Art
Clients who own artwork might have reason to be concerned. There’s a lot of stolen art out there. Even if purchased from a reputable dealer or inherited decades ago, stolen works are subject to seizure and repatriation. This possibility should be taken into account in estate planning. It’s a good idea to establish provenance, if possible. Speaking of pilfered artwork, one dealer’s estate has agreed to pay out $12 million and return stolen items to settle a lawsuit.
And the June review turned up some special planning considerations for business owners (btw, one survey suggests most would rather not pass the business on to children); LGBTQ+ couples; parents of minor children; and digital assets (consider a special executor for digital stuff).
Aging & Care
Paying for long-term care is a worry for many. Now, a handful of states are trying to come up with solutions. First is Washington State. In July, it starts the WA Cares Fund, a public long-term care insurance program. California is considering a similar plan. Minnesota and several other states are studying options. New York Times looked at recent developments.
In the meantime, steps can be taken to protect assets from being spent on long-term care, though all have downsides.
Rich & Famous Roundup
The tussle over Lisa Marie Presley’s estate has been resolved. Lisa Marie’s daughter Riley Keough has become the sole trustee of the estate. To do so, she’ll pay her grandmother Priscilla Presley a $1 million lump-sum payment plus $400,000 in legal fees. Priscilla sued to contest the most recent changes to Lisa Marie’s estate plan, and the settlement clears the way for the estate to proceed.
An elder abuse investigation is under way concerning Good Times actor John Amos. The daughter of the 83-year-old Amos claims a caregiver exploited him, but Amos says it’s his daughter who is the problem.
Former first lady Rosalynn Carter has dementia; zookeeper Jack Hannah is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease; and Bruce Willis’s daughter Tallulah writes about struggles with her father’s condition
Highlight of the Month
Our favorite estate story from June comes from Florida. An 84-year-old woman’s will provided that her seven cats were to remain in her residence until the last of them died. (The cat pictured above isn’t actually one of them.) Each also was to receive an inheritance. Their owner thought her pets would struggle if separated. But her wishes will not be realized. A judge ruled that the cats must be placed. However, the local humane society will try to place as many of them together as possible. Her will alone was not the best method for this type of planning; animals cannot receive an inheritance. She might have had better luck with a trust, though even then, the idea might have been deemed impracticable.