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New booklet for seniors

This aging thing is getting old. Last week your intrepid reporter turned 57, and most of you celebrated – on Cinco de Mayo.

Do you know what it’s like to turn 57 when you think of yourself as somewhere around 40 (Maybe 45, but certainly not over 50)?

Well the California State Bar Association and the Foundation of the State Bar of California have just produced a nifty pamphlet for my kind: “Seniors and the Law – A Guide for Maturing Californians.” Yesterday we were aging, now we are maturing.



The booklet is chuck full of useful bits of information. Here’s a little sampling – organized the way the guide is laid out.

Making ends meet



This section explains Social Security and Supplemental Security Income with plenty of Web site references, and explains reverse mortgages, tax relief for seniors and senior immigrant issues.

There is even a subsection entitled “What Can I Do If I Can’t Afford to Eat?”

That would be a problem.

Housing

Here you learn about tax breaks in downsizing your home and your rights as a senior tenant.

Remember it is illegal for landlords and sellers of residential real estate to discriminate against folks 62 years old or older. Housing options are discussed, like shared housing, senior citizen housing development, senior housing, assisted living, continuing care retirement community and nursing homes.

If you are over 60 and live in rented housing owned or operated by the state or by a city or county, your landlord cannot prohibit you from keeping a pet, even an alligator. Not sure about that.

Health care

Here’s an area that is in the forefront for those of us with elderly parents. Did I mention that I myself am 57?

What is the difference between Medicare and Medi-Cal, and what is Medigap? How about veteran’s benefits and purchasing long-term care insurance? Don’t forget the free counseling from California’s Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program.

Planning ahead

Where there’s a will, there’s a way (standard industry joke).

I am passionate about families taking care of their estate planning. Do you have a will? How about a living trust? Think about it if you don’t like giving your assets to the government or to the wrong person as a result of an obsolete will.

How about an advanced health care directive? Or a durable power of attorney for health care for use of life-support equipment at your directive and taking care of your affairs if you become incapacitated.

Do you know whether a will covers life insurance proceeds, retirement plan assets and community property and joint tenancy? Nada. Is your beneficiarie’s inheritance taxed? Find out by reading the Seniors and the Law guide.

Dealing with debt

Here’s a section I hope you have no need to read. What happens if you can’t pay your bills and how do you know when it is time to file bankruptcy? Can bill collectors call late at night? Everyone else does. Will a homestead protect my house from a foreclosure? Answer: No.

Job issues

Your employer cannot fire you, deny you a job or discriminate against you simply because you are over 40.

They may find some other reason, but it can’t be because you are over 40. Remember if you collect social security payments before you turn 65 and earn additional income, your benefits will be reduced if your earnings exceed a certain amount.

Getting around

Learn the rules for getting a disabled parking placard and losing your driver’s license. Did you know anyone can fill out a DMV Request for Driver Re-Examination to flag an unsafe driver? I wonder if they had that form when my grandfather was driving late in life?

Elder abuse

Elder abuse is the neglect, mistreatment or exploitation of anyone age 65 or older. Criminal fines are stiffer for crimes against elders, which can involve physical violence, psychological abuse, isolation or a caregiver’s neglect.

The seniors’ Guide recites many of the dozens of elder laws, with a plethora of references for additional information.

Avoiding user scams

This section covers such things as charitable donation cons, door-to-door solicitation, investment scams, funeral and cemetery fraud, home repair misrepresentations, identity theft, revocable living trust mills and telemarketing and mail fraud.

This little jewel is worth the price of your purchasing the paper today: To remove your name from telephone and mailing lists write to the addresses below, and you may pre-register for the National Do Not Call Registry by visiting the California Attorneys General’s Web page at http://nocall.doj.state.ca.us.

Raising your grandchildren

Here’s a not-that-uncommon scenario these days with some worthwhile advice that may surprise you.

Caregiver or nursing home

The guide has a helpful section to explain the options for senior caregiving and nursing homes as well as Medicare coverage. This is an area where advice from an estate planning attorney may be helpful because there are things that you can do to help the government from grabbing your parents’ few assets. Remember the “three-year look back rule,” where the government can take back assets your parents disposed of before receiving Medicare.

‘Seniors and the law’

To obtain a copy of “Seniors and the Law” you may e-mail your request (including your name, mailing address, phone number and number of copies desired) to BARCOMM@calbar.ca.gov. Or, mail your request to: “Seniors and the Law,” Office of Media and Information Services, The State Bar of California, 180 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA 94105-1639.

Jim Porter is a 57-year old attorney with Porter-Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe and Reno.

He is a mediator and was the Governor’s appointee to the Bipartisan McPherson Commission and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. He may be reached at porter@portersimon.com or at the firm’s Web site http://www.portersimon.com.


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