Elder Law and Senior Attorneys

Elder Law and Senior Attorneys

Welcome to the Elder Law and Senior Attorneys edition of the Contra Costa Lawyer. The publication of this edition is occurring during the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused unprecedented changes to our lives, the economy and our courts. This pandemic has created a renewed urgency for elder law planning and has focused attention on our aging population.
According to the Center for Disease Control, seniors (aged 65 and older) and elders living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities are among those at the highest risk for contracting the virus. Although the medical crisis is drawing much needed attention to this critical issue, protecting our seniors goes far beyond the Coronavirus.

Protection starts with proper planning and preparation to ensure that legal safeguards are in place to care for and protect our aging population in all areas of their lives. By 2030, nearly 20% of the U.S. population will be age 65 or older according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Aging Americans and their families need to be both proactive and responsive to issues that include protection from financial scams and fraud targeting seniors, workplace issues for adult children who are caring for their parents, long-term care arrangements and estate planning. Knowing how to navigate this already-complicated process will be important as the impact of COVID-19 has added a new layer of complexity.

The age statistics for our population mirror our Bar Association membership. In 2018 CCCBA Board President James Wu organized a “Senior Lawyers task force” to study topics and issues affecting senior attorneys. It was discovered that 35% of CCCBA’s attorney members (“478 strong”) had been practicing for more than 30 years, 11% for more than 40 years and 20 members more than 50. In 2019 a Senior Lawyer Section was formed to serve the interests of our senior members and provide programs of educational and general interest, cultivate social interaction and preserve the history and traditions of the Bar.

The articles in this edition highlight emerging issues in elder law during the pandemic and spotlight our new Senior Lawyers Section.

First, Peter Mankin writes about the Birth and Maturation of the Senior Section. I am proud to serve as its Chair during its formation and first two years. The section has over 160 members, the fourth largest in the Bar. We are pleased to recognize 18 members who celebrated their 50-year anniversaries of California Bar membership. One of the members of the senior lawyer task force, Joscelyn Jones Torru was recently appointed to the Alameda County Superior Court bench, and we congratulate her!

Next, CCCBA Elder Law Section Chair Doug Housman outlines the rights and resources for the elderly during the pandemic. His article highlights the Contra Costa County Superior Court’s Emergency Local Rules which apply to elder or dependent abuse restraining orders, unlawful detainer actions and actions for financial elder abuse.

Patanisha Davis, who has served as a court-appointed attorney for conservatees in conservatorship cases, provides us with advice how to recognize and address unintentional implicit bias which can occur during the representation. You can receive MCLE Elimination of Bias credit when you take the test linked to her article.

In his article entitled “Beware of Trust Mills: High Volume ‘Estate Planning’ May be Elder Financial Abuse,” Andrew Verriere warns us about trust mills which target the elderly trying to lure them to attend “free” seminars with promises to create or update their estate planning documents at low cost. Many of these mills employ individuals who are not licensed to practice law, and their “services” result in ineffective or incompetent documents that could costs clients and their families more money in the future.

Finally, we are proud to spotlight Contra Costa Senior Legal Services in an article entitled “A Port in the Storm for Seniors.” Verna Haas, who has served as its Executive Director and Supervising Attorney for several years, outlines various challenges seniors face during the pandemic. She identifies how CCSLS serves as a legal advocate for older adults, who are especially vulnerable during this health crisis, and how they are adapting to meet the challenge.

Thanks to all these authors who have devoted their time and expertise in writing their articles. We hope that you enjoy this edition of the Contra Costa Lawyer magazine and continue to “stay safe” during these challenging times.