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Jaime Levine – Legal Issues Seniors Face

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H. Brown
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Jaime Levine - Legal Issues Seniors Face
Jaime Levine – Legal Issues Seniors Face

Do you know what your rights are as a senior? Do your parents or grandparents know?

If you’re an older adult, it’s important to be aware of the legal issues that can affect your life. You may face scams and financial exploitation from people who want to take advantage of your age or vulnerability.

It is also possible for seniors to become victims of elder abuse, which is any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver that causes harm or risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.

In some cases, this could lead to undue influence which occurs when someone takes advantage of another person’s trust to control them and gain access to their assets.

These are just two examples but there are many more situations where seniors need help navigating the complicated world of law.

Join me today for a conversation with Jaime Levine. He will share information to help protect you, your parents, and your grandparents.
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Bio:

Jaime Levine is a man on a mission and is a true advocate for those who need it most. He is co-founding Elder Law & Advocacy and has spent 20 years of his life working to help the elderly and disabled who have been abused. In all, he has worked with 10,000 clients, supervised dozens of attorneys, and helped over 100 law clerks get their start in the industry.

Learn more about Jaime Levine:
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaime-levine-572841/

Transcript:

Hanh:
Hello, I’m Hanh Brown and thank you for tuning in. This conversation is live streaming and all the various social media platforms. We are all about older adult. It’s time to bring on the wisdom and perspective of those who have mastered life. Do you know what your rights are as a senior? Do your parents or grandparents know? Well, if you’re an older adult, it’s important to be aware of the legal issues that can affect your life. You may face scans and financial exploitation from people who want to take advantage of your age or vulnerability. It’s also possible for seniors to become victims of elder abuse, which is any knowing intentional or negligent act by a caregiver that causes harm or risk of harm to vulnerable adult. In some cases, this could lead to undue influence, which occurs when someone takes advantage of another person’s trust in order to control them and gain access to their assets. These are just two examples, but there are many more situations where seniors need help navigating the complicated world of law. So joining me today is Jaime Levine I’m sorry, is Jaime Levine. He will share information to help protect you, your parents and your grandparents. Jaime Levine is a man on a mission and is a true advocate for those who needed most. He’s the co-founding Elder Law and Advocacy, and has spent 20 years of his life working to help the elderly and this able to who have been abused. In all he has worked with 10,000 clients, supervise dozens of attorneys and help over a hundred law clerk if their start in the industry. So Jaime, welcome to the show.

Jaime:
Thank you, Hanh. I appreciate you inviting me here.

Hanh:
Yeah. Great. Thank you. So can you share with us a little bit about yourself, other than you professional.

Jaime:
Sure. I live in San Diego and I have a couple of children who are eight and 13 and very active in sports. And that’s where I spend a lot of my time, ferrying them around San Diego to games and practices. And try to get to the beach as often as possible.

Hanh:
Great. Yeah, it’s a beautiful place. I’ve been there. Many times and look forward to getting back. So, yeah. Let’s so let’s get started. Can you share with us what is elder abuse and what makes seniors so, as I said, a susceptible to?

Jaime:
Sure. Elder abuse has a I mean, we all have some idea of what elder abuse is. It’s basically mistreatment of seniors, technically speaking, there are many laws that define what elder abuse is. For example, in California, in the penal code, which is the criminal law in California, it’s defiant defined as physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of a victim 65 years older. So that’s pretty clear cut. And then there are definitions also in the civil code that define it in similar ways, but slightly differently. I don’t want to get into the very technical aspect of it because I think that penal code section really does define it well, but every state will have their own definition, but they’re all very similar. It’s basically taking advantage and victimizing someone over the age of 65. And, and actually 65 is somewhat arbitrary. We all know 65 year olds who are incredibly young and, and functioning better than many younger people. And the same goes for 70 year olds and, and even older, but they do have to come up with a number. So from a legal perspective, that’s the cutoff in California. What makes them susceptible to abuse? So I like to discuss capacity because that really is a very important concept when it comes to how seniors become success, susceptible to abuse. We all are familiar with dementia. Alzheimer’s in particular. But it’s not just dementia as people age, particularly when you get into the eighties, nineties, or even a hundred years old, even if there’s no actual dementia, there is a decline in certain abilities. May be physical, it may be mental, it might be a memory issue. It might be a co other cognitive issue, but there is some type of declined. And when you add to that, the fact that people who are 90 years old grew up before computers existed, plus the fact that a lot of their friends have passed away. A lot of their family members may have also, they may be extremely isolated. So there’s a confluence of environmental issues that make them very susceptible to abuse. And that’s why they end up being victimized.

Hanh:
Now, how does the criminal justice system address elder abuse? And how does a civil legal system address elders abuse?

Jaime:
That’s a very good question. And I guess a lot of people don’t realize that these are sort of parallel systems that address all kinds of issues in life. So the criminal justice system is really comprised of what you and I know which is police and the district attorney. So usually when there’s a crime, you call 9 11, the police come out and they’ll investigate if they think there’s enough evidence to pursue the crime. Then they will send it to the district attorney’s office. The district attorney will do their own investigation. Very often the district attorney has their own investigators. And in California we have well, it’s really by county, but in San Diego, we have a very effective elder abuse district attorney, and we actually have very effective civil laws. So, basically, there’s one more aspect of the criminal justice system in California, which is adult protective services. So in addition to there being the police slash sheriff plus the district attorney’s office. We have something called adult protective services, which is really the frontline for the criminal justice system here. So if you, for example, suspect that elder abuse is being committed somewhere and it’s, somewhat emergent. Like this person is being injured in some way, or you, you can see that their money’s being stolen on a daily basis. Probably the first call you’d want to make would be to adult protective services because they can activate the entire criminal justice system. And the criminal justice system has significant resources, but also significant powers to both investigate and to intervene. So if you call the like a private attorney, I’ve worked for a nonprofit law firm but we’re somewhat limited in what we’re able to do. We can initiate civil proceedings in court. For example, we can write demand letters. We can try to negotiate something. We can try to protect seniors if they’re going to lose their homes or something like that. But if you need something to happen very, very quickly, it’s really the criminal justice system that can get things done the same day. For example, and adult protective services. They’re not really just part of the criminal justice system. They are staffed by social workers and case workers, and they can go to someone’s home and do an assessment. See if they’re being fed properly, see if they’re being neglected in some way or abused if they can get inside someone’s home and see what’s actually happening very often, they’re able to detect that when nobody else can. So that is the frontline for the criminal justice system, adult protective services. The police department, the district attorney, and then of course, there’s also the attorney general and there are other sort of public sector responses that can take place. When you’re talking about the civil legal system, that’s sort of the private legal system that’s comprised of mostly private attorneys. So if there’s a big. Elder abuse case where someone’s homes have been stolen, their assets have been stolen. There’s hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions of dollars a week. We hear some, sometimes these types of cases make the newspapers because there are millions of dollars or tens of millions of dollars that are being controlled or stolen. And then private attorneys will be interested. It makes sense to take on a case like that because if they file the case, it’s very expensive to run any, any type of civil legal case. You have to have expert witnesses. You’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars just to get into court and to get through that system. So there actually has to be some assets that are available at the other end of that case. But the unique position that a legal services organization like ours occupies is that we get funding either from a public sector or from private grants or from private donations. And usually all of the above, we are organization elder law and advocacy gets funding from very, various different sources. And we’re constantly looking for grants in order to further our agenda in order to protect seniors. So we, we are in a unique position because. We don’t need to have a wallet, so to speak a deep pocket at the end of the day, we’re funded by various sources to protect seniors. So we can take the civil law that exists on the books now and apply it in order to educate seniors in order to recover assets. And in order to make sure that seniors are protected. But to get back to your actual question, the civil legal system. So I just, I read to you what penal code 3, 6 8 says about criminal law. If someone is alleged to have committed elder abuse in California, the police can arrest that person. And then there are certain sanctions penalties associated with that. The civil legal system actually also has very strong legislation in California and other states that allow attorneys and seniors to recover assets or to at least put a lot of pressure on perpetrators of elder abuse. For example, there’s a code section, 3345B in the civil code that allows trebling of damages. So, for example, if, if a senior is alleging that someone stole say a hundred thousand dollars from them or their home or something like that, we can write a letter that says you can give back the home now, sign the title back to the senior, or, or we can pursue you. And this code section will give us triple damages. So the damages that we otherwise would have had, plus triple those damages, and we can get attorney’s fees and we can get other penalties that are just available. Because it’s designated to be an elder abuse case. So that gives us a lot of leverage when we are trying to recover assets or when we’re trying to address wrongs where seniors have been deprived of their property, or when they’ve been injured in any way, that’s a long answer to how the criminal and civil legal systems operate in parallel to try to protect.

Hanh:
Sure. That’s a whole lot of information, many including myself didn’t know about. And it’s one of these situations that you don’t know until you actually have to go through a scenario yourself, which you hope that you’re not going to be placed in that situation. So now let’s say what can seniors do to protect themself?

Jaime:
Well, that is a difficult thing. I mean, the reality is that. We all are being targeted all the time. I mean, if you look in your junk mail folder today, I’m guessing you’ll find a few emails that are begging you to click on something that will enrich you or will increase your physical prowess or something. Some promise of something for nothing. And that’s kind of one very common scam. Seeing something that’s being offered for nothing. So, I would say one thing that people have to do is just be very circumspect about what is actually happening to you. So, here’s some signs that you’re being targeted. One is someone out of the blue is trying to give you money. People don’t just try to give you money. That’s not how things work there. If, if there was actually someone giving away money that would be lined up around the corner. So whenever you see a situation where you receive an email that says, oh, you’re going to get a hundred thousand dollars. Because I mean, they, they, there’s a little bit more sophisticated than that. They’ll say you won the lottery, but maybe you never entered a lottery. So why is it that you would suddenly be eligible to win one? You wouldn’t be, so you just have to be very careful about anything that offers you something for money or, or anything that says that you’ve won a prize that you didn’t ever enter a contest for. But there are a bunch of other things. And I’m going to sort of describe some, a couple of scams that are out there that people should just be aware of. One very popular one is called the grandparent scam. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of this, but.

Hanh:
We’ve we’ve had that. My yes, my in-laws have received phone calls saying that, you know, they took on names of my children saying, grandpa, you know, I’m stuck here and I need help, but you don’t have to come just wire me some money. Yes.

Jaime:
Well, that’s exactly what they do. They say grandpa, I’m in Canada and I was just in an accident and they want me to pay $5,000 or I’m going to have to go to jail. And grandpa says, is this Robbie. And Rob Robbie, not Robby, but Robbie says, yes, it’s Robbie. I need you to send that money right away. And then the grandparents, what, what could be more compelling to a grandparent than trying to save their grandson or granddaughter from going to jail in a foreign country? I mean, Canada, not that scary, but they don’t always say Canada might be another country. And then they go to the bank and they wire money. Well, if someone calls you, even if it’s your grandson or granddaughter, the first thing you should do. Just say just a minute, I’m going to call your father. I’m going to call your mother or just say, I have, I’ve got your phone number. Let me call you right back. And if they say no, no, no, don’t call me. I’ll call you. Then, it’s probably a scam. Right now, when it comes to scams, the most popular platform for stealing money is can you guess what it is? You’re never going to guess this unless you’ve read it somewhere. Any idea? If someone calls you and says, I need you to send me $500 right now, how do you think they’re going to try to get you to.

Hanh:
Whether it’s PayPal, Venmo, or some sort, or that they won a sweepstake..

Jaime:
Close actually. And I think those might be next actually, because the current, it used to be Western Union, basically all the scams we saw were Western Union and that got shut down. It actually, Western Union’s kind of expensive too. So that was an impediment. But now the, and there was also a class action lawsuit that was successful. So Western Union is now behaving a little more responsible right now, the most common way that these thieves try to get your money is through gift cards. So they’ll tell you to go to Walmart, buy an apple gift card, and then read the numbers off the back of the card. We see that all the time. But we’re also my organization, Elder Law and Advocacy is working on. We’re trying to come up with legislation that would try to compel these companies that offer gift cards to pay a little more attention and to try to stop the fraud because it’s so common. But yeah, you’re right. Venom, Venmo, and PayPal. I’m sure if they can figure out how to use those platforms, that will probably be next.

Hanh:
Yeah.

Jaime:
That’s another red flag and something that people should watch out for someone says, I want you to go buy an apple gift card or best buy. It’s not always apple. Then they should be very wary about what is actually happening. It’s probably a skin people don’t ever. If it’s not a scam, they’re not going to ask you to buy a gift card and then read off the numbers on the back. That’s just the reality of how.

Hanh:
Right. Right. So now how has technology affected seniors when it comes to elder abuse?

Jaime:
Well, that’s a really interesting question. There were a lot of seniors. I mean, we work with thousands and thousand people. Our, our legal services programs sees almost 4,000 people a year. And when it came, when it comes to seniors who are in their eighties and nineties, there were a lot of people who had just decided they were not going to use computers. And they were not going to use smartphones and they were, I mean, they just decided, and COVID changed that because it became actually impossible for a lot of people not to use. It was almost impossible before, like try to open a bank account without an email address. That was almost impossible. But with COVID when you couldn’t go into physical stores and banks. There was a time when that was not possible, even with a mask, like things were just shut down. It really became a necessity. And so seniors were really forced to adopt technology where they otherwise would not have. And this is just anecdotal. I’m not saying that I’ve conducted any real study here, but it seems to us that people who were forced to adopt technology. After basically 67 years of not using technology, we’re at a serious disadvantage. And there was one scam that, what that turned up during COVID and we’ve seen it a number of times where a senior is contacted and told that a, a charge went through to amazon.com. It’s it’s, we’ve only seen it with Amazon. I think it’s called the Amazon scam right now. And, accompanying this message is a phone number to call. And so it just says it’s a sale and there’s a phone number at the bottom. And so one of my clients, it had said, it was something like we charge you $14. The senior didn’t recognize it called the 800 number and the person answered amazon.com. That’s not probably Amazon doesn’t ever answer their phone like that, but he said, yeah, I just got this message. There was a $14 charge. I didn’t buy anything from Amazon. And the guy said, oh, I’m so sorry. I’m going to refund that to you right now. And so the amazon.com person not only starts to initiate this refund, but also convinces the senior that there’s something wrong with their computer and to give them access. Remote access. And while the seniors on the phone, the scammer deposits, I mean, there are a few ways this works, but basically deposits say $140 into their account instead of 14. And so the senior is told, oh my God, I just sent you 40 $140 by accident. If you don’t, if you don’t send it back to me, I’m going to lose my job. And then, and then it gets much more diabolical. So in the, in one of the cases, the scammer got control of the senior’s bank account, the senior had a home equity line of credit. A couple of hundred thousand dollars of equity left in the home. So a available value. And so the scammer transferred $60,000 into the seniors checking account from the senior zone. He locked and then called him up and said, oh my God, I can’t believe I just did this. I put $60,000 into your account by accident. I need you to wire it to me right away or else I’m going to lose my job. I won’t be able to feed my family and the senior right away. God, I think the senior in that case went to the bank and wired $60,000. And then when he got home, the scammer had put another $60,000 from his own heloc into his checking account and said, it didn’t go through the, money’s still in your checking account. I need you to send it again and the senior sent it again. And so, this is actually a scam that has it. It’s not always a heloc sometimes just taken off their credit card, but it’s, it’s so diabolical. And anyway, that’s one example of how technology has even, it’s confusing for everyone. I mean, everybody’s kind of scared of technology and we’re all.

Hanh:
You know, when you say that the scammer gain access to the seniors computer, to be honest with you, it’s not difficult to do. It is so easy to do nowadays to gain access. And also once you gain access, and if you have your password, you know, auto save, you know what that means the scammer can just log in and do what it wants to do. And here’s the other thing, what you just shared. I’m kind of surprised that that scammer moved money from the seniors. One account into another. I’m surprised that he didn’t, he or she didn’t transfer money from the senior into his own account. But anyways, I hear you. It’s not, it’s not difficult to do.

Jaime:
Yeah, and it’s, it’s terrifying. I mean, we all have, we all get hacked and we all, all of our information companies get hacked and your information ends up on the black market. But for seniors that are just more susceptible.

Hanh:
Yeah. Yeah. So now, why I guess and how do the abusers want to silence the victim? How do they do this successfully? And I know it’s easy and what do seniors need to look after, you know, not fall into that trap.

Jaime:
Well, we’re moving into a, sort of a separate area of elder abuse than, than scams. So a very common type of scam, is for family members, for example, but anyone with trust. So, sons and daughters, caregivers, sometimes neighbors, contractors, anyone who can develop the trust of a senior. Can start to get them to transfer assets, for example, or may actually commit some kind of fraud. In the olden days before we had undue influence laws, it had to be actual fraud. So, like a son or daughter would bring a deed to mom or dad and put it in front of them and say, if you sign this document, I’ll be able to help you with your, your finances and mom and dad just. Trusted son or daughter and they signed over title and then the senior would get an eviction notice a few months later, that kind of thing. And, but the reason that the son or daughter would want to silence mom or dad is because it’s a crime. And, you know, of course there are a lot of reasons why mom or dad would remain silent. Like they don’t want to lose access to their grandkids. Even though they may know that they were defrauded. They don’t want to lose access to the grandkids. They don’t want to be put in a nursing home. They don’t want to a guardianship to be filed. Maybe they’re scared that they’ll lose their rights, which is actually something that could happen if someone files for a conservatorship or a guardianship. Those are the same thing by the way, in California, it’s called considered. Then the senior might actually lose their rights. So there are a lot of reasons why a senior might actually be very hesitant to report these things. And an abuser can take advantage of that dynamic. They can say, mom, if you report this to the police, you’re never going to see your grandkids again.

Hanh:
Wow.

Jaime:
I mean, that’s what could be more terrifying to a senior, to never see their grandkids again. It’s horrible, but of course they would, they don’t want to go to jail. So, and they don’t want to give back to the assets. So they want mom and dad to stay silence.

Hanh:
What a shame. I mean, I’m glad that we’re talking about this and the dark side. So thank you. Now, explain to me the confidence fraud, and also the, I think we talked about the sweep six fraud, I guess, give me some samples and explain to me what that is.

Jaime:
Well, the confidence, I mean, there are a lot of variations on these things, but when it comes to people who are close to you, they’ll try to gain your confidence. They’ll try to isolate you. And they’ll try to convince you that whatever they’re doing is in your best interest. When it comes to the sweepstakes. I mean, I mentioned it usually, that’s just something out of the blue. It’s like, you want a million dollars and now all you have to do to get your million dollars is to send us $2,000 so that we can pay the taxes to release the money. And then you’re going to get, I had one client come to me. She had, I think it was five pages, single spaced of sweepstakes. She had, and all she was owed over $2 billion and all she had to do to get these $2 billion was send, I think it was like half a million dollars that she had sent already, but, you know, trickle. So it started with a couple of thousand once a scammer figures out that you have money and are willing to send it. They will never stop. And the seniors, as I said, there are all kinds of reasons why they don’t want to report it. But it’s really, it’s quite diabolical and extremely dangerous for the seniors.

Hanh:
Now, what do you think is the biggest problem with seniors gradually losing their ability to function? What kind of protection do they need to get?

Jaime:
Well, it’s much more dangerous when seniors don’t have anyone close to them. So if you start to lose capacity, I mean, at the beginning, there’s, it’s, it’s a spectrum, of course. So at the very beginning, you may be able to get by in most facets of your life, but you may lose your judgment when it comes to money. That could happen. You never know it’s for everyone it’s different. It may be that you lose your memory. It may be that you stop recognizing people around you, but if you don’t have anyone in your midst, like children, usually grandchildren, nephews, nieces. People may not notice it except a scammer who has it sort of on their radar that they’re just looking for someone who’s susceptible to their charms. And, you know, if you, if you’re starting to decline and a scammer recognizes that you’re starting to decline, they may become your friend and just wait it out. And, you know, have lunches and dinners with you. And then a year later, when you really are losing capacity, they’ll start isolating you. They’ll start making sure that they’re the person who’s helping you with your finances. They’re the person who’s helping with your rent, paying your bills, those kinds of things. And once you really start declining, then they can sort of come in and really take things over. And if there’s really, there’s very little oversight of these things. So if there’s no family, member. There’s no child, no nephew, no, no grandchildren who is looking out for your best interest. It could go on for a really long time and it could go undetected. And until someone’s death, it could happen.

Hanh:
So I hear you, especially, folks, like you say, either no, no family, children or grandchildren. I recommend that they get a power of attorney or an attorney to look after all these communications, right? Cause there’s a lot of mind games going on over a period of time to gain that trust. So just listening to you, I just highly recommend for folks that don’t have families, their children is power of attorney. Go get an attorney. I mean, is that what you recommend?

Jaime:
You know, it’s tough because I’m on one hand, I’m telling you, oh, well, people with children and grandchildren are in a much better position, but on the other hand, I’m telling you children are the most likely. To be your abuser. So, and the same goes for caregivers. There are some incredible caregivers out there and fiduciaries and attorneys and, you know, and there’s some terrible ones. So it’s not a panacea. It’s much better. For you to work with people, you know, and trust and to set up those powers of attorney while you still have while you’re still making decent decisions so that you can really put in place a succession in terms of who’s going to manage your finances while you’re alive, if this ever happens, but if you wait until you have declining capacity, your judgment in terms of who you’re naming may be compromised as well. You may be naming the wrong child. What if you have say three or four children, you have, this is a very common scenario by the way. You have a couple of children who are very responsible, very, you know, their careers are going fine. And the family is very, very busy. And then you have one child who never really had a career, never doesn’t really have enough money and decides to become mom or dad’s caregiver. And then they move in. And they don’t have money. They just have mom’s money. And then one day the other siblings realized what’s going on here. This sibling just moved in with mom and took over everything. This is the guy who never could hold a job. And then, then it becomes a battle between the siblings. So there’s no panacea really, the best thing to do would be to contact a legal services organization. Who, who can give you this kind of advice that someone at these, these organizations exist everywhere in the United States, by the way, it’s, it’s a mandated under federal law. So pretty much almost every county or some counties share, but almost every county will have access to legal services for seniors. And that’s almost always somewhere. You can get really good advice. It’s not going to be tempered by having to. Think about their bottom line. We never get paid by clients. So it’s never going to occur to us in any way that we have to think about how we’re going to get paid out of this scenario. So that’s always a really good starting point. And then whoever the attorney is, that’s working on a case like that. We’ll be able to probably direct them to appropriate private attorneys or fiduciaries or caregivers. Not that we’d necessarily have a referral program, but at least we’ll be able to assess whether there is a really good course of action for them to do some planning.

Hanh:
Awesome. So what would your advice be for someone with incapacitated parents, without any financial resources to help care for them?

Jaime:
There are many resources available in California. Well, in San Diego, there’s an organizational Cub called Southern kegger caregiver resource center and their entire mission. They’re also nonprofit. And their entire mission is to help people who are. In caregiver positions. So they will support the caregiver. They have caseworkers social workers, they know all of the resources available, like, who’s eligible for Medi-Cal, Medicaid, in other states. Here it’s called Medi-Cal, but Medi-Cal can take over payment for medical for health and wellness. And also for nursing home care. If someone has to go into a nursing home and they don’t have any money. There is public money available and there are all kinds of resources available for seniors, but it’s really important to have someone knowledgeable helping navigate that as any son or daughter knows who has been um suddenly confronted with dementia, for example. It’s extremely complicated. Even myself. I work in this field and I don’t know all the resources available. I, there are a lot of things that I don’t know. And if people call us and ask for a guidance in terms of what kinds of coverage there may be, your kinds of if they don’t qualify for certain types of medical coverage I send them to Southern caregivers resource center, because they’re really knowledgeable about those things. We can help if someone’s being abused or something’s not being done correctly or not according to the law. But in terms of just knowing the entire landscape, there’s social workers who are very, very knowledgeable about all that.

Hanh:
Great. Great. Okay. So yeah, I’m, I’m just, I’m processing everything that you’re saying. Cause a lot of it to be honest, I just, it’s not even imaginable. It’s.

Jaime:
Yeah, it’s frightening. It really is frightening. And it’s a, when you start in my job, you seriously cannot believe what children are capable of doing to their parents. Every case every day, almost you’re hearing a story of some tragedy in some senior’s life that’s being essentially perpetrated by their children. But you know, after a while it’s like anything else that just becomes, what can we do to help the senior? So that really becomes a mission.

Hanh:
So now what problems do seniors have that a non-profit legal services organization can help them with? I know we’ve gone through a couple of. I mean, I’m sure there’s a series of things. Can you elaborate on that?

Jaime:
Yeah. I mean, there’s really a spectrum and we help with all kinds of issues. So including, like landlord tenant issues, for example, right now in the context of COVID. And actually the moratorium on evictions ended yesterday. So for the past year, we have a lot of clients who are landlords. Very often that means that they’ve allowed a son or daughter to move in with them, or they’ve brought in a roommate to help them pay the bills. But landlords have had a very tough year because a lot of tenants haven’t been paying either because maybe they had COVID or because they saw an opportunity to take advantage of the eviction moratoriums and to sort of find loopholes that would allow them to stay without paying. So a lot of our clients who, we’re depending on income from a roommate or a rental property, haven’t had that income for the past year. So we’ve been helping landlords with those issues. But now starting today, we’re going to be, we’re anticipating that we’re going to have just a unending list of tenants who are going to be approaching us because all the landlords I think are just waiting to give notices eviction notice. And it’s, it’s extremely complicated now with federal law, state law, municipal law, and then all of the local protocols that are in place because of COVID is very, very complicated. So we help with those things. We help with benefits issues like gift. For example, people are not familiar with Medi-Cal social security, health and human sources, in-home supportive services, and all kinds of things where people may not be getting what they’re entitled to. Or if they’re charged with an overpayment, sometimes social security makes a mistake and they don’t discover it for 10 years. And then they send you a bill for $40,000. So, there are lots of things with that. We help people with debt issues. or if they’re being sued we help people with contractor issues very often. There’s an elder abuse element to it and undue influence. I should mention that as well, because I started mentioning it and I didn’t finish it, but essentially back in the day in order to prove elder abuse there usually had to be a fraud underlying it. But now with undue influence, basically if you convince a senior to give you money. And it doesn’t make any sense. Like, for example, someone says, if you sign this deed, then I’ll take care of you for the rest of your life. And then you don’t, you just evict them. That’s undue influence. The senior knows that they’re signing a deed, they’re giving you their house, but the promise really makes no sense. And if you then evict them the next day, then obviously it was for nefarious purposes. And so we have laws that classify undue influence as elder abuse which makes it possible to take on those cases in a more significant way than it was possible previously.

Hanh:
Okay. Okay. Now who’s eligible for free legal assistance and what are some of the common cases for which they specialize in helping the seniors?

Jaime:
Anyone over, well, it depends on funding. So some of our funding requires that we see people actually over 60 years old, even though. Technically, elders really do not become elders under California law until they’re 65. We do help seniors or anyone who’s over 60. And we also help caregivers. So in situations where someone has already lost capacity, for example, they have advanced stages of dementia. We can help a caregiver. Help the senior. So, it is not just the seniors. And then they, the other criteria is they have to reside within the county where the services are being provided since the funding comes from the county. And then in terms of typical cases, I mean, pretty much everything I’ve discussed here today. All those types of abuse and then all those types of legal issues that seniors face, including consumer issues and bankruptcy, those types of things, not that we handle bankruptcy, but we can advise about what to do. If you get a bill for $40,000 from social security, that type of thing. And then we help with planning. So we help people get our duke powers of attorney and healthcare directives, and we can guide people in terms of more advanced estate planning as well. There’s all kinds of planning that people can do.

Hanh:
So what’s the biggest challenge you think affecting our society, which is not getting enough legal funding or, you know, sufficient legal representation by professional?

Jaime:
Well, The reality is that there are always going to be scammers out there. We have when, as soon as there’s any money available. There are scammers trying to get it. And now that we have an internet based world, the scammers don’t have to be local. They don’t have to be your neighbors. They can be in any continent, it doesn’t matter. They could be anywhere on earth and as long as they can get something in front of you on your computer screen, they can get you to send money. So I think that is actually the biggest challenge. Just the fact that we all live in this very technological age, very connected world. And, none of us is ever a hundred percent on top of it because we’re not looking at the backend of these websites and we are not reading. Even if you read all the terms and conditions and privacy policies, not that anyone ever does, they change too. And, very often the companies are not disclosing when they’ve been hacked. So everyone’s susceptible. You just have to be very wary of what’s coming into your inbox. You have to be very wary of who’s ringing your doorbell. You have to be very wary of who’s making phone calls. You have to have the number to your local legal services organization available so that you can call and verify if you’re being scammed and you actually have to call, if, you know, be circumspect and make a phone call. And, just do what you can find professionals who you trust. Find, see if you can surround yourself with family and friends who are able to compensate for the dangers out there and then make some good phone calls and try to look out for the people in your community.

Hanh:
So now why do attorneys often discourage seniors from filing lawsuits against entity, especially like banks that they believe may have violated them in some way?

Jaime:
It’s you know, California has a mandated reporter law. And so, in, I’m pretty sure at a reporter law is pretty ubiquitous when it comes to doctors and social workers and fiduciaries, things like that. So if you, if you’re a social worker and you see a suspected case, or you suspect a case of elder abuse, you have to report it and you could potentially lose your license if you don’t report it. And in California for the past, at least I think it was about 12 years ago. There’s a mandated reporter law that was passed that makes, employees, the financial institutions mandated reporters. So if a teller or any re any individual working with a financial institution, suspects, elder abuse, they have to report it. But the reality is even if the bank suspects it and they report it, they don’t report. If they facilitate, for example, someone gives you a check. You go to your bank because you have a 20, 30 year relationship with the bank. They cash the check for you because you’re such a good customer. And then the next day they discovered that it’s a fraudulent check. They will call you and they will say, Hey, I need that $30,000 back because it’s not a real check. And, but if you, if you’re being scammed, that money is gone already, but to make the bank liable is actually very difficult. And the reason that when you go to an attorney, the attorney has all kinds of reasons why you shouldn’t file a law suit. Is that the attorney really does have insight into whether or not it’s going to be possible, a to win the case and B to collect on the case. And if one of those answers is negative, like you’re, if you can’t win the case, what’s the point of putting 10 or $20,000 into the lawsuit just to get it filed? Or if the, you know, the defending party is not going to have any money. Then what’s the point of filing the lawsuit? I mean, it comes down to a financial reality, lawyers, if there’s a good case and a defendant who’s able to pay. For example, if they’re like an insured entity on the other side, they will proceed with a good elder abuse case. But very often there are legal obstacles or financial obstacles to prevailing in a case.

Hanh:
In the example that you, you, you mentioned 30,000. Cleared. No. Nowadays I noticed that banks will give you some kind of notification if there’s a transaction is odd. You know, if you don’t, if you don’t have checks that cleared in around that amount, a pattern of that. And then out of nowhere, there’s this huge withdraw. Well, I mean, I know banks at least have notify me if there’s anything odd. So I hope that, you know, banks are protecting their, their clients that way too.

Jaime:
Well, they’re trying to, and. Very often they do stop fraud and they do have effective. A lot of it is artificial intelligence at this point that is monitoring the activity in someone’s account. And if something very strange happens, then the banks do flag it and very often will make that phone call or send an email with a warning. But very often they, it doesn’t work. And the question is, can you hold the bank legally liable if their own protocols, was tricked. So if they, you know, if they have a very advanced artificial intelligence system and it doesn’t catch that this guys transferred $60,000 from his heloc into his checking account and then wired it out, does that mean that the bank is liable or does it mean that or does it mean that, you know, that was just their protocol that failed? Maybe it’s not actually illegal for the bank to allow someone to access $60,000 from their heloc. You can argue it both ways, because if you have a HELOC on your home and you need to make a payment to a contractor and it’s $30,000, but you don’t usually do that. Do you want your bank to freeze your account? Because they detected something strange? No, you don’t.

Hanh:
Well, what I would want is for them to send me some kind of notification to verify, Hey, we see some odd activities and I think they do. I mean, I get those kinds of notices often, so yeah, that’s what I would very least expect.

Jaime:
Right. And for me personally, I have every notification on every count credit card account bank account. I get emails like every five minutes about if I have a transaction of any kind over $5 or whatever I get those notifications. But the question from a legal perspective is can you hold the bank liable? If they don’t have something flagged that you didn’t demand. So if you, if you put in a setting into your bank account that says, I want to know every time money moves over, say $50, and then they don’t notify you. There’s probably some liability there, but if you don’t have a notification like that set up yourself, but the bank has a protocol where they are trying to find suspicious activity. You probably have a much weaker case if they do release money.

Hanh:
Yeah. Yeah. Tough situation. I know we got a little bit of time left, so I have a few questions. Okay. So what does basic planning consists of when it comes to end of life and one’s estate? And then the other thing is what are some limitations of a state planning?

Jaime:
Well, there are some basic things that everyone should do, so everyone should have some kind of estate plan in place. Usually, if it is someone with not very much in terms of assets, a will is sufficient. So that will allow someone to that will allow your beneficiaries to receive your money upon your death. And then while you’re alive, you want to have some type of power of attorney in place so that if you become incapacitated and that could be related to age, it could be related to dementia. You could be in a car accident, you could be, you know, anything could happen without notice. You wanna have something in place that allows someone to step in and handle your financial affairs and make medical decisions for you. So that’s the advanced healthcare directive, which includes a power of attorney for healthcare on the healthcare side. And on the other side, it’s the financial power of attorney that allows someone to become an agent and make financial decisions and act on your health on your behalf for financial planning or for financial transactions. If you don’t do those things and you lose capacity and someone has to step in to help you. There’s nothing between a power of attorney and a conservatorship or guardianship and a conservatorship conservatorship guardianship requires that you go to court and you have a probate court judge oversee a process where everyone in your life is notified of this situation. And then you’re essentially, if it’s actually awarded you’re deprived of all your rights. And as an American, that is a scary proposition. Our whole world here is based on rights. So you, I mean, just the concept that there’s a legal process that deprives you of all of your rights is very frightening. So if you can avoid that and you can, with a power of attorney and a healthcare directive, you should when it comes to bigger estates, The healthcare directive, power of attorney for healthcare. Plus the financial power of attorney are very important, but also a trust is usually what’s put in place in order to avoid a probate after you die. And usually there are a lot of other benefits to doing. Trust is something that gives you a lot more control over what happens both while you’re alive and after you die in terms of how your assets are handled. And if you do proper estate planning you can have in place a very good succession plan for yourself while you’re alive. And after you die. And it can avoid all kinds of conflict with your beneficiaries. And it allows you to do a lot of beneficial things for society too. So if you want them to make a charitable trust or something like that, so there’s all kinds of planning you can do. But again, even if you do all of that planning, there are certain things that you just can’t find for. And that has to do with what we’ve been talking about for the past 45 minutes, which is if you’re losing capacity and you have access to your money, someone’s out there. Who’s going to be interested in making sure that they’re on your radar and they’re available to steal it. So that’s why you got to have some legal services program on your speed dial or, if you have assets, then you certainly have an attorney you trust is available to help you with those things.

Hanh:
Well, great. Gosh, thank you so much. And do you have anything else that you would like to end?

Jaime:
No, I think this was a great conversation and I, again, I appreciate you having me on.

Hanh:
Yeah. Well, great. Well, thank you so much.

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Episode 131

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