Posts Tagged ‘advanced directives’

Advanced Directives are for Everyone – Yes, I’m Looking at YOU.

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

In my last post I wrote about a pro bono project providing advanced directives and other end-of-life planning documents to the elderly and threatened to write more on advanced directives in my next post. I did not realize at the time that the next post would be ten days later! Mid-term grades are in and the first draft of my thesis is done, so now I can focus a bit more on blog posts I hope.

I was reminded of the topic by a post in the Paralegal Network Linkedin discussion group entitled “Avoid these estate planning mistakes.” The post shared an article from, “Five Common Estate-Planning Mistakes After Having a Baby.” That post has now been followed by one entitled, “5 Common Estate-Planning Mistakes When Getting Divorced.”  I’ll let you read those posts for those mistakes as I want to talk about another one.

I have no data to back this up, but I have the distinct impression that the biggest mistake legal professionals make in end-of-life planning is that they do not do it for themselves. Sure many if not most attorneys have a will and maybe a trust. Documents that take care of the assets. But as I discuss extensively in The Empowered Paralegal:Working with the Elder Client, (1) disposition of assets is only one part of end-of-life planning and problably not the most important one, and (2) executing a document is only part of the answer.

I am going to assume you know what an advanced health care directive is. If not, check out Working with the Elder Client which I like to think does a good job of explaining them. It also explains that different perspectives that people have with regard to AHCDs in particular and aging & death in general. What I want to focus on here is the point that they are not solely elder law client documents and that the documents themselves are not enough.

Many legal professionals, lawyers and paralegals, think of AHCDs only in terms of their clients, especially elder clients.  I know you are already overworked, but I am going to give you something more to do – something essential to you and your family.  Sit down and think about what you want to happen if you were in Karen Ann Quinlan (at age 21) or Terry Shiavo (at agae 27). Who would get to make the decisions. Remember an AHCD allows you to make many of them in advance. Sure, you can simply appoint someone to make the decisions for you or allow the person designated by state statute (who may be the soon-to-be ex-spouse you are in the process of divorcing,) but is that fair to them (I realize that you are not likely to be real concerned about being fair to the soon-to-be ex-spouse.) Then execute an AHCD.

I know we tend to think the need for an AHCD will only occur to our clients, but it can and does happen to us. I know from recent personal experience just how suddenly a need for AHCD can arise. Keep in mind that your family and other loved ones will likely be in shock from the fact that an AHCD is needed. Only we can avoid the additional stress and distress occasioned by putting them in the position of having to make decisions that they have to make only because you wouldn’t and didn’t make them for yourself.

Which brings me to the second point. Talk about this stuff with your family and other loved ones. I know it is difficult. We don’t even want to think about it, much less talk about it. This is especially true in modern American culture. (As I discuss in Working thatwas not always the case.)  It is especially important to talk to those who may have to make decisions, but also those who will have to accept those decisions. Let them know what you would want to have happen. Find out what they would like to have happen (both to you and to them.) Be aware that since people are reluctant to talk about these topic you may have an entirely mistaken impression that those who would have to make decisions know what you would want. Worse, parents, siblings, or children who may have to make joint decisions may have vastly different impressions of what you would want and vastly different impressions of ought to be done. Do you really want your family arguing over whether you wanted to be cremated or buried, a church funeral or not, a wake or not, etc?

Our children are all over the age of 18. I advised each as they reached the age of 18 to execute an AHCD. Even more important in my opinion even before the age of 18 my wife and I began discussing with them what we want to happened in the final stages of our lifes and at our deaths. Without a doubt they considered it morbid and did not want to think about it. At times we had to leave the discussion for a future date. But I am now confident that when the time comes they will be drawn together as they struggle through the stages of grief  instead of being torn apart by disputes over what should be done.

Advance Directives for Seniors project

Monday, March 5th, 2012

This story is notable for several reason including the obvious value of the project. One of significance is the fact that the article refers to “attorney – paralegal teams.”

Advance Directives for Seniors project visits Jacksonville townhouse
by Kathy Para, The JBA Pro Bono Committee Chairwoman

A team of volunteers including seven attorneys, four paralegals, and five law students gathered Feb. 25 to assist local seniors in creating advance directive documents.

The project was a collaborative effort of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Florida Coastal School of Law, The Jacksonville Bar Association and the Northeast Florida Paralegal Association.

The pro bono attorneys included Robert Morgan, Krista Parry, Bruce Duggar, Robyn Moore, Debbie Lee-Clark, Hollyn Foster and Pat Vail.

Paralegals Margaret Costa, Regina Colbert, Donna Hoffman and Courtney Brown, as well as law students Gabriella Vero, Hayley James, Melissa Cohenson, Camille Higham and Amanda Gray serving as scribes, witnesses, notaries and interviewers.

The attorney-paralegal and attorney-law student teams created and executed the advance directive documents including Durable Powers of Attorney, Health Care Surrogate Designations, Living Wills, and Designations of Pre-need Guardian for 24 local senior citizens.

For more on how this project operates (just in case your association is looking for a project) click here for the full story in the Jacksonville Financial News and Daily Record.

More on advanced directives and other end-of-life planning in the next post.

Paralegals help expand pro bono services for low-income senior citizens

Monday, August 8th, 2011

The Northeast Florida Paralegal Association is part of a consortium of groups banding together to provide legal services to low-income elderly. According to the Jacksonville Daily Record:

Building on the current efforts of dedicated Jacksonville Area Legal Aid (JALA) pro bono attorneys Pat Vail and Joe Meux, attorneys, paralegals and law school representatives met July 12 at the offices of Akerman Senterfitt to discuss plans for expanding services to low-income senior citizens in Northeast Florida.

The expansion in services will be modeled after the Military Reservists Wills and Advance Directives Pro Bono project that has been offered to Navy and Army reservists at local military facilities.

The services will help to organize their affairs and by planning ahead, these seniors will protect their rights and make informed decisions about their health care, property and family in the event of their own incapacity or death.


By helping senior citizens make these choices, the Senior Citizen Wills and Advance Directives Pro Bono project will help provide stability, dignity and comfort to the seniors and their families as they make decisions during end-of-life chapters.

“There has been deep discussion over how to broaden the reach of the advanced directive program by encouraging other lawyers, paralegals and law students to participate as well,” said attorney Pat Vail, who has provided leadership and advocacy for this population.

Vail added that there have been many “willing hands” interested in helping to provide services to seniors, including members of the Elder Law section of The Jacksonville Bar Association, service coordinators at residential centers, Florida Coastal School of Law, the Northeast Florida Paralegal Association and Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.

This is an excellent idea. In general, bar associations and paralegal associations should work together to maximize access to justice in the United States.  There are no losers and many winners when this happens. The lawyers accomplish far more than they would without the assistance of paralegals. The paralegals gain experience, network, project a good image with both the bar and the public, and satisfy  ethical obligations. And the benefits to the community are obvious.

Kudos to all involved.

Release Party Invitation

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Today is the official release date for The Empowered Paralegal: Working with the Elder Client. Despite my Oxford, Mississippi, connection, the release party will not be of the John Grisham variety. We start with the Philosphy Forum Series on the OleMiss Campus for a lecture entitled “The Authority of Empathy,” then one of the local establishments for a quick pint and other nourishment with the local bar association followed by the 6th Annual Japan Foundation Film Series: Japanese Films of the 1960’s event showing “The Fort of Death.” Feel free to join in the fun

Or you could spend your time productively by ordering a copy of the book. (I know this is simply blatent self-promotion, but what’s the point of having a blog if I can’t plug my own stuff.)

The Empowered Paralegal: Working with the Elder Client
by Robert E. Mongue

2010 • $38.00 • 328 pp • paper • ISBN: 978-1-59460-795-0 • LCCN 2010025542

Order now with 10% Internet Discount


Elder law is a dual-natured creature and in many ways is quite unlike any other area of law. Substantively the law is law – statutes, cases, rules, and regulations – all of which must be researched, analyzed, understood and applied. Unlike any other type of law, however, elder law is not about something a client is going through, such as a divorce, bankruptcy, a real estate transaction, or even a criminal charge. Elder law is about whom and what the client is – an elderly person. The Empowered Paralegal: Working with the Elder Client enhances understanding of elder law clients, the laws applicable to them, and the issues they face.

The Empowered Paralegal: Working with the Elder Client examines the many influences on elder clients and their families, the deeply personal perspectives which result from those influences, and how they affect the decisions elder law clients make. It focuses on awareness and understanding of the elder client, explaining in clear language the dual nature of the elder client, the physical and psychological changes that occur as we age, and the practicalities of accommodating these changes when working with elderly clients. It also examines:

  • Issues surrounding competency, as well as the need for and methods of documenting competency in the file.
  • Dealing with the client’s family, including conflicts of interests, confidentiality and undue influence.
  • Perspectives, many culturally or religiously based, on aging, death, and dying.
  • Intestacy, estate planning basics, and the use of basic estate planning tools to meet client goals.
  • Advanced directives and other means of planning for end-of-life decisions.
  • Social Security, SSI, Medicare, Medicaid and other public benefit programs and laws directly affecting the elderly.
  • Elder abuse and the conflicts that may arise between the attorney/client privilege and mandatory reporting statues.
  • Ethical dilemmas faced by the professionals who work with the elderly.

“Mongue’s book does not cover the ho and the hum of regular ‘how-to’ paralegal books. In fact, what he covers should be taught in every school regardless of specialty, profession or even age. Here, Mongue deals with our feelings about aging and the myths, stereotypes, cultural prejudices and extrapolations to the general population based upon personal experience. He draws you in as he explains behavior and the aging process and teaches you how to react as a result. As it turns out, much of what we think about the elderly is wrong, wrong, wrong.” — Chere Estrin, Editor-in-Chief of KNOW, The Magazine for Paralegals and SUE, For Women in Litigation; Chairperson of the Board, The Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP)

“[A]n insightful guide that any legal professional who works with an older population will find extremely useful. Mongue brings his extensive expertise both as a practicing lawyer and a paralegal instructor to the table, and illustrates his points with interesting examples. He discusses the complexities of the law in regard to aging in a clear, direct style that readers of all experience levels will appreciate. This book is a must-read and a valuable desk reference for anyone who interacts with elder clients.” — Lynne J. DeVenny, Co-Author of Workers’ Compensation Practice for Paralegals and blogger at Practical Paralegalism