Elder Law

Elder Law

ELDER LAW ISSUES

Early in my career I relished the concept of jousting with opposing attorneys in heated courtroom battles, defending the accused from oppressive authorities, government, banks, insurance companies and other goliaths. I still have those fires, advocating for the downtrodden, but I now let the younger gladiators draw the blood.

Now, approaching age 70, my perspective has changed considerably. While the wealth of knowledge experience brings serves my clients well, I have decided to turn some of my energies to those of my generation with similar issues. It is inevitable that we baby boomers will face disability, illness and most certainly, death. Each of those topics have considerable issues that require legal guidance. If not for us, then for our survivors or children.

Let me tell you a true story. Three elderly sisters consulted me to probate the will of their recently deceased brother. They related that he had sold his home and died with hundreds of thousands of dollars in a bank account. None of the sisters were named on the bank account; they didn't even know the name of the bank. To make matters worse, none of them had his will, or even a copy. We were successful in locating the bank and a safe deposit box. We even located his checking account containing a substantial balance. Still, Uncle Will left no will. He had no children, but had ten brothers and sisters. Except for these sisters the others all passed away. Many of those deceased siblings had children who survived them, and some of those children had even died- leaving their own children.

Before filing the probate with the Court, we had to determine the names of the children of the brothers and sisters of Uncle Will which were still alive and the names and addresses of the children of those who had died. It took months to ascertain just who and where all of Uncle Will's heirs were. We had to get an independent attorney appointed to represent the interests of the two heirs who could not be located. Two others were in jail and one was an incompetent.

Needless to say, great time and expense was expended and incurred for attorney's fees, heir locating service, attorney ad litem fees. Finally the distribution of a small fraction of Uncle Will's estate went to his impoverished surviving sisters. The children of the deceased siblings shared lesser amounts, and the children of the deceased nieces and nephews received yet smaller shares.

Had he left a will, we believe that Uncle Will would have left his estate to his younger sister, as she was his caregiver in his declining years....or maybe he would have directed distribution among his three surviving sisters; we'll never know. I am quite sure of one thing: Uncle Will would not have directed distribution to obscure relatives, many who he never even met.

I am telling you this story with the hope that your family will not suffer the expense and delay that Uncle Will's did. A small investment discussing your finances may spare your loved ones the delay and expense that the heirs of Uncle Will lived through. You do not need to be wealthy to need estate planning services.