Earlier this week, on December 7, Congress passed the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act, the bill awaits approval by the president. This will be a great benefit to many people with disabilities who have their own money, perhaps through an inheritance or a gift. This bill amends a section of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1396p(d)(4)(A)) to allow individuals with disabilities under the age of 65 to establish their own supplemental needs trusts. Previously only a parent, grandparent, guardian or a court could set up such a trust with a person's own money, because the law mistakenly presumed that persons with special needs did not have the mental capacity to do it themselves. President Obama is expected to sign it and it will be effective immediately.
The topic of financial abuse has been in the news quite a bit lately, a testament to the increasing awareness of the problem. Financial exploitation of disabled and older adults has always been a problem, but as the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, the number of incidents will grow.
Some good suggestions for protecting your future older self can be found in a recent Wall Street Journal's article by Anna Prior which appeared in the January 2-3, 2016 paper edition. Good ideas include: create an inventory of your financial assets, simplifying your financial affairs by consolidating accounts spread across multiple firms and combining multiple 401(k)s into one account, and provide prior authorization for your financial adviser to contact a trusted family member or attorney if she or he feels you are making financial decisions that are out of the ordinary. Note that an important part of every estate plan is to name a trusted person to make financial and medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself.
Protect yourself now and in the future and familiarize yourself with common scam tactics. AARP has great resources for consumers of all ages. The AARP blog has a list of the top 2015 scams and an article with some tips to make yourself scam free in 2016. Sign up for the AARP Fraud Watch Network which allows you to sign up email alerts about new scams and ID theft tactics.
If you suspect a friend or family member is a victim of financial abuse, contact local police or Adult Protective Services in your area. In Illinois, the Adult Services hotline number to report abuse or neglect of adults is 1-866-800-1409 and more information can be found on the Illinois Department of Aging website here.
Millions of wills now on-line
Lots of wills and probate records are now available on-line, thanks to the work of ancestry.com and the project to digitize millions of wills going back to the Colonial era. Click here for a recent news story on this fascinating source of historical information. What did your relatives do with their 'stuff'?
If you have a child getting ready to head to college - and yes it is just around the corner - then you are probably starting to accumulate piles of 'stuff' in preparation for the move. Towels, sheets, a little fridge, posters, snacks, and all the other things they need to create a home away from home.
Add something else to the list - necessary legal documents that every young adult should have: a health care power of attorney, a durable power of attorney (for legal and financial matters) and a will. These basic but important documents are relatively inexpensive to have prepared by an attorney and can save family members a lot of hassle in the event of an emergency.
The health care power of attorney names someone who can make medical decisions. These are legal adults don't forget! (Parents can't even pay tuition without the student signing a waiver). A durable power of attorney will enable a parent or other trusted agent to take care of issues like banking, signing a new lease or dealing with an insurance claim. And a will is a set of instructions about who inherits your stuff - your assets - when you die. (I know, you think college kids don't have much in the way of 'assets,' but most do have jobs and some money in the bank or they could inherit from a grandparent). Putting these in place now could save time and money down the road!
Came across a new book, "A Checklist for My Family" - it offers a place and guide to gathering your personal and family history, as well as all the essential information about everything else in your life - from bank accounts to passwords and your final wishes. Jointly published by the American Bar Association and AARP, written by Sally Balch Hurme, it looks to be a great addition to people looking to organize their personal affairs. And organizing our personal affairs is something we all need to do more of!
Hi and welcome to my new blog! For now, I am calling it 'Legal Mutterings' and plan to share an assortment of interesting (or at least what I think are interesting) tidbits, current events, news items, etc that have a legal angle. Items that are helpful and of interest to a more general audience than just those in the legal profession. If you find something you think should be shared with the world at large, click on the 'Contact Me' form above and pass it along, I'll include it in a future post. Thanks for reading and stop by often!
Lisa Knauf is an attorney whose practice is focused on estate planning, probate administration, and elder law matters.