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Keeping a Healthy Brain

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Brain HealthMost people are concerned about keeping their brains healthy and active as they age. With high anticipated rates of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia projected for the future, this should be important for everyone. Indeed, the Alzheimer’s Association reports that 1 in 3 seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. To learn more about Alzheimer’s and dementia, read our article about Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease in Arizona Will and Trust Contests. So, what exactly can we do to keep our minds in top shape?

Research regarding brain health has come a long way. Before getting to the current recommendations, here are some tips, published over 400 years ago in 1596, to keep your brain healthy from author A.T., written in his book A Rich Store-House or Treasury for the Diseased:

  • Eat sage, but not too much
  • Keep the head warm
  • Wash your hands often
  • Smell red roses
  • Wash your temples with rose water
  • Drink wine, measurably, and
  • Listen to little music

[Read more…]

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2016 Arizona Probate and Elder Law Legislation Updates

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AZ houseDuring the 2016 State of Arizona Fifty-second Legislature Second Regular Session, the House of Representatives has proposed three bills and the Senate has proposed one bill with proposed amendments to Arizona’s elder laws.  The proposed revisions involve powers of attorney, claims for financial exploitation under Arizona’s Adult Protective Services Act, A.R.S. 46-451 etc. and guardianships.

Powers of Attorney

A.R.S. § 14-5501 sets forth, among other things, the requirements to create a valid durable power of attorney in Arizona.  Basically, a “durable” power of attorney is one that either (a) stays in effect notwithstanding that the principal (the one granting the power) becomes incapacitated or disabled or (b) becomes effective when and if the principal becomes incapacitated or disabled.

Pursuant to A.R.S. § 14-5501(B), the intent to create a durable power of attorney may be expressed by the following or similar language in the power of attorney: [Read more…]

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Attorney Kent Berk Featured on Money Radio 1510

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Scottsdale Money Radio | Kent BerkLast week one of our very own was featured on Money Radio 1510AM – Phoenix to discuss several topics, including elder abuse and financial exploitation.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

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Kent Berk to be Interviewed on Money Radio

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Join Kent for a discussion regarding elder law on Friday, January 29, 2016 from noon to 1:00 PM on Money Radio 1510 AM or 99.3 FM.  The show can be heard live on www.moneyradio1510.com.  Kent will discuss claims and remedies for financial exploitation of vulnerable adults under Arizona’s Adult Protective Services Act, including:

  • Purposes & Construction of the Act.
  • Who is protected?
  • Who is subject to the Act?
  • What are the requirements of the Act?
  • What are the remedies?
  • Other issues.

Mark your calendars for this informative broadcast.

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Alzheimer’s Disease and Sleep

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Almost everyone these days could use more sleep.  But, Alzheimer’s disease and sleep is now apparently a special concern for the elderly and their family members.  With over 5 million Americans currently suffering from Alzheimer’s, and that number is expected to double within ten years, researchers are trying to determine additional risk factors in order to attempt new treatment methods.  Dr. Matthew Walker of the University of California, Berkeley, recently discussed the link between sleep deprivation and Alzheimer’s disease.Human brain

Alzheimer’s disease is caused by a buildup of the protein known as beta-amyloid as well as the tangled fibers of the protein called tau.  These sticky, brain-clogging proteins build up inside of spaces between nerve cells as well as inside cells.  New research revealed that sleep deprivation can spur these proteins to grow and further cause disruption in the sleep cycle.  This vicious cycle results in an accumulation of the Alzheimer’s causing plaques and tangles and has been linked to poor memory.

Dr. Walker’s team discovered during its research that sleep problems can interact with the Alzheimer’s disease process.  This information helps to explain how the plaque and tangles can begin to damage the brain long before symptoms and problems develop.  The good news is that sleep is modifiable and researchers are looking at improving people’s sleeping patterns as a new form of treatment.  Certain sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, contribute to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, but treatment is available to correct these disorders.

[Read more…]

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Financial Exploitation Finding Affirmed by Court of Appeals

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Arizona’s Adult Protective Services Act protects Arizona’s large population of vulnerable adults from abuse, neglect and financial exploitation. The current version of the statute provides that a person who is acting in a position of trust and confidence must use a vulnerable adult’s assets solely for the adult’s benefit.  That statute was recently the subject of an Arizona Court of Appeals’ decision in the Estate of Domingo Rodriguez.

Factual Background

Domingo was an immigrant of Spain and did not speak or write English.  He had three adult children: John Rodriguez, Santiago Rodriguez, and Manuela Graca.  Domingo’s wife died in 2001, whereupon Domingo, then 80 years old, began living with Manuela and her husband, Manuel Graca.  At the time, Domingo had a pacemaker and needed assistance managing his finances.

The Gracas had extensive involvement in Domingo’s care and finances.

Over the next ten years, the Gracas provided all of Domingo’s care: arranged for and transported him to all medical appointments, administered his medications, assisted in all of his social and recreational activities, and cared for his dog. Manuela quit her job in 2001 to care for Domingo, but she eventually returned to work part-time and, later, full-time.

In 2002, they sold Domingo’s house and used some of the proceeds to expand their home to accommodate Domingo and make other renovations.  Later, they sold the home and used the funds to purchase another home.

While Domingo was living with them, the Gracas used funds from Domingo’s savings account, his monthly pension and Social Security to supplement their own income and help with household expenses.  However, importantly, the Gracas did not keep an accounting of their use of Domingo’s funds.

During at least the last two years of his life, Domingo suffered from dementia.  Domingo died in 2012 and John was appointed as personal representative of Domingo’s estate.  John then filed a complaint against the Gracas in which he alleged that they were liable for financial exploitation under Arizona’s Adult Protective Services Act, breached their fiduciary duties to Domingo, converted his money and enriched themselves with his property.  The Gracas denied wrongdoing and counter-sued for the value of the services that they rendered to Domingo as caregivers.

The Superior Court’s Decision

After a one day trial, the superior court found that the Gracas committed financial exploitation in violation of A.R.S. § 46-456 and breached their fiduciary duty to Domingo. The Court ordered the Gracas to pay Domingo’s estate damages in the amount of $15,527.26 and attorneys’ fees of $35,000.  The Gracas then appealed. [Read more…]

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Sadomasochistic Relationship Leads to Exploitation Claims

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What do sex, sadomasochism and financial exploitation have to do with each other?  This is not a joke!  Read more and find out.

In a recent Florida lawsuit, 68-year-old Alex Abrams claims that his sadomasochistic relationship with Judith Gumbrecht, also known as “Goddess Jude,” Goddess Judeallowed her to financially exploit him.  The allegations set forth in the lawsuit against Goddess Jude are intriguing and troubling, perhaps revealing a new method of financial exploitation of the elderly.

The Allegations

In 2011, Alex Abrams, then 63-years-old, divorced his wife of 32 years and was living alone. During this time, Abrams’ lawyers claim that he was suffering from severe clinical depression, an unspecified dementia condition and Alzheimer’s disease.  Abrams also had a history of ADHD and anxiety.  Because of Abrams’ age, medical and mental disabilities, his lawyers argue that Goddess Jude used their sadomasochistic relationship, which began in 2011 after Abrams’ divorce, for the purpose of financially exploiting Abrams.

According to the complaint filed against Gumbrecht in July 2015, she advised Abrams that it was “of the highest honor to be her financial slave.”  As a result, Abrams opened a new joint financial account with Gumbrecht, as well as made her an authorized user on Abrams’ credit card accounts.  Gumbrecht rewarded Abrams for these financial changes with sexual favors, but also threatened to punish him if he did not adhere to her financial instructions and requirements.

As a result of Gumbrecht’s control, Abrams claims that he transferred his Florida home to her via a Warranty Deed.  Gumbrecht also took more than $500,000 of Abrams’ money from his bank and credit card accounts.  Abrams’ attorneys claim that Gumbrecht was well aware of Abrams’ medical and mental health issues, as she attended a doctor’s appointment in which he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  Abrams alleges that in violation of Florida Statute §825.103, Gumbrecht exploited Abrams by using her relationship with Abrams to create a relationship of trust and confidence in order to knowingly obtain or use his funds, assets, or property for her benefit.

Much like Arizona’s financial exploitation statute, Florida law defines exploitation as, among other things, “knowingly obtaining or using, or endeavoring to obtain or use, an elderly person’s or disabled adult’s funds, assets, or property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the elderly person or disabled adult of the use, benefit, or possession of the funds, assets, or property, or to benefit someone other than the elderly person or disabled adult, by a person who:  1.  Stands in a position of trust and confidence with the elderly person or disabled adult; or 2.  Has a business relationship with the elderly person or disabled adult.”

In May of 2015, Abrams formally demanded that Gumbrecht promptly return his property or pay for the full value of his property, funds and assets.  Gumbrecht apparently denied this request and, instead, threatened to expose their relationship to his children.

According to Court documents, using her status as a dominatrix, Goddess Jude was able to exploit submissive Alex Abrams, receiving his home and over $500,000.  While a lawyer for Abrams did state that Gumbrecht’s advertisement of “financial slavery” was within the bounds of legality, she went too far by exploiting the elderly man due to his mental and physical condition.

Berk Law Group is Here to Help

Typically, financial exploitation of elderly or disabled adults is committed by a family member, friend or caregiver.  However, a business relationship, such as the sadomasochistic relationship between Abrams and Gumbrecht, can also lead to financial exploitation.  If you believe you or a loved one may be a victim of financial exploitation, or would like to learn more about financial exploitation and elder abuse claims in Arizona, please contact us.

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Scottsdale, AZ Elder Law Litigation and the Greatest Generation

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Greatest Generation elder lawThe survivors and veterans of World War II have been called the Greatest Generation for several decades now, a title earned by their enormous contributions during a period of global and cultural strife. The nation’s prosperity depends upon the sacrifices of the men and women in the U.S. military, but perhaps this generation’s hallmark has been the enthusiasm with which the group made sacrifices needed to win the war abroad.

How disheartening then to learn of situations where veterans of WWII have been taken advantage of by unscrupulous individuals, like this story out of Tucson involving fraud and deceit of a once-trusted friend. The story is not uncommon. An elderly man is approached with a sad story of hardship that just so happens to be fixable with the savings of the old man. He gives his money to her willingly, but she has made the whole story up. She uses the money to buy herself and her family vehicles, plastic surgery, and other non-essentials that the elderly man did not agree to buy. [Read more…]

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Rising Elder Abuse in Arizona

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Elderly in ArizonaThe numbers of elder abuse cases in Arizona are increasing as the state’s retired population grows. Scams targeting the elderly may be the focus of news reports, but the reality of the situation is even sadder. The elderly are reportedly most often the victims of fraud perpetuated by family members, not strangers.

Unscrupulous family members may manipulate an older person to change their will to cut out other loved ones. Or a family member, or other caregiver, named as agent in a durable power of attorney may use his or her power to steal from the elderly person, leaving them financially and emotionally destitute.

According to Arizona Adult Protective Services (APS), for the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2013, APS received a total of over 11,000 – an all-time high –  reports of abuse, neglect or exploitation of vulnerable adults in Arizona.  Of those, over 3,100 involved financial exploitation – the theft or misappropriation of the vulnerable adult’s money or other assets to uses not solely for the benefit of the adult.  Family members were reported as the alleged perpetrators in about 34% of Arizona elder abuse cases.

Why do family members defraud their elderly relatives? This kind of behavior is typically motivated by greed.   “They feel entitled,” according to Angel Guzman, with Adult Protective Services.  But accelerating your inheritance isn’t just in bad taste: it’s illegal and can result in both criminal charges and elder law litigation, with substantial penalties. [Read more…]

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Granting Relief to Caregivers: Hospice of the Valley wins Grant Money

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AZ Dementia caregiversAs elder law practitioners, the staff and attorneys of Berk Law Group, P.C. understand the toll that caregivers may experience taking care of patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Many caregivers are willing family members with no formal training or medical backgrounds. Often, when a family member does have medical experience they are expected to drop paying work in order to remain actively participating in the care of an elderly, chronically ill, or otherwise vulnerable adult.

Caregivers who are able to stay at home with the patient provide a special kind of care, especially when the patient suffers from dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the impact that caring for someone with dementia has on caregivers heavily affects the caregiver in many areas, including finances, emotional resiliency, and overall well-being. “Due to the physical and emotional burden of caregiving, Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers had $9.3 billion in additional health care costs of their own in 2013. Nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high, and more than one-third report symptoms of depression.” [Read more…]

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