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Recent Changes in Elder Law

When asked to give their understanding of what “Elder Law” encompasses, most people correctly include wills, trusts and other estate planning work. The peace of mind such planning provides is invaluable. However, an experienced and knowledgeable attorney who specializes in elder law can do much more to improve an elder client's life.

Like most areas of the law, the many facets of elder law are constantly changing and evolving. As a specialist, I am able to keep abreast of these changes and their impact on my clients' lives.

Here are just two examples of developments that, while perhaps not “traditional” elder law subjects, may nevertheless have an impact on your aging loved one.

The Elder Abuse Prevention & Protection Act

Elder abuse may take the form of physical, emotional and financial abuse or exploitation of an older individual. Sadly, the perpetrators of these crimes are often the very caregivers, such as court-appointed guardians, who have been entrusted with the care and well being of the victim.

In October, President Trump signed into federal law the “Elder Abuse Prevention & Protection Act” (Senate Bill S. 178).

Under the Act, an Assistant United States Attorney in each federal judicial district will be given responsibility for investigating reports of abuse by guardians. They will have access to Federal Bureau of Investigation resources and will share information with their colleagues in other districts.

The Act does not change the current guardianship appointment process in Pennsylvania, but it does require the Department of Justice to develop best practices for such proceedings, with an emphasis on combating elder abuse. This may eventually result in changes to state guardianship laws in Pennsylvania.

The Act also increases the penalties for telemarketing-related scams against persons age 55 or older. Also, acknowledging the fact that many seniors have adapted to changes in technology, the Act includes scams carried out via email. The Act's increased penalties also apply to health care fraud.

Consent to Medical Treatment of Minors

Grandparents and other elders play an increasingly significant role in caring for young children in Pennsylvania. These so-called “kinship caregivers” have assumed responsibility for, among other things, their charges' medical care.

Pennsylvania law ordinarily requires the consent of a parent or guardian to any medical treatment of a minor (a person under age 18). However, the Pennsylvania Medical Consent Act enables a child's parent or legal custodian to authorize a kinship caregiver to consent to medical, dental or mental health care. The consent can be given via a simple form and may be revoked at any time.

In addition, the Act allows a minor who has graduated from high school and either is married or has been pregnant to consent on his or her own behalf, without the approval of a parent or guardian.

Whether you or your elder family member is in need of a will or a power of attorney or are considering a living trust or a potential guardianship, I would be pleased to assist you. Please give me a call today to schedule a consultation.

NOTE: This is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.