‘Seniors and the Law’ Presented to Coronado Library by Arkansas Legal Services – Hot Springs Village Voice
“Older adults and the law” was the subject of a recent Center for Arkansas Legal Services presentation at the Coronado Center auditorium. The event was organized by the Coronado Center Library and the Saline County Library.
The Center’s Helen Newberry and Sarah Cowan discussed issues such as scams targeting the elderly, Medicaid, guardianships and powers of attorney. Newberry explained that the Center provides legal aid primarily to low-income Arkansans — to “help protect their health, family and property” — but she views the organization as a “community resource.”
The centre’s services include advice on housing (including nursing homes), family law, debt and bankruptcy, end-of-life planning, public assistance (Invalidity Social Security (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income, Food Stamps or SNAP, etc.), Veterans Benefits, etc.
Newberry discussed the scams currently circulating and told listeners, “If it sounds too good to be true, it is.” She warned against disclosing passwords, credit card or banking information, or social security numbers.
Newberry discussed beneficiary deeds, which are revocable and used to transfer assets to heirs upon death to avoid probate proceedings.
The Fair Housing Act covers classes ‘protected’ from discrimination in all aspects of housing, including rental, sale and affordability. Tenants have the right to request modifications to a unit for accessibility; the owners are obligated to make the necessary adjustments, but are not obligated to pay for them. Renters cannot be discriminated against due to age, family status (e.g., “child-free” units), support animals, etc.
The Center also counsels clients on Medicaid and ACA options, and assists with eligibility denials and other issues.
Family law expert Sarah Cowan discussed adult guardianship and powers of attorney. Guardianship is granted by a court if it determines that it is in the best interests of the incapable person. After a petition is filed, there is an assessment and a hearing, followed by the issuance of the order and guardianship letters.
Cowan said dementia is not always grounds for guardianship, and that “not following advice”, spending foolishly, “going along with one family member and not with others” are not guardianship criteria. Examples of characteristics that would trigger guardianship are disabilities, substance abuse, or other conditions that render the service unable to manage finances, health, or safety.
Cowan also touched on the use of powers of attorney, living wills and trusts. She stressed the need to choose a trustworthy person as agent (for powers of attorney) and executor (for wills) and added that it is sometimes necessary to step out of the family for this important role. State-registered powers of attorney are legal in Arkansas, but will be administered from the issuing state.
Newberry briefly discussed end-of-life planning and advised updating important documents upon receipt of a significant medical diagnosis (either oneself or a spouse), at the start of each decade, during a divorce. or marriage and upon the death of a close family member. She also advised that documents be kept in a safe, but accessible place – if stored in a safe, make sure the officer or executor can find the key.
For more information about the Center for Arkansas Legal Services, visit www.ArkansasLegal.org or call the helpline at 504-376-3423 or 800-950-5817.