As Michael Brevda points out in his article, “Recognizing Elder Abuse,” (p. 38), the number of Americans who are age 65 or older has increased dramatically. And, the number of individuals comprising the older end of this population is also on the rise. Michael notes that in 2010, the United States had 5.8 million seniors over age 85, and this number is expected to skyrocket to 19 million in 2050. Accordingly, chances are that estate-planning professionals will be handling an increasing number of elder care issues in their practices. They must be sensitive to the vulnerability of these clients, as well as their unique needs.
This month’s Committee Report on elder care attempts to shed light on some of the important issues involved in working with elderly clients. Michael’s article helps practitioners spot the signs of elder abuse and gives them factors to consider in determining whether to bring a lawsuit against the offending party (for example, an elder care facility or a home health aide). In “Know Your Client,” (p. 46), Lawrence A. Frolik and Bernard A. Krooks take us to the beginning of the process, when practitioners are first meeting with a new client, and give us the right questions to ask to uncover potential problems. And, “Does Your Client Suffer From Diminished Capacity?” (p. 42), by Bryan D. Kirk, suggests what to do if you suspect your elderly client lacks legal capacity to make changes in his estate plan.
As many practitioners learn when working with clients of any age, the reasons most clients make decisions aren’t always rational. Rather, they’re often based on the client’s personal experience and beliefs, as well as emotional angst. “Psychological Issues of Bequests,” (p. 13), by Stanley H. Teitelbaum and Martin M. Shenkman, explores the emotional aspects that underlie many estate plan decisions and offers ideas on how to help clients convert these emotion-based feelings into a workable estate plan.