Thursday, March 3, 2011

Awareness and changes to deal with elder abuse

I have taken a couple months off from posting and now I have a lot of catching up to do.

Although elder abuse has gotten attention and legislation in recent years, it appears to be on the rise still.

As reported in the New York Times "New Old Age" blog, a federal report highlights the inadequacies of adult protective services around the country.

One possible bright light:
The chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, Senator Herb Kohl, Democrat of Wisconsin, reintroduced the Elder Abuse Victims Act at Wednesday's hearing. The bill would establish an office of elder justice within the federal Justice Department charged with protecting the elderly by strengthening law enforcement responses to abuse.

A good start, but other measures are in order as well. Definitely a topic for future posts!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Counselors, don your capes...

Too often attorneys (at least certain breeds of attorneys) behave like their mission is to save the world. Now, a recently established blog combines legal issues and superheros, as noted in this New York Times piece.

Although the blog considers the application of real-world law to imaginary comic-book situations, the authors have a semi-serious angle:

"I think we both hope the blog has a certain educational component," such as insight into the thought process of attorneys in dealing with legal problems, says one of the two bloggers.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Estate planning for digital assets

As our lives, or at least our personal information, become more electronic and computer-based, many people begin to wonder about the digital information they have stored on computers, websites, or "in the cloud." Recently, a client asked about who owns those assets after his death, how intellectual property rights were determined, and who had authority to access his information after he was gone.

All good questions and topics for consideration. Up until now, many of us attorneys advising clients simply shrugged and thought "don't we have more important things to deal with." However, a person's digital information may be very valuable, either setimentally or even financially.

The December 2010 issue of Wisconsin Lawyer, contains this excellent article examining issues and ideas related to dealing with one's digital assets, especially after one's death. A couple basic options include leaving a list or instructions about your information for your family members to follow after your death. A second, legal option may be to leave a list, that is incorporated into your will, and will be honored in the same way as a list of tangible personal property.

Review of guide for gay and lesbian couples

My book review of Nolo publisher's "A Legal Guide for Lesbian and Gay Couples" appears in the December 2010 issue of Wisconsin Lawyer. In summary, the guide gives some basic information for couples or attorneys, but sometimes the information is a bit outdated or better available elsewhere, like specialized online sources. Because the guide is written for a lay reader, it is probably not very useful for attorneys (who are the reading audience of my review) unless it is used as a very basic starting point for understanding issues for lesbian and gay couples.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Paying for long-term care

In these tough economic times, who wants to think of one more discretionary expense to add to the monthly budget? But, as this piece in the New York Times discusses, future long-term care costs for an individual could exceed $1 Million!

Long-term care insurance has been around for several decades, yet many people roll the dice as to whether they purchase it or not. Besides the statistics of one's chances of needed expensive nursing home care, the article also looks at the reasons we often choose not to obtain such protection.

While some excuses for not having insurance are incorrect or somewhat inaccurate (e.g, thinking Medicare will pay (which it doesn't), expecting our own savings to be sufficient, and counting on family members to care for us), "there is also a great deal of justified skeptism about the long-term care insurance industy."

On that skeptical side, some insurance companies are looking at raising their premiums by double-digit increases.

Wisconsin's Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) has a helpful guide on its website. Furthermore, Wisconsin is one of a number of states that offers Long-Term Care Insurance Partnership program to encourage the purchase of long-term care insurance by offering greater asset limits for Medicaid coverage. Search the OCI website for more information on all related topics.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mediating disputes involving elders

The New York Times' blog, "The New Old Age," is very helpful with topics related to care, health, and family issues of aging. Recently, the topic was settling disputes involving elders through mediation. While mediation has been used for many years for family law or labor law disputes, it is blossoming into a new specialty for issues of aging. Issues may present in any of a number of relationships: among children of an elderly parent, between an elder and a caregiver, between an elder and a child.

I previously posted about elder law mediation as presented in a public radio story.

The post from "The New Old Age" includes these cautions and suggestions for families who may be considering mediation for such a dispute:

A mediator generally should be trained in such subjects as the physical and mental effects of aging and how to communicate effectively with the elderly. But in a field with no national credentialing and no standard approach, potential clients should be wary before asking an outsider to sit in on a dispute.

Start with National Eldercare Mediation Network, . . . which posts profiles of elder mediators in all 50 states. Another Web site,, also allows prospective clients to search elder mediators by state.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Aiming for 100+

The New York Times recently ran a story about living to age 100 and beyond. The centenarians who were interviewed were examples of good living, good luck, and good outlooks. Referring to several studies, the article reviewed the usual reasons for longevity--genetics (although not as big a factor as many might guess), caring for one's health, and a positive attitude.

As one 99-year-old interviewee put it, “I am blessed and I’ve worked on it. You’ve got to work, be cheerful and look for something fun to do. It’s a whole attitude. "

Last year, I posted about a collection of stories from diverse and interesting centenarians.

Monday, October 18, 2010

More on financial powers of attorney

As of September 1, 2010, Wisconsin has an all-new financial power of attorney law--new statutes and new state form. I introduced the new legislative act shortly after it became effective, and I will include more detailed posts about various aspects of the law.

For an extensive explanation, see this article in the June 2010 Wisconsin Lawyer magazine (the Wisconsin state bar's official publication). I wrote the article's sidebar about the new law's state form.

Powers of attorney must be on people's minds lately. See this "ask the expert" column from the New York Times' blog about aging. Although the answer to the question may be correct in some states, it is not entirely correct under Wisconsin's new law. In Wisconsin, coagents can act independently unless the power of attorney specifies otherwise. As in most cases, legal questions have many nuances and an inquiry with an attorney in the relevant state is very helpful.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Who will draft your will?

There are many options for prepare one's will and other estate planning documents. And, of course, many do-it-yourself options are less expensive than paying an attorney a few hundred (or even a few thousand) dollars to do that for you. In that vein, consider this essay about will-preparation software from the New York Times. When the writer tried four different software programs to draft her own will, she got mixed results--some perfectly acceptable, but some not so much.

In the end, the documents themselves are only part of the picture, whether you prepare your own estate planning documents or have an attorney draft them for you. The BIGGEST benefit of having an attorney assist with estate planning is the ADVICE. Legal counsel is especially important in complex situations like remarriage, potentially disagreeable family members, or a likely beneficiary with disabilities. An attorney provides the options, answers, and information for planning how one's estate will be handled and how surviving family members will be provided for. Then, the document drafting follows the conversation, with documents to carry out the plan.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wisconsin's new Power of Attorney Act

As of September 1, 2010, Wisconsin has a new financial power of attorney act. Of course, you should be excited, at least if you are a certain segment of the legal profession in the state. After only a week, it seems that the new law will have attorneys advising clients and preparing documents differently. Articles, list serv discussions, and actual work for clients have us thinking through the range of possibilities.

Because the new law is so extensive, I will break up my comments on it into several topics. For now, I will simply link to the new chapter in the Wisconsin Statutes. (Just for comparison, the new law has an entire chapter in the statutes, where the predecessor statute was only a couple sections amounting to just a few pages.)