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Street Smarts for Seniors (.ppt)

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Street Smarts for Seniors (.ppt)

  1. 1. Street Smarts for Seniors Clinical Law Professor Kate Mewhinney Wake Forest University School of Law www.law.wfu.edu/eclinic
  2. 2. Our Goal
  3. 3. Today’s topics <ul><li>Debt problems and legal protections </li></ul><ul><li>Frauds and things to be cautious of </li></ul><ul><li>Useful resources </li></ul>
  4. 4. Debt Problems and Legal Protections
  5. 5. Bankruptcy Cases - 1994 to 2002 <ul><li>Ages 55 and over </li></ul><ul><ul><li>87% increase in Chap. 7 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>75% increase in Chap. 13 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>John Golmant and Tom Ulrich, Aging and Bankruptcy: The Baby Boomers Meet Up at Bankruptcy Court , American Bankruptcy Institute Journal, May 2007 . </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>89% increase in credit card debt between ‘92 and ’01, among the 65+ </li></ul><ul><li>Mortgage debt increasing as seniors tap home equity to cover expenses </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Source: John Golmant and Tom Ulrich, supra </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Causes <ul><li>Health care costs </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Medical expenses on credit cards </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Employer-sponsored supplemental insurance plans declined from 66% of employers in 1988 to 38% in 2003 </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><ul><li>Credit card debt for middle and low-income families without health insurance increased 169%, compared to a 37% increase for families with health insurance. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Source: John Golmant and Tom Ulrich, Aging and Bankruptcy: The Baby Boomers Meet Up at Bankruptcy Court , American Bankruptcy Institute Journal, May 2007. </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Avoiding and Dealing with Debts <ul><li>Don’t co-sign for relatives’ loans </li></ul><ul><li>Use credit cards sparingly </li></ul><ul><li>Use phone screening – caller ID and answering machines </li></ul><ul><li>Learn your rights as a debtor </li></ul><ul><li>Take advantage of resources for seniors </li></ul>
  10. 10. Debtors May Have Protections They Don’t Know About
  11. 11. <ul><li>Sometimes, the inability to pay a bill will not result in loss of income or property for the debtor. </li></ul><ul><li>Find out your rights – don’t worry unnecessarily. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Example <ul><li>Aunt Bea rents an apartment and owns an older car. She had to charge some expenses and now owes VISA $8,000. </li></ul><ul><li>She owns no other property and gets only Social Security and a small pension. </li></ul><ul><li>If VISA sues on this “unsecured debt,” all her property and income are completely safe. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Income Protection: 2 things to know
  14. 14. <ul><li>Your Social Security check is completely protected by federal law from any and all creditors (except for the Social Security Administration and the IRS). </li></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>Tip: If you owe a bank on your credit card or loan and are having difficulty paying, consider moving your Social Security direct deposit to a different financial institution. Otherwise, they might try to seize those funds (despite legal restrictions). </li></ul>
  16. 16. No wage garnishment in NC <ul><li>Exceptions: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>child support, </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>taxes, </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>bills at public hospitals ( if debtor is left with adequate income), or </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>if judgment was entered in another state and the debtor works for an N.C. company that has offices in that state. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Property Protections
  18. 18. Secured versus Unsecured Debts <ul><li>Unsecured debt means there’s no lien. </li></ul><ul><li>Secured debt (home mortgage or car loan) gives that creditor additional rights -- to foreclose or repossess the security. </li></ul><ul><li>Most credit card / medical debt is un secured. </li></ul>
  19. 19. <ul><li>In most cases, unsecured creditors can only get a “money judgment” against the debtor. </li></ul><ul><li>The debtor’s income and property cannot be seized, unless his or her property exceeds certain limits. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Property protected from unsecured creditors with money judgments <ul><li>Limited equity in a home ($18,500 for a single person but $37,000 if he or she is 65 or older and a widower and owned the home with the deceased spouse) </li></ul><ul><li>Household goods </li></ul><ul><li>Car equity of $3,500 or up to $8,500 </li></ul><ul><li>Some other essential items </li></ul>
  21. 21. Other Protection Under NC Law <ul><li>Protection for real estate owned by husband and wife together : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Judgment against only one spouse cannot be used against this type of property, regardless of the amount of equity the couple has in the property. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>However, both spouses could be sued for medical expenses of one spouse. </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Frauds and ….Things to Be Cautious About
  23. 23. <ul><li>57% of all fraud victims are over the age of 50 (2001 AARP survey) </li></ul><ul><li>FBI warns that seniors are more vulnerable because they are better savers, are generally more polite and are less inclined to report fraud than younger victims </li></ul>
  24. 24. Older Fraud Victims – Not Typical <ul><li>More men than women and more married than unmarried persons </li></ul><ul><li>More who live with someone than alone </li></ul><ul><li>More with higher degrees, incomes </li></ul><ul><li>and financial literacy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Source: Investor Fraud Study Final Report , prepared for WISE Senior Services and NASD Investor Search Education Foundation by the Consumer Fraud Research Group, May 2006. </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. The Elder Justice Act Senate Bill 1070 and House Bill 1783 <ul><li>No federal coordination now exists to tackle elder abuse and neglect </li></ul><ul><li>Neither NC Senator is supporting this bill. Should they? </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>(336) 631-5125 Senator Burr </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>(919) 856-4630 Senator Dole </li></ul></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Frauds that Target Seniors <ul><li>Ponzi or pyramid schemes </li></ul><ul><li>Affinity fraud – someone in your group </li></ul><ul><li>Fraudulent telemarketing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Giving personal information by phone </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Lottery or sweepstakes winnings </li></ul><ul><li>Home or car repairs </li></ul>
  27. 27. Other Sources of Fraud <ul><li>Failing to monitor a person you appointed under a power of attorney. So: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Give someone else the power to demand an accounting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Consider requiring 2 signatures for major transactions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Not getting 2d opinion on major transactions </li></ul><ul><li>Not thinking twice before giving assets away. </li></ul>
  28. 28. Families, Friends and Charities <ul><li>New friends – does money buy you love? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The devoted health care worker or aide </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The long lost relative </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Solicitous charities or…. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>University? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Physician? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Church member? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Former sheriff? </li></ul></ul>
  29. 29. Choosing the Attorney
  30. 30. <ul><li>Elder law ethics </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Attorney preparing power of attorney or other document must represent the principal (the person who will be signing the document), under N.C. State Bar Ethics rulings. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Benefits of using an elder law attorney </li></ul><ul><ul><li>National Elder Law Foundation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>National Elder Law Academy </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Your right to meet privately </li></ul>
  31. 31. <ul><li>Beware of who talks </li></ul><ul><li>Beware of who pays </li></ul><ul><li>Your right to confidentiality </li></ul><ul><li>Who’s the client? </li></ul><ul><li>Risks of “joint representation” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Perhaps just “disclosure” to other person is better </li></ul></ul><ul><li>www.abanet.org/genpractice/newsletter/lawtrends/0506/family/4cs.html </li></ul>
  32. 32. Decisions to Be Cautious About <ul><li>Annuities and Life Settlements </li></ul>
  33. 33. <ul><li>Deferred annuities and life settlements offer large commissions to the agent </li></ul><ul><li>Abusive sales tactics </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Scare tactics, “I am all that stands between you and potential catastrophic loss.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Driving a wedge between the investor and his or her established adviser </li></ul></ul>
  34. 34. Annuities <ul><li>Insurance contracts that offer buyers monthly or yearly income in exchange for 1 large lump-sum payment </li></ul><ul><li>Designed to appeal to those who worry they might outlive their savings </li></ul>
  35. 35. Immediate vs. Deferred Annuities <ul><li>Immediate Annuities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Payments are made to the payee within the first year of the contract </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>May be a good investment for a senior adults </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>73 year old purchases a $30,000 annuity and will begin immediately receiving $252 a month for life. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>If she lives for 10 years, that income is greater than the original investment </li></ul></ul></ul>
  36. 36. <ul><li>Deferred Annuities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Savings accumulate over an extended period before payments to payee begin. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>May be a good option for a wealthy seniors who need a way to transfer savings to their heirs while avoiding large tax payments. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>For retirees living off savings, may not be a good choice because the buyer is likely to die before the contract begins paying. </li></ul></ul>
  37. 37. Factors to Consider <ul><li>Age : will the investor live long enough to reap the benefits </li></ul><ul><li>Capacity : does the investor understand the transaction </li></ul><ul><li>Net Worth : the higher the net worth of the annuitant, the more sense an annuity makes </li></ul>
  38. 38. <ul><li>Percentage of Assets : the annuity should count for a reasonable percentage of the investor’s assets </li></ul><ul><li>Income Tax : pros and cons of deferred taxation </li></ul><ul><li>Expenses : the costs of the annuity vs. other investment tools </li></ul>
  39. 39. <ul><li>Guaranteed Lifetime Income : understand how the annuity will work in the particular investor’s situation </li></ul><ul><li>Other Investment Options : what is the best investment option for the particular investor’s goals </li></ul><ul><li>Source: Thomas D. Begley, Jr., “ The Suitability of Annuities Sale to Seniors”, The ElderLaw Report, July/August 2002 . </li></ul>
  40. 40. Medicaid and Annuities <ul><li>New rules (federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>set strict standards for annuities. </li></ul>
  41. 41. <ul><li>For married couples, an immediate annuity might be a help for the healthy spouse when the other spouse enters a nursing home. </li></ul><ul><li>The State must be named as remainder beneficiary (after the healthy spouse and minor and disabled children) to the extent of benefits paid. </li></ul><ul><li>Deferred annuity generally isn’t a good planning tool for Medicaid. </li></ul><ul><li>Work with an elder law attorney! </li></ul>
  42. 42. Life Settlements <ul><li>Selling a life insurance policy (or the right to receive death benefits) to a company other than the company that originally issued the policy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Different from viatical settlements which are meant for terminally ill persons with a life expectancy of less than two years </li></ul></ul>
  43. 43. <ul><li>The principal receives a lump sum payment and the purchasing company either holds the policy to maturity or resells the policy to other investors </li></ul><ul><li>Amount received is usually greater than the policy’s surrender value and less than the net death benefit </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Source: Seniors Beware: What You Should Know About Life Settlements, February 8, 2007. available at: www.nasd.com </li></ul></ul>
  44. 44. Factors to consider on life settlements <ul><li>Do you need the insurance policy? </li></ul><ul><li>Can you afford to continue to pay the premiums on the policy? </li></ul><ul><li>If selling one policy for another, can you afford the premiums on the new policy given age or health status? </li></ul><ul><li>Consider the tax consequences – unlike viatical settlements, life settlements are taxable </li></ul>
  45. 45. <ul><li>Less costly alternatives – borrowing against your current policy, accelerated death benefits </li></ul><ul><li>Consider other financial consequences – qualification for Medicaid benefits </li></ul><ul><li>Source: Seniors Beware: What You Should Know About Life Settlements, February 8, 2007 . </li></ul>
  46. 46. More questions on life settlements <ul><li>Is the settlement broker licensed in NC? </li></ul><ul><li>What will happen to your policy? </li></ul><ul><li>What information will you have to provide? To whom and for how long? </li></ul><ul><li>How can you protect your privacy? </li></ul><ul><li>What’s best price you can get for policy? </li></ul>
  47. 47. <ul><li>What are the transaction costs? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the tax consequences? </li></ul><ul><li>What if you change your mind? </li></ul><ul><li>Is the life settlement in your best interests or those of investor? </li></ul><ul><li>Source: Seniors Beware: What You Should Know About Life Settlements, February 8, 2007. </li></ul>
  48. 48. The Credentials Game <ul><li>Be cautious about impressive sounding credentials such as: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>certified elder planning specialist </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>registered financial gerontologist </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>certified retirement financial adviser, or </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>certified senior adviser </li></ul></ul></ul>
  49. 49. <ul><li>Some titles are earned in a few days from for-profit businesses and sound similar to established credentials requiring years of study, difficult tests & extensive background checks </li></ul><ul><li>Source : Charles Duhigg, “For Elderly Investors, Instant Experts Abound,” The New York Times , July 8, 2007 </li></ul>
  50. 50. Legal Recourse for Fraud
  51. 51. <ul><li>Possible criminal charges </li></ul><ul><li>Civil lawsuit, including such claims as: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fraud, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Breach of fiduciary duty, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cancellation of transaction, or </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Unfair trade practice </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Violation of licensing rules and professional regulations </li></ul>
  52. 52. <ul><li>Mediation – private, informal, and out of court. </li></ul><ul><li>The mediator is impartial and does not make the decision. </li></ul><ul><li>Parties can agree – or not – to resolve the case. </li></ul>
  53. 53. Mediation now an option in guardianship and estate disputes
  54. 54. <ul><li>N.C. Dispute Resolution Commission </li></ul><ul><li>(919) 890-1415 </li></ul><ul><li>Mediation of guardianships & </li></ul><ul><li>estate disputes : Call the number above or see </li></ul><ul><li>www.nccourts.org/Courts/CRS/Councils/DRC/Clerks/ </li></ul><ul><li>Default.asp </li></ul>
  55. 55. <ul><li>Consumer Resources </li></ul>
  56. 56. <ul><li>N.C. Sec’y of State, Securities Division </li></ul><ul><ul><li>800-688-4607 or www.sosn.com </li></ul></ul><ul><li>N.C. Attorney General </li></ul><ul><ul><li>www.ncdoj.com – publishes an updated list of scams targeting seniors across the state </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(877)-5-NO-SCAM. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Senior Financial Care </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(336) 896-1328 for help in this area </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>www.cccsforsyth.org/inhome.php4 </li></ul></ul>
  57. 57. Federal Laws <ul><li>We need to enact the Elder Justice Act. </li></ul><ul><li>Learn more: www.elderjusticecoalition.com/ </li></ul><ul><li>or 202-682-4140 </li></ul><ul><li>Federal Trade Commission </li></ul><ul><ul><li>www.ftc.gov – click on “Consumer Protection” for resources </li></ul></ul>
  58. 58. <ul><li>National Do Not Call Registry </li></ul><ul><ul><li>www.donotcall.gov – to remove phone # from telemarketing lists </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Opt Out </li></ul><ul><ul><li>www.optoutprescreen.com or 1-888-5-OPTOUT to reduce prescreened insurance and credit card offers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>AARP www.aarp.org/money/ </li></ul>
  59. 59. <ul><li>NC Board of Legal Specialization </li></ul><ul><li>www.nclawspecialists.org/ </li></ul><ul><li>919-828-4620 </li></ul><ul><li>Certified Financial Planners </li></ul><ul><li>www.cfp.net Consumer Line 888-237-6275 </li></ul><ul><li>Certified Professional Accountants </li></ul><ul><li>www.aicpa.org </li></ul>
  60. 60. <ul><li>The Elder Law Clinic - WFU School of Law </li></ul><ul><li>www.law.wfu.edu/eclinic (336) 713-8630 </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Links on nursing home issues </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Materials for lawyers </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>National resources on aging issues </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Materials in Spanish </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Application for services </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Long-term care insurance information </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>And more! </li></ul></ul></ul>
  61. 61. Finding an Elder Law Attorney <ul><li>National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys has 5,000 members in all 50 states. www.naela.org </li></ul><ul><li>National Elder Law Foundation is the only ABA-recognized certification in elder law and is recognized by the N.C. State Bar. www.nelf.org </li></ul>
  62. 62. Be street smart! Professor Kate Mewhinney

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