May 30, 2017

How Lawyers Can Help Prevent Elder Abuse

The Hon. William D. Missouri


Elder abuse appears in many forms. Harmful acts toward the elderly can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial or neglectful. The articles in this month’s Voice of Experience emphasize elder abuse prevention with a focus on how attorneys can help.

Deirdre Lok is the member spotlighted this month. Be prepared for a really interesting read on Deirdre as well as thought-provoking and very informative articles on elder abuse.

We thank Deirdre for the excellent job she has done in gathering articles for this VOE issue. "Advantages of the Elder Law Clinic Experience," was previously published in Perspective, a publication of the New York State Bar Association. Deirdre is one of the contributing authors to that article. Three students – Emily Bensco, Adam Cooper and Kristen Chang – from three different Elder Law Clinics, share various experiences and situations they encountered while studying and working with older clients. The lessons they share benefit all practitioners in the field of elder law. Clinics dedicated to a variety of legal and social topics began to populate the curriculum just as I entered law school in 1975, therefore I had no experience with that mode of learning prior to my graduation in 1978. Clinics allow interaction to provide information to a large number of elders in an efficient manner, and therefore the value of clinics exceed the cost of the operations.

The legal definition of undue influence is a judicially created defense to transactions that have been imposed upon weak and vulnerable persons that allows the transactions to be set aside. In the article "Undue Influence Revisited," Philip C. Marshall and Mary Joy Quinn write that undue influence is no longer confined to the legal arena, but is a form of psychological abuse. The definition continually evolves and the victims are often elderly people.

Earlier this month, the Senior Lawyers Division held its Spring Meeting at National Harbor, Maryland. The intense program discussion dealt with the opioid crisis and abuse by the elderly. The article by Joy Solomon and Malya Levin tells of yet another crisis in their article, "Elder Abuse as a Public Health Crisis: Using Medical-Legal Models to Address Abuse." Attorneys and medical professional working together is beneficial to the elderly both legally and health wise.

Many seniors find themselves victims of scams and frauds. Gary S. Brown gives important information to elders on how to protect themselves in the article, "How to Avoid Common Scams That Target Older Adults." The article lists some of the most common scams aimed at the elderly and makes the important point that if you think you or someone you know is being victimized, do not hesitate to contact the local police, the state’s attorney’s office or the Federal Trade Commission.

Respectfully with best regards,

William D. Missouri, Chair
Senior Lawyers Division

The Hon. William D. Missouri