Golden Years can be Tarnished by Lack of Planning

Retirees often come to Arizona to enjoy their golden years in great weather and an affordable state with spectacular natural beauty. Things sometimes turn ugly and expensive for seniors in Arizona, however.

That was the case for two women featured in a recent ABC 15-TV website article.

Gloria and Rosemary have health issues that were difficult for their families to deal with; both wanted their loved ones to get medical help but met resistance. By law, a family can't force a family member to get the care they need, but a guardian has the legal authority to do that.

In both cases, a court approved a guardian for the women: Sun Valley Group of Tempe.

In both cases, the women wound up in probate court, where issues regarding physical and mental health care for vulnerable adults are heard.

Big Bills Arrive

Sun Valley Group assumed control of Gloria's finances and care. Rosemary's husband agreed to let Sun Valley take care of Rosemary when they said they'd get her needed medical care and treatment for depression.

In short order, the bills began to arrive from Sun Valley Group: Rosemary's family says it spent over $100,000 for a mere four months of care; care her husband says didn't include the needed medical and mental health treatments.

Gloria's Sun Valley care cost a bit less than $500,000, according to her family. It included bills for a Sun Valley Group employee to open Gloria's mail at a cost of $75 per hour. (This article was based solely on information reported in the news. Starr Law Firm, PLC takes no position on the appropriateness of Sun Valley's billings. The facts of each case are different).

Sun Valley Group owners wouldn't comment for the ABC 15-TV report, but owners face investigations on a number of fronts, including one by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Organized Crime Unit.

Preventive Planning Steps to Take

With careful planning done in conjunction with family and a trusted attorney, seniors can choose who will make health care decisions and financial decisions in the event they can no longer capably make those judgments themselves.

A few elder care and estate planning options are briefly outlined here:

  • A power of attorney allows you to appoint a trusted person to make important financial, health care and end-of-life decisions if you become incapacitated.
  • A person who receives Social Security income can appoint a representative payee to receive the checks and use the money to pay the recipient's expenses.
  • A living trust is a legal arrangement in which you transfer assets to another person, called the trustee. The trustee then manages those assets for whoever is designated as the beneficiary. Just make sure that your assets are actually transferred to the trust; be sure to ask a lawyer to confirm that this was properly done.

By planning before a crisis arrives, the proper, trusted person makes decisions for their mother or father or spouse or other loved one in need of quality care.

It's tragic that any senior is exploited by companies and people looking to take advantage of another person's misfortunes or illness.

If you or a loved one is in need of advice and guidance on elder care and estate planning, contact an Arizona estate planning attorney. An Arizona estate planning lawyer can carefully explain all the available legal options and help you choose the ones that suit you and your situation.