On Tuesday, October 13th from 4:30pm – 6:30pm, attorney Jesse A. Footlik from Peck Ritchey, LLC, will be speaking at the event “When Dementia Leads to Drama” at the Bethesda Home & Retirement Center. At this event, Jesse will be discussing some of the dramatic and surprising situations that families have experienced after having a family member or loved one diagnosed with dementia. Additionally, he will be discussing some of the legal opportunities that exist to help address these issues.
The event is free, but those wishing to attend need to RSVP to the event by contacting Lecia Szuberla at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (847) 462-0885. Additionally, individuals who are Illinois Social Workers, Registered Nurses, or Nursing Home Administrators can earn 1.0 CE by attending this event. The presentation itself will begin at 5:30pm. Prior to that, there will be time for registration, networking, and a provided dinner.
Once again, our blog draws us into another news story making headlines and reminding us no senior is safe from exploitation.
Forbes contributors Danielle and Andy Mayoras wrote a recent article on L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt being determined mentally unfit to manage her affairs by the French court. Before the ruling, Bettencourt had already been financially exploited, with more than one billion dollars being stolen from her estate by her photographer and close friend. She had also changed her will in the process leaving everything to this close friend and had not been paying taxes on her money. The court appointed Bettencourt’s children to control her estate.
According to the article, Bettencourt is number 15 on Forbe’s billionaires list. Yet, even with all the money in the world to hire attorneys and financial planners- she was taken advantage of. Therefore, lets take a look at some of the obstacles Bettencourt faced, that most seniors do, and how you can protect and prepare yourself.
The person exploiting Bettencourt was a “close friend”
This may come as a suprise to you, but it is not the unknown criminal that is robbing our seniors. Most abuse cases are perpetrated by the people closest to the the senior: caretakers, children, and friends. While you are creating your estate plan, remember: who do you trust to make decisions that are best for YOU and cares more about YOU and YOUR well being rather than your money. Also, update your estate plan every few years- circumstances change!
Bettencourt does not want her daughter to control her estate
No one wants to lose control of making their own decisions. Guardianship trials can often tear families apart deciding whether mom or grandma really needs a guardian – and if so, who should it be? Although the senior you love may not agree with you dragging them into court, keep reminding yourself, and them- it is for their best interest. Also remember, even though you are guardian, you should still consider what your loved one prefers- where does SHE want to live? What would SHE want to do with her money? (i.e. art classes, caregiver preferences.)
Bettencourt changed her will leaving everything to her photographer/close friend
Often a diagnosis of dementia can come AFTER it is revealed that someone has been financially exploited or unduly influenced to change their will. This is where it is imperative that we take a look at the ethics of the attorney who agreed to draft a new estate plan when the creator did not have capacity. Also, who were the witnesses present? These issues all can come up in court during the guardianship trial or even after death in a will contest.
Bettencourt had not been paying taxes on her money
Often without a guardian or power of attorney, seniors with dementia can get into a lot of financial trouble on their own. They can forget to pay their bills, mortgage and/or taxes. If you have a loved one who is independent, you have several options to ensure their finances are being remembered. There are companies you can hire that will work with seniors just to pay bills. Also, a power of attorney for property can also authorize a TRUSTED loved one to assist with finances. If the senior already has dementia, guardianship is the best option to ensure all their financial decisions are taken care of.
*For the full Forbes article, CLICK HERE.
Guardianship law focuses on providing a legal decision maker for a disabled person who cannot make decisions on their own behalf. Guardianship proceedings are most often initiated because the disabled person does not have any power of attorney documents clearly stating their wishes and who they would like to be the decision make should they become incapacitated. For example, if your aging mother is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia and can no longer pay her bills or make medical decisions with her doctor you may want to become guardian so you have the legal authority to make those decisions on her behalf.
If you are considering seeking guardianship of a loved one, you should be working closely with a guardianship lawyer who can advise and guide you through the complex process of becoming a guardian.
The Doctor’s Report
To begin the guardianship process, the first document the attorney will ask you to complete in Illinois is a physician’s report. This report, created by the court, allows the disabled person’s primary physician to detail the extent of their disability and confirm that they are in need of an alternate decision maker. The guardianship attorney will often ask you to have the doctor complete the form prior to your initial consultation.
Choosing the Guardian
When determining who should serve as guardian you need to consider the preferences of the disabled person and what will be best for them. Although a family member is always preferable, you need to consider location (obviously if someone lives in another state they would not be preferred), and most importantly: who the disabled person is close with, enjoys being around and trusts. Also consider whether or not the guardian would have the time and energy to devote to the disabled person. If there are no eligible candidates within the disabled person’s close circle, there are professional guardians who can step in this role.
How a Guardianship Attorney Can Help
The court system can seem like another planet to a non-attorney. Petitioning for guardianship is a stressful decision in itself, as you are often worried about your elderly loved ones safety and well being. To ensure the process goes as smoothly and quickly as possible you should consider hiring a guardianship attorney who knows the law, has years of experience petitioning for guardianship (and has probably been appointed a guardian ad litem in the past) and knows the judges.
The elder law attorney will also have referrals in the senior community in order to create a multi-disciplinary team to advocate on the disabled person’s behalf, such as doctors, geriatric care managers, social workers, nurses, and/or long-term care or in-home care companies. By having this complete team available for the disabled person, the potential guardian can lay down a concrete plan to present to the judge to prove they are the best for the job.
If you’re already the legal guardian for another person, you may still want to consult with an elder law attorney to ensure you follow proper legal procedure in managing the disabled person’s personal and financial affairs. Chicago estate planning lawyers with litigation experience are valuable allies because they understand how to set up a guardianship properly in order to avoid unpleasant and expensive litigation surrounding an estate. They can also minimize the distress and cost of battling a guardianship issue in court if a problem arises down the road.
This weekend Peck Ritchey has several big events to share with our readers as we reach out to the community to advocate, raise awareness and educate.
THIS SATURDAY, September 11th, join Peck Ritchey as it proudly sponsors the Chicago Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk for the third year. We can’t say it any better than the Alzheimer’s Association: “With more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, and nearly 10 million more serving as caregivers, the time to act is now!” And World Alzheimer’s Day is September 21st so start your advocacy now!
In addition to the inspiring 5K walk down the Chicago lakefront, all of our team mates will receive a free autographed copy of Alzheimer’s Early Stages: First Steps for Family, Friends and Caregivers, written by our colleague Dan Kuhn of the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Illinois Chapter. For more information on this event, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website or contact Kate Konieczny, Marketing Coordinator, at email@example.com.
THIS SUNDAY, September 12th, at 10:30 a.m., from the comfort of your home,while you are reading your morning paper and sipping on some coffee, listen in to Radio 750AM where Kerry Peck will chat live on “The Legal Forum” radio show about wills, trusts and estate planning.
Get questions answered such as:
- What are the general building blocks of estate planning every person should have- regardless of income?
- What is going on with the estate tax?
- What is the difference between a living will and a power of attorney for healthcare and what will happen if I don’t have one?
A busy weekend for us, but we hope you can join us!