Alive and Kicking: Legal Advice ... for Boomers! - Articles

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Posted by: Kelly Frere on Oct 30, 2008

Journal Issue Date: Nov 2008

Journal Name: November 2008 - Vol. 44, No. 11

Written by a law professor and an elder law specialist, this book's intended audience is the great mass of baby boomers " an estimated 80 million persons " born between 1946 and 1964. Reviewer Kelly Frére, born in 1959, sees the word "senior" in her not-too-distant future. Did this book give her the information she needs to avoid trouble?

This book is folksy. The authors pepper the text with notable quotes, jokes and anecdotes to convey the message that aging is inevitable, but being unprepared is not. With six parts, 37 chapters and 154 topics condensed into 250 pages there's not a lot of room to explore any one topic in-depth. (For instance, the chapter devoted to sex could be deleted if the authors would provide more information about what to expect out of the Medicare system.) Boomers are busy, so the fact that substantive information is not firmly explored until chapter 4 is frustrating. Once there, however, the overview on identity theft and scams is valuable information that people should be given over and over.

The authors are admirably brave in their absolute statements: Annuities for seniors "stink," reverse mortgages are "grossly underused," financial abuse of the elderly is common, Living Wills are often ignored, and probate is not always something to avoid. They preach out in the open what many Elder Law practitioners will only share with their clients within the walls of a consultation. Unfortunately, the authors attempt to include as many of these observations as possible in this one book, resulting in a text that is often more a reference guide than a teaching tool.

The writing is skilled and entertaining, so when the authors ask the question of the reader, "Do you want to keep your house in the family?" excitement builds in anticipation of an answer that is so often sought by both seniors and their baby-boomer children. The answer? "Your lawyer can walk you through the options." That's it. More page space is devoted to the topics of autopsies, hearing loss and the choice of a rifle over a handgun; all interesting topics but space-eaters in a book that raises the hope of meatier discussion.

There is no doubt these authors know their stuff. Robert Fleming is a pioneer in the field of Elder Law, and authors the Elder Law Answer Book, a 1,200-page "go to" tome for practitioners of the specialty. Kenney F. Hegland, a graduate of Stanford, UC-Berkeley and Harvard, teaches Elder Law at the University of Arizona and has authored two nutshells. But the reader doesn't want a nutshell here. These authors have a gift in their ability to transform the often idiotic, idiopathic and idiosyncratic (and any other "idio's") rules, regulations, public policies and stereotypes often associated with growing older into user friendly advice.

At the end the reader has no choice but to ask, "Where's the rest of the book?"

KELLY FRÈRE is a certified elder law attorney (CELA) and partner with her husband in the law firm of Guyton & Frère. She specializes in estate and disability planning for seniors, long-term care planning (including Medicaid counseling), and estate administration. Frère earned a bachelor’s degree from Rhodes College, Memphis, and a law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law. She is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the Knoxville Estate Planning Council.