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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Is a Durable Power of Attorney a "License to Steal"?

A June 5, 2006 BusinessWeek article discusses whether a Durable Power of Attorney is a "License to Steal" from seniors.

In that case, an 87 year old woman had named her son as her attorney-in-fact and a few years later, a few hundred thousand of her hard-earned dollars were now in her son's account - without her permission! The son had "a license to steal", and he used it!

Apparently, "80,000 such cases were reported last year, and more than two-thirds of the victims were defrauded by someone close to them." This is frightening news. What can be done to avoid such situations?

The article suggests that "it's best to start planning before a senior becomes unable to manage the finances. Document in writing such issues as who will have durable power of attorney, who will oversee the accounting of the finances, and what needs to be done if a problem arises. Too often these questions are confronted in times of crisis, and by then it may be too late." Your elder law attorney can help facilitate this entire process to take the stress off you or your loved one.

BusinessWeek suggests: "To prevent such abuse, hire a lawyer to customize the document, recommends Loewy. Make sure it explicitly states what bills and other financial transactions you want the agent to handle. Some states allow agents to make financial gifts to themselves without limit or restriction. Carefully review or delete these clauses.

Insist that the agent not commingle his or her own funds with those of the person granting power of attorney. It makes it easier to monitor the finances. Another safeguard is to notify the bank of any monthly bills to be paid by the agent with power of attorney. Have the bank agree to to alert another family member if there is an attempt to withdraw additional funds.

Even a well-drafted power of attorney is not foolproof. To add additional protection, assign a third-party, preferably a lawyer or other nonfamily member, to review all spending and monthly financial statements."

Friday, June 16, 2006

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Today was the first "World Elder Abuse Awareness Day", launched at UN Headquarters in New York City, which calls for people to wear something purple to show support. This day was established by the INPEA (International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse), which is a standing committee of the International Association of Gerontology (IAG).

According to the INPEA, "[t]he key objective of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) is to raise awareness
of elder abuse (which encompasses neglect and mal- or mistreatment) throughout the

The main message that this organization is trying to promote is to never ignore elder abuse, and they also want to point out that 1) Most elder abuse is hidden; 2) Ageism (age discrimination) is a major cause of elder abuse; 3)Ageism and disempowerment lead to elder abuse being hidden; and 4) Empowering older persons is the most effective tool in the response
to elder abuse.

This day, at the very least, should remind us all that elder abuse happens. It is best to keep an eye out for warning signs and not simply look the other way. See if your community has an elder abuse hotline or other was for you to help anonymously.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Ethical Wills

What in the world is an Ethical Will? You've heard about wills, living wills, and even "Good Will Hunting". An ethical Will is a different animal altogether.

A theme that you'll see in this blog is that estate planning is really about your family, the ones you love. It's not just about how much tax you can save, or how much more money you can pass along by planning. Most important is the impact of all of this on your little girl, or that person who has always been there for you.

In the March 2006 issue of Money Magazine, an article entitled "Leave a Legacy, Live Forever" discussed Ethical Wills.

The article states that more and more Americans are "making sure the money they leave behind does more than pad their progeny's bank accounts."

A traditional will tells the world what you want particular people to have. Billy gets your stock, Bobby gets your art, etc. An Ethical Will tells these people what you want them to know. It can be a personal history, stories, messages about what values you wish them to live by, or anything you wish it to be.

Rather than your grandchildren knowing they will be able to buy a car when they are 16 thanks to the money "PaPa" passed to them, they'll be able to take a spin in that car and read a handwritten note that you created 10 years earlier that tells the story of how you drove a Willy's Jeep in Europe during WWII, and how you hope they will always remember to be humble and thankful for their family, because it was the only thing that kept you going during those tough days. Maybe they'll even buy a Jeep in your honor, to remember you every time they turn the key.

An Ethical Will is something that should be used more than it is. I offer to assist my clients in creating their own, personalized Ethical Will. Why? Because your expression of who you are, what you lived for, and what you believed in will last far longer than the money you pass on - regardless of how many commas are in the figure. You can indeed live forever.


Welcome to the Elder Law and Estate Planning blog.

The purpose of this blog is to discuss issues facing the aging American population and thier loved ones, and hopefully to have a little fun along the way.

If you've reached this page and have a question, please feel free to leave it in a comment, or email me at For information on Ohio Medicaid Planning, Pet Trusts, Special Needs Trusts, Probate, Estate Planning, or Asset Protection, please visit Golowin Legal, LLC.