Elder Law Issues
APRIL 4, 2005 VOLUME 12, NUMBER 40 By most reports Terri Schiavo was a shy and quiet woman, and she might well have been distressed if she had anticipated that the process of her dying would become such a public spectacle. Much has been written about her, her family, her wishes, her condition, and the
MAY 31, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 48 In 1994 and again in 1997, Oregon voters approved the first law permitting physician-assisted suicide in the U.S. In each of the six years since the law was implemented, about 30 terminally ill Oregon residents have used the “Death With Dignity” Act to end their lives with the
MAY 24, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 47 Revocable living trusts have become immensely popular for estate planning in the past few decades. Once used primarily for commercial endeavors (like railroads, steel manufacturing and the like) and management of the assets of only the wealthiest families, trusts have in recent years become commonplace. As a result,
MAY 17, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 46 Two recent appellate court cases illustrate different aspects of the law’s response to abuse and exploitation of seniors. Taken together the two cases underscore that protection of vulnerable seniors can be a priority of the legal system. The first case tested California’s law on elder abuse, which permits
MAY 10, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 45 Carmen DiCesare, age 82, may have been a little confused when he visited the local branch of Prudential Savings Bank in south Philadelphia that day in August, 2000. By the time he left the bank he had made major changes in his estate plan, and the bank’s branch
MAY 3, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 44 Elder Law Issues addressed concerns relating to older drivers in two issues published in October, 2002 (“What Can Be Done About Driving Skills As We Age?” and “Dealing With Impaired Driving Skills in Aging Family Members“). Since then, much media attention has been focused on aging drivers, principally
APRIL 26, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 43 When LPNs Diane Owens and Alisa Main were fired from their jobs with Fayetteville Health and Rehabilitation Center in April, 2000, they were sure their dismissals were retribution. Ms. Owens and Ms. Main had each complained to Kristy Unkel, the Director of Nursing, about the care provided by
APRIL 19, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 42 Edmund Gernannt suffered from dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. Confusion and agitation sometimes combined in Mr. Gernannt to make him combative. While most Alzheimer’s patients can be easily redirected and ultimately calmed, Mr. Gernannt’s aggressive tendencies got him committed to the county hospital in Bergen Pines, New Jersey.
APRIL 12, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 41 Kathryn Gordon’s will named her sister, Nancy Molet, to handle her estate. Based on that will Ms. Molet was appointed as personal representative. Like most individuals in such circumstances, Ms. Molet hired an attorney to help her get through the probate process. Eventually Phoenix attorney Harvey Finks billed
APRIL 5, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 40 A Florida court found Alvarado Kelly incompetent in 1960, and appointed a guardian to manage his property. Fifteen years later Mr. Kelly moved to a facility in Mississippi operated by Sarah Cuevas; he lived in that facility until his death twenty five years later. After his death Mr.
MARCH 29, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 39 Thomas A. Smith had two daughters from his first marriage and two step-children from his second wife. In 1996, shortly after his second wife’s death, he changed the beneficiary designation on a $100,000 life insurance policy so that the four children would share the policy proceeds equally. In
MARCH 22, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 38 Claude Baldwin, Jr., prepared a living trust to avoid probate of his estate. His trust directed a distribution to be made at his death to his sister Bernice Branch. The trust was silent as to what would happen if Ms. Branch died first. Of course Mr. Baldwin could
MARCH 15, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 37 Louise Friar worried about what would happen to her modest estate if she ever needed to go into a nursing home. She owned her home, and she had two certificates of deposit that represented her life savings. Whether she got the idea from friends, professional advisors, her own
MARCH 8, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 36 In June 2001, four national advocacy organizations and an individual plaintiff sued Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Tommy Thompson. The lawsuit sought the court’s help to force Secretary Thompson to follow the law’s requirement that comparative written information about what participating Medicare+Choice
MARCH 1, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 35 When a recipient of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid benefits receives money, the benefits may be reduced or even terminated. That is why most parents of children with a disability should consider establishing a “special needs” trust to handle any inheritance or gifts. Making the decision to
FEBRUARY 23, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 34 It makes sense that someone seeking to qualify for public benefits would want to argue that they do not have assets available to them. Sometimes, however, an applicant will want to argue that more assets are available, as Charles Smith and his wife did—unsuccessfully. Mr. Smith, an Arizona
FEBRUARY 16, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 33 In 1999 the Platte County, Missouri, courts appointed a guardian of the person and conservator of the estate for Linda Werner. Because of her schizophrenia and her resulting difficulty in making responsible decisions the court decided that Janet Waddell, the county’s “public administrator,” should handle Ms. Werner’s personal
FEBRUARY 9, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 32 When someone in a nursing home qualifies for Medicaid, he or she will usually still have to pay a portion of the nursing home bill. In some cases this can mean that the resident must pay more than his or her income—or risk eviction from the nursing home.
FEBRUARY 2, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 31 Although it is important to plan your estate, it is sometimes not enough just to prepare important documents and make reasonable decisions. It is also critical to select a reliable person to administer that estate. While family members may be the best choice, things may not always work
JANUARY 26, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 30 When the courts appoint a guardian or conservator to handle an individual’s personal and/or financial affairs, the subject of those proceedings loses virtually all of his or her autonomy and independence. At least that’s the way things have worked for centuries. In recent years, however, the guardianship system
JANUARY 19, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 29 Edmond and Elma Crittell befriended Violet Houssien and, according to Ms. Houssien’s family, set about getting the older woman to write a new will. Some of the evidence in the later will contest proceeding indicated that they may have even forged her signature on the will and, in
JANUARY 12, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 28 Last week Elder Law Issues described how a “Special Needs” trust can be used to protect the beneficiary’s access to public benefits programs like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid (in Arizona, AHCCCS or ALTCS). There is one glaring problem with Special Needs trusts just now in Arizona,
JANUARY 5, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 27 Joseph is eighteen years old and requires total care. He has been in his current condition, unable to speak or move and unresponsive to most stimuli, for five years. His family believes his condition is a result of improper treatment he received during a hospital stay, and lawyers
DECEMBER 29, 2003 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 26 Laura F. is a 28-year-old autistic woman. She has always lived with her parents, and they have provided for her care. In the past decade she has worked several part-time jobs at sheltered workshops, but she has never held a full-time job, never even earned minimum wage, and
DECEMBER 22, 2003 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 25 Many of our clients have a visceral reaction to the idea that they might be “kept alive by machines” after they are no longer able to make health care decisions for themselves. That is why they sign “advance directives” like health care powers of attorney and living wills.
DECEMBER 15, 2003 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 24 Sherri K. apparently thought her stepfather Clifford H. (the court opinion does not disclose family names) needed protection. She asked the California courts to appoint her as conservator, and she alleged that there was an emergency requiring immediate action. Without giving notice to her stepfather or other family
DECEMBER 8, 2003 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 23 It is a common problem facing lawyers and litigants. What can be done if one of the parties to a lawsuit is a minor, or an incapacitated adult? Who makes decisions about the litigation if one party lacks legal capacity to handle their own financial and personal decisions?
DECEMBER 1, 2003 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 22 With the U.S. Senate’s approval of sweeping new Medicare provisions the public discussion has focused on whether the changes will be good for the program, its beneficiaries and the nation as a whole. Much controversy has also centered on the politics of the changes—including whether Republicans or Democrats
NOVEMBER 24, 2003 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 21 Sherry Zachary was sure that her brother Raymond had taken advantage of their mother. She was so sure that she hired California lawyers John L. Guth and Jeffrey T. Stromberg to file a lawsuit against Raymond. Eventually Raymond sued the lawyers—though not successfully. The first lawsuit filed by
NOVEMBER 17, 2003 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 20 While in Via Christi’s St. Francis Hospital in Wichita, Kansas, for tests, Lyle Rose fell out of his bed and hit his head. He suffered a subdural hematoma (a blood clot in the brain) and developed other complications. He stayed in the hospital for over a month, but