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  1. 1. SENIOR LEGAL CHECKLIST A project of Colorado Legal Services And Alpine Area Agency on Aging
  2. 2. SENIOR LEGAL CHECKLIST What is the Senior Legal Checklist? The SENIOR LEGAL CHECKLIST is designed to help you identify possible civil legal concerns you may have. Each question is followed by suggested actions you can take to address your concerns. It is not possible to discuss every possible legal problem in the Checklist. The situations discussed include some of the more serious problems you might face. If you have other legal issues, you may be able to use the suggestions offered here to help you with those other problems, as well. Some General Information about Legal Problems Some general rules for dealing with legal problems are: 1. Many legal problems involve DEADLINES. If there is a Court action pending, you will need to make sure that you don’t miss any Court hearings, or dates set by the Court for filing responses or disclosure documents, for instance. In addition, there are usually deadlines to file cases (called “Statutes of Limitation”). If you don’t file your case within the time allowed, you may be prohibited from pursuing your claim. 2. It is important to keep all DOCUMENTS that pertain to your legal problem. Documents such as letters, court papers, leases, contracts, insurance policies, payment records, notices, etc., can help you prove your case. It is easier to establish your case if you have something in writing to back you up, rather than relying on verbal testimony or your memory. Also keep the ENVELOPES with the letters you receive. 2
  3. 3. 3. Every situation is different. Don’t rely on a friend’s or relative’s experiences as a guide for your situation. If you want advice on your case or your legal options, you should talk to an attorney. An attorney may know solutions to your problems that other people may not be aware of. 4. Some possible sources of help are listed after each question. As a senior, you are often entitled to legal assistance through your local Area Agency on Aging. Each AAA differs in the type of legal help available, so check with your local senior center. 5. Colorado Legal Services helps low-income people who are having civil legal problems—such as divorce, custody, problems with Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, or other benefit programs, advance directives, consumer or debt problems, housing issues, etc. As a senior, you do not have to qualify for legal assistance through your AAA, but you may be eligible for more services if you are low-income and qualify under CLS financial guidelines. 6. For more information on any of the topics listed in this Checklist, visit the Colorado Legal Services website: Checklist Sponsors This Checklist has been produced by: Colorado Legal Services P.O. Box 2694 Frisco, CO 80443 1-800-521-6968 and Alpine Area Agency on Aging P.O. Box 2308 Silverthorne, CO 80498 970-468-0295/800-332-3669 3
  4. 4. Question #1 Has a friend or relative borrowed money which they haven’t paid back? □ Yes □ No If you answered “Yes ” to this question, you can: 1. Document the money that is owed to you, by getting copies of the loan papers, or writing a letter to the person who owes you money. 2. Have an attorney write a letter demanding the money. 3. If you are being threatened by the person who owes you money, you can report it to the police. 4. File a Court suit for the return of the money. Question #2 Have you experienced, or are you worried about, “identity theft”? □ Yes □ No If you answered “Yes ” to this question, you can: 1. Write to the Credit Reporting Bureaus, to inform them of the theft and put a freeze on your accounts. 2. Contact your bank, credit union, or other financial institution to inform them of the theft. 3. Protest any items on your credit report that are wrong. 4. File a police report regarding any fraudulent items on your accounts 5. NEVER give out your Social Security number, birth date, or account numbers to anyone who contacts you asking for the information. 6. Shred all documents which contain your information before you throw them out. 7. Request FREE copies of your credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies. You are entitled to a FREE copy from each agency once each year. Check your reports for accuracy, and protest any inaccurate items. 4
  5. 5. Question #3 Is your insurance company refusing to settle a claim involving your home, your car, or another insured item? □ Yes □ No If you answered “Yes ” to this question, you can: 1. Follow any appeal procedures provided by your insurance company. 2. File a complaint with the Insurance Commissioner. You can reach the Insurance Commissioner by calling 1-303-894-7490 or 1-800-930-3745. 3. Have an attorney review your insurance policy, to see if you are likely to win your claim. Question #4 Are you unhappy with a product you bought, or services you paid for? □ Yes □ No If you answered “Yes ” to this question, you can: 1. Document the problem in writing. 2. Have an attorney review any contracts you signed. 3. Try to negotiate with the person who sold you the product or provided the service. 4. Contact any applicable regulatory agency (such as the Car Dealer Licensing Board) to file a complaint. 5. File a Court suit to get your money back. 5
  6. 6. Question #5 Are you having trouble making your mortgage payments, or are you having trouble with your mortgage company? □ Yes □ No If you answered “Yes ” to this question, you can: 1. Talk to an attorney about the problems you are having with your mortgage company. An attorney can help you determine if the mortgage company has done anything illegal. 2. Talk to your bank or credit union about reliable sources of mortgages. They will help you avoid companies that do not offer good deals. 3. If you have signed mortgage papers with a company that is now threatening to take your property, talk to an attorney. Question #6 Are you having problems with other loans, or have you co-signed a loan for someone else? □ Yes □ No If you answered “Yes ” to this question, you can: 1. Talk to a consumer credit counseling agency for help with your debts. To find a reputable agency, talk to your bank or credit union. 2. Have an attorney review your loan papers, to make sure that the loan is legal. 3. Talk to the person for whom you co-signed the loan, to see if they will refinance to take your name off the loan. 4. NEVER co-sign a loan if you can’t afford to pay for it yourself. People need co-signers when they don’t qualify for the loan by themselves because of their poor credit history. 6
  7. 7. Question #7 Do you have a question about Social Security or Medicare benefits, or another benefit program? □ Yes □ No If you answered “Yes ” to this question, you can: 1. APPEAL the decision, if you have been denied benefits, or if your benefits have been reduced, or if you have been terminated from a program, or if you have been accused of receiving an overpayment. Appeals do not usually cost you any money, but must be filed within the deadline set by the program. 2. Talk to an attorney who specializes in these topics for advice. 3. Find out if there are other benefit programs for which you may qualify. (Colorado Legal Services can often help you figure out if there are other programs that can help you.) 4. Contact Medicare at 1-800-633-4227 or the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213. Question #8 Do you feel that you may have been discriminated against because of your age, sex, ethnic background, religion, etc., in obtaining housing, credit, employment, or access to services? □ Yes □ No If you answered “Yes ” to this question, you can: 1. Talk to an attorney to see if you have a possible claim. 2. Make a complaint to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission (1-800-272-4845). 3. Make a complaint to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Denver Field Office at 1-303-866-1300 or 1-303-866-1301). 4. Make a complaint to any local government or agency which regulates the problem. 7
  8. 8. Question #9 As a landlord or a tenant, have you had problems with security deposits, leases, evictions, or other rental issues? □ Yes □ No If you answered “Yes ” to this question, you can: 1. Talk to an attorney, who can review your lease and let you know what your rights and your options are. 2. If another party is threatening to harm you or your property, talk to the police. 3. Negotiate a resolution of the problem if possible. 4. File a Court action if necessary. Question #10 If you are a resident of public housing, do you have any problems or questions you need help resolving? □ Yes □ No If you answered “Yes ” to this question, you can: 1. Talk to an attorney who is familiar with public housing rules. 2. Request an administrative hearing if you are facing eviction or other action such as a rent increase. Question #11 Have you been denied medical care, or threatened with removal from a nursing home or other health care facility? □ Yes □ No If you answered “Yes ” to this question, you can: 1. Talk to an attorney to find out if you have a right to appeal. 8
  9. 9. 2. File a complaint with a regulatory agency for the facility. 3. Contact the Colorado Ombudsman Program at 1-800-278-1376. Question #12 Are you being sued, or has someone won a judgment against you? □ Yes □ No If you answered “Yes ” to this question, you can: 1. Talk to an attorney to get an opinion on your case, or on your chances of appealing a judgment. 2. Find out if you have assets that can be garnished to satisfy a judgment. For instance, Social Security and most retirement funds are often exempt from garnishment, and a certain amount of home equity is protected. (Social Security can be garnished for debts such as taxes or child support.) However, you will have to act to protect your exempt assets. 3. Consider filing bankruptcy if you have no other options. Bankruptcy laws have changed recently, so you will need to consult an attorney who specializes in bankruptcy law. Question #13 Is a member of your family threatening to harm you? Is anyone else threatening to harm you, or threatening to harm someone else if you don’t give him or her your money or give him or her other control over your life? Have you been harmed or suffered other losses? □ Yes □ No If you answered “Yes ” to this question, you can: 1. Talk to someone you trust—the police, Social Services, your minister, your doctor, a trusted family member or friend, a Senior Coordinator, an attorney, etc. 9
  10. 10. 2. Get a Protective Order preventing the person making the threats from having any contact with you. A victim advocacy program or attorney can often help you get a Protective Order. 3. Hire an attorney to help you get back control of your life. Sometimes criminal charges can be filed against the person who has threatened or harmed you. 4. File a Court action to regain money or other possessions that you lost because of threats. 5. Contact the AARP ElderWatch program at 1-800-222-4444 to report fraud, financial elder abuse, or exploitation. Question #14 Do you want to get custody of a grandchild? Do you need formal custody of a child who is now in your care? □ Yes □ No If you answered “Yes ” to this question, you can: 1. Talk to an attorney to find out if you can file for custody. 2. Find out if you may qualify for any benefit programs which could help you care for a child. Question #15 Do you want information about Grandparent Rights? Have you lost contact with a grandchild because of problems with the grandchild’s parent(s)? □ Yes □ No If you answered “Yes ” to this question, you can: 1. Talk to an attorney to find out if your situation will qualify under Colorado law as a Grandparent Rights case. 2. Learn your options for maintaining contact with your grandchildren. 10
  11. 11. 3. Negotiate a resolution to the problem, if possible. Court cases are hard on everyone, especially your grandchildren. Question #16 Do you want to update your Will? Have you moved to a different State since writing your Will, or have any heirs or other parties (such as Executors) died since the Will was written? Have your assets changed? Have your wishes changed? □ Yes □ No If you answered “Yes ” to this question, you can: 1. Talk to the attorney who prepared your Will, to get an opinion about any changes needed. 2. Work with an attorney in the appropriate State to update your Will if necessary. 3. Check to make sure all heirs and Executors/Agents are still appropriate. Question #17 Do you need any other estate documents, such as a Living Will, Medical Durable Power of Attorney, etc.? Do these forms need to be updated? □ Yes □ No If you answered “Yes ” to this question, you can: 1. Make sure your wishes are clearly stated, and haven’t changed since you prepared these documents. 2. Make sure your family is aware of your wishes. 3. Make sure your forms are legal in the State where you reside or regularly visit. If you spend part of each year in different states, make sure you are protected in both states. 4. Make sure your Agent is still able to serve, and will respect your wishes. 11
  12. 12. Getting Help 1. Call Colorado Legal Services at 1-800-521-6968. They can refer you to your local CLS office, or to another agency that can help you. 2. Call Alpine Area Agency on Aging at 1-970-468-0295 (local) or at 1-800-332-3669. They can refer you to your local Senior Coordinator, or other resources for seniors in your area. 3. If you have used an attorney in the past, call your attorney. If he or she doesn’t handle the type of legal problem you have, he or she should refer you to an attorney who can help you. Some Useful Resources FREE CREDIT REPORT 1.877.322.8228 Annual Credit Report Request Service P.O. Box 105281 Atlanta, GA 30348 CENTERS FOR MEDICARD AND MEDICAID Medicare 1-800-633-4227 Colorado Medicaid 1-800-221-3943 12
  13. 13. NURSING HOMES AND ASSISTED LIVING RESIDENCES Colorado Long-term Care Ombudsman: 1-303-722-0300 SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION 1-800-772-1213 SOCIAL SERVICES Colorado Department of Human Services, Aging and Adult Services Division: 1-800-773-1366 13