DPHHS To Provide Annual Legal Document Clinics In Poplar, Glasgow
The Department of Public Health and Human Services has announced its annual Kelly Moorse Memorial Legal Document Clinic schedule for 2023 will include stops in Poplar and Glasgow.
The clinics are provided by the DPHHS Legal Services Developer Program. The clinic in Poplar is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. on July 18 at the Fort Peck Community College. A clinic is scheduled for July 20 starting at 9 a.m. at the Glasgow Senior Center.
“This is a free service DPHHS provides to Montanans in need of preparing legal documents,” said DPHHS Legal Services Developer Program director Katy Lovell. “It’s so important to complete this work well ahead of a medical emergency and to review the documents on a regular basis to ensure they are kept current.”
The Legal Services Developer Program serves older adults aged 60 and older, enrolled Tribal members and adults with disabilities. At the clinics, legal professionals volunteer to assist participants in completing their estate planning documents, and assist older adults draft, review, notarize and copy each document.
According to DPHHS, a major reason for senior exploitation in Montana is the lack of knowledge of estate planning documents such as Powers of Attorney, guardianships, living wills and health directives.
The clinics are comprised of a one-day training session for community members to learn how to screen for senior exploitation and, on the second day, a clinic is held where trained legal professionals assist senior participants in completing their estate planning documents.
“Those exploiting seniors often use a POA to control a senior’s entire life, even though the document does not legally grant them this ability,” Lovell said.
In 2022, a total of 944 cases were opened, involving 3,295 legal issues.
The most legal assistance requested in FY 2022 were: estate planning, abuse/neglect and exploitation, landlord/ tenant, probate, guardianships, Medicaid eligibility, collections/garnishments, social security and contract issues. During the clinics, staff and volunteers not only educate seniors, but also financial, health care and law enforcement professionals on what Powers of Attorney do and do not allow. The clinics present an important opportunity to reach seniors and communities and provide an access point to report and disclose financial exploitation, abuse and neglect.
Lovell said estate planning services are also available year round through phone clinics at no cost. In 2022, the program completed over 2,450 documents through in-person clinics and over the phone.
Lovell said financial exploitation of seniors is a major problem in the nation and in Montana, especially when considering the state’s large senior population.
“Financial exploitation presents a significant threat to older Americans, their families and financial institutions,” Lovell said. “Addressing exploitation and preventing it provides benefits to institutions and consumers alike.”