Defending the Defenseless

When you think about what lawyers do all day, you might think criminal law, litigation or drafting corporate agreements. But protecting the elderly? Yes – our mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers increasingly are targeted by people with nefarious interests, which often includes family members or others who have been entrusted with the victims’ care. And who’s there to help? Lawyers, of course. 

In a recent case in Chicago, a caregiver has been charged with siphoning $350,000 from a retired engineer who was diagnosed with dementia more than a year before he signed paperwork giving the woman power of attorney. The lawyer who drafted the paperwork apparently did so without knowledge of the man’s dementia diagnosis, and the attorney has not been charged in connection with the purported crime. The caregiver’s alleged misdeeds were uncovered by the Cook County Public Guardian in Chicago, which is charged with protecting the city’s disabled elderly and their estates, in addition to other functions.

A 2012 study by the MetLife Mature Market Institute estimates that the elderly population in the U.S. loses more than $2.9 billion every year as a result of fraud such as the one described in the Chicago case. The National Conference of State Legislatures notes that 14 states passed legislation in 2012 involving financial crimes against the elderly.

How do lawyers help? With an aging population, a growing number of attorneys now are focusing their practices on elder law, which concentrates on protecting the rights of seniors and responding to their unique legal needs. The National Elder Law Foundation certifies attorneys based on their experience in the area, and the State Bar of Texas provides a number of helpful materials on its website. In addition, the Texas Attorney General’s office devotes substantial resources to the important task of protecting our elders. As baby boomers continue to get older, expect to see more and more attorneys moving into this fast-growing field. 

 

 

Posted: 5/6/2013 12:00:00 AM by On the Merits Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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