DPHHS To Provide Legal Document Clinics April - September

Montana DPHHS

The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) has announced today its annual Kelly Moorse Memorial Legal Document Clinic schedule for 2022 that would include stops in Helena, Frenchtown, Thompson Falls, Butte, and Baker.

The clinics are provided by the DPHHS Legal Services Developer Program, with the first one to be held April 7 in Helena at the Ramada by Wyndham (Jorgenson’s).

“This is an excellent opportunity for Montanans to receive free assistance preparing a wide variant of legal documents,” said DPHHS Director Adam Meier. “It’s crucial to have these documents prepared well ahead of a medical emergency, and to review them on a regular basis to ensure they are kept current.”

The DPHHS 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 experts, a major reason for senior exploitation in Montana is the lack of knowledge of estate planning documents like Powers of Attorney (POAs), 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 at no cost.

“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,” said Katy Lovell, DPHHS Legal Services Developers Program Director.

In calendar year 2021, a total of 865 cases were opened, involving 2,572 legal issues.

The most legal assistance requested in FY 2021 were: Estate planning, probate, landlord/tenant, exploitation, guardianships, collections/garnishments, contract issues, Medicaid eligibility, property issues and long term care facility issues.

Lovell said estate planning services are also available year round through phone clinics at no cost. In 2021, the program completed over 850 documents through in-person clinics and over the phone.

During the clinics, staff and volunteers not only educate seniors, but also financial, healthcare, 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. “This is an excellent opportunity to educate the community on such an important issue,” Lovell said.

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. At clinics, seniors are able to complete estate planning documents with volunteer legal professionals in collaboration with DPHHS staff.

DPHHS received over 1,986 reports of exploitation in 2021, up from 1,921 in 2020.

The aging demographics for Montana are changing. By 2030 it is expected that Montanans age 60 and older will outpace those individuals under age 18.

“A recent AARP study found that 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.”

The average victim of exploitation loses $120,000, Lovell said.

“It is important for anyone who suspects financial exploitation has or is occurring that individuals contact DPHHS - Adult Protective Services (APS) immediately,” Lovell said. “APS works to protect the senior from further harm. Often when financial exploitation is occurring, abuse is also present.”

To make a report go to http://www.aps.mt.gov or call 1-844-277-9300.

Space is limited and appointments must be made in advance of the clinics. To register for the in-person clinics, contact Lovell at 406-444-7787 or 1-800-332-2272.

2022 Legal Document Clinic schedule:

April 6-7, Helena

June 22-23, Frenchtown

July 27-28, Thompson Falls

Aug. 8-9, Butte

Sept. 14-15, Baker


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