Friday, May 30, 2008

Blogging as Dance

This weekend, I attend my thirty-fifth college reunion, for the Class of 1973, at Bucknell University, in Lewisburg, PA.

As the Class Reunion Program Chairman, I set up a wiki, the "Bucknell 1973 Class Reunion in 2008" website, to coordinate our plans. Also, as an alumnus in a reunion, I was requested to write an article for
the student newspaper, The Bucknellian, distributed during the Reunion Weekend.

For today's entry, I post a variant of that article, which explains my fascination for writing and my involvement in blogging.

I am an attorney in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who writes a legal blog, named the "PA Elder, Estate & Fiduciary Law Blog ". It is an extracurricular activity separate from my private law practice, but meaningful for me and (I like to think) useful for others.

My blog project was born from a passion to learn and teach, is maintained by my professional pride, but can only be justified or understood as an extension of my personal purpose, materialized through a new technological medium.

Yet, I trace the blog’s roots back thirty-five years, to Bucknell University, when I was an undergraduate English major.

Why did I select English as a major?

Expression skills -- both written & spoken -- that's what I sought originally. In honing those skills, I hoped that my thinking could be clearer and more effective, thereby advancing both myself and others towards what would be right and good. (Remember, it was the end of the sixties.)

A few years ago, two sponsors of Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion", broadcast on National Public Radio, memorialized my reasons in radio plays.

The Partnership of English Majors asserted: "If you're an English major, you have many advantages in this world and you ought to use them. The ability to express yourself readily, gracefully, sensitively, for example. An enormous advantage." (English Majors Script, January 15, 2005).

The Professional Organization of English Majors advocated: "'re going to be speaking it for the rest of your life so why not get good at it. Major in English." (English Majors Script, June 4, 2005 ).

Then I took classes taught by Professor John ("Jack") Wheatcroft. He was a recognized poet & writer; and he read his works in public. Later, I requested him to be my faculty advisor. I remember him still, dearly, although I doubt that he remembered me beyond my graduation.

From our periodic course selection meetings in his office in the Vaughn Lit Building and from classes, I remember best his eyes and his hands.

His eyes seemed almost four-dimensional. Looking in his dark eyes, I could feel energy and compassion radiating from his soul. His outward gaze ranged around like a sheriff's search light. When the beam landed on me, I felt he could see inside my soul.

He usually moved around while speaking, accenting his words with gentle gestures. His hands -- they were the delivery system for his words onto a page -- also were active when he spoke words.

Jack not only knew about the literature's techniques; he really felt the meaning. I usually remained baffled by both.

I recall once questioning in small seminar on poetry how he could refer to a piece by William Carlos Williams [see photo above] as "poetry". The writing did not rhyme; had broken lines that ran on; failed rules of punctuation; did not have a beginning, middle, or end; neglected a message; and was even a bit obscene. I just did not get it.

What did he see in this "poetry"?

I still remember that poem, to which I offered protest:

Danse Russe

If I when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,--
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
"I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!"
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
again the yellow drawn shades,--

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

Jack Wheatcroft listened to my protest, and responded, but did not argue. He observed that I viewed it rationally, while the poem is an experience. It describes a feeling, but does so in words with discipline, clarity, and conciseness. As such an expression, it is a poem.

I often left his office or his classroom awed, like a kid who just got a pat on the back from a grass-stained college quarterback after a game. If he represented the heart and the head of a person who loved words and who wrote, then I wanted to be like him.

I graduated from Bucknell into The Dickinson School of Law (now part of Penn State). In that competitive study, I found very little sensitivity or intuition revealed in the casebook method -- outlining of cases for cross-examinations by professors.

Yet, I had been touched by the magic that I had observed in Jack Wheatcroft and other role models at Bucknell. He & other professors, like Bert Hill & Allen Flock, and administrators at Bucknell, like Jim Hammerlee, Jack Pyper, & President Charles Watts, had changed me.

So, I followed a personal discipline outside of legal class work. I wrote daily journals and poetry. I read outside of law subjects when I could. In a few years, I had read every book of poetry by William Carlos Williams still in print. I even visited his hometown in Patterson, New Jersey to see where he lived his dual life of physician and poet.

Today, my writing mostly remains oriented towards the law. I don't write poetry anymore. But I do still write journal entries. And I constantly read books on new & challenging topics.

In 2000, I also became a part-time teacher -- an Adjunct Professor at Widener University Law School (Harrisburg PA Campus).

In August, 2006, in response to inquiries from the students in my Elder Law class as to the "real world" relevancy of the subject matter, I began the blog.

This is its purpose:

"A blog & resource by a practicing & teaching lawyer in Pennsylvania for law students, consumers, & professionals about Elder Law, senior lifestyles, long-term care, "End-of-Life" & health care surrogate decision-making, estate & personal planning, fiduciary administrations (by agents under powers of attorney, custodians, guardians, executors/administrators, & trustees), elders' dispute resolution, and Orphans' Court litigation in this Commonwealth, with reference to trends nationally."
I have made over 400 postings, most of them written by me, on such topics. The blog now gets about 500 hits a day, and lately surpassed 150,000 hits.

I am the only one who has worked on its setup. I decide on its orientation. I write most of its content (I did not enable comments by readers to assure my control, although I routinely update postings). I have hosted a few esteemed "guest contributors" lately.

And now, finally, from writing this blog in a manner as I imagine Williams wrote his poetry, I think that I have come to understand better his poem and Jack Wheatcroft's joy in it.

It is on this blog where I have finally become "the happy genius of my household".

Like William Carlos Williams -- the poet who remained a practicing physician all his life -- I have been able to dance like a writer while remaining a lawyer.

At the basic level, on the blog, like Williams, I set my own rules for readability. I get to use an ampersand (&) instead of the long word "and". I get to put the names of people or organizations in bold typeface, with Internet links, to recognize & celebrate them. I get to end a sentence with a preposition, use semicolons in long sentences for a mental break, begin a sentence with "and" or "but", put a comma or a period outside quotation marks, use double dashes, and write one-sentence paragraphs -- some of them long.

When I escape into the "room" of my own computer online to research or write a posting, I can "dance" as did William Carlos Williams.
And although the subjects of my blog may appear random, there is purpose consistent with my vision.

It is a vision of healing for all of us, and particularly for those who struggle in the face of physical disability, progressive illness, debilitating aging, death, personal loss, or mental incapability.

In the celebrations, humor, examinations, information, questioning, moral considerations, or financial analyses posted on the blog, I learn, and then I can teach.

I experience what I do, and I project what we could do better. I write these impressions in words that, hopefully, reflect the discipline, clarity, and conciseness taught by Jack Wheatcroft.

To students at Bucknell now, I would say, look deeply into the eyes of your professors, and watch their hands. If you are inspired by their passion and impressed by their skills, mimic them. Someday you can become an extension of them, just as they became an extension of their teachers.

And someday, in some way, you too will become the happy genius of your own household.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Stats on "Older Americans" in Their Month

May, 2008 was designated as "Older Americans Month", with the theme "Working Together for Strong, Healthy and Supportive Communities."

Older Americans Month was promoted by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, as explained in "Nora's Notes" (the periodic column published by the Secretary of Aging, Nora Dowd Eisenhower) for May 2008, in her message entitled "Celebrate Older Americans during the month of May":

May is Older Americans Month and one of my favorite times of the year because it brings attention to what so many of us already know – that seniors are a vital force in our communities and their needs are important. * * *

We have just completed two months of travel across the commonwealth gathering input from nearly 2,500 seniors about their concerns for the future. We are using this information in formulating a new state plan that will prioritize the growing and changing needs of seniors. The draft will be available on
our Web site * * *.

Pennsylvania has the third largest population of older citizens after Florida and West Virginia and it’s very impressive that so many seniors keep active, volunteer and stay engaged in life.

Volunteers participate and benefit from meals-on-wheels, APPRISE, PEERS and other state programs.

It’s also heartening to see people helping their elderly neighborhoods with errands and friendly conversation. All of these efforts contribute to the strength of our communities. * * *
Older Americans Month 2008 materials were made available on the website of the U.S. Administration on Aging, which also provided cross-linked "fact sheets" regarding:
In recognition of "Older Americans Month" in May, 2008, I reproduce statistics (including the cited sources) about "Older Americans", as posted by the U.S. Census Bureau in its press release entitled "Facts for Features: Older Americans Month: May, 2008":
  • 37.3 million is the number of people 65 and older in the United States on July 1, 2006. This age group accounted for 12 percent of the total population. Between 2005 and 2006, this age group increased by 473,000 people. Source: Population estimates
  • 86.7 million is the projected population of people 65 and older in 2050. People in this age group would comprise 21 percent of the total population at that time. Source: Population projections
  • 147% is the projected percentage increase in the 65-and-older population between 2000 and 2050. By comparison, the population as a whole would have increased by only 49 percent during the same period. Source: Population projections
  • 506 million is the projected 2008 midyear world population 65 and older. Projections indicate the number will increase to 999 million by 2030. Source: Population projections
  • 23% is the percentage of people 65 to 74 in the labor force in 2006, up from 20 percent in 2000. Some of the highest rates were found in South Dakota, Nebraska and Washington, D.C., all with about one-third of people in this age group in the labor force. Source: 2006 American Community Survey
  • 64% is the percentage of people 65 and older in 2006 who lived with relatives. Another 27 percent lived alone, while 5 percent lived in group quarters and 2 percent in a household with nonrelatives. In addition, 6 percent lived in their children’s home, and 1 percent lived with unmarried partners. Source: 2006 American Community Survey
  • 1.6 million is the number of people 65 and older who lived in nursing facilities in 2006. These residents comprised 4 percent of all people in this age group. Source: 2006 American Community Survey
  • 81% is the proportion of householders 65 and older in 2006 who owned their homes. This compares with 43 percent for householders at the other end of the age spectrum — younger than 35. Source: Current Population Survey/Housing Vacancy Survey
  • 72 is the number of men 65 and older on July 1, 2006, for every 100 women in this age group. For those 85 and older, it drops to 47 men per 100 women. Source: Population estimates
  • 5.3 million is the number of people 85 and older in the United States on July 1, 2006. Source: Population estimates
  • 84,331 is the estimated number of centenarians in the United States on Nov. 1, 2007. Source: Population estimates
  • 3.9 million is the number of people 65 and older living in California on July 1, 2006, the highest total of any state. Florida, with 3 million, was the runner-up. Source: Population estimates
  • 17% is the percentage of Florida’s population 65 and older in 2006, which led the nation. Next to Florida, states with the highest percentages of older people include West Virginia (15.3 percent) and Pennsylvania (15.2 percent). Source: Population estimates
Update: 06/09/08:

In observance of "Older Americans Month", the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, a federally-funded resource offering justice, substance abuse, and victim assistance information, had created an Older Americans Special Feature (updated on 06/09/08), described as follows: "This resource contains links to publications and other resources on topics such as elder abuse and prescription drug abuse, as well as the prevention of such activities."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

ABA Blawg Services Updated

On May 28, 2008, I received an email message from the American Bar Association's Journal entitled "You're in the ABA Journal's new blawg search", which explained its upgraded online services regarding the 1,800 law-related "blawgs" in its catalog, which includes this Blog.

I noted the ABA's entrance into legal blog sites & materials previously in a posting "ABA Adds Law Blawgs List & Feeds" (08/03/07). The ABA Journal's online "blawg" facilities are open to the public, not limited to members.

This EE&F Law Blog remains categorized by the ABA Journal under these headings:

Two of the four upgrades appeal to me immediately; and I will investigate the other two.

Blawg Search: We've partnered with Justia, the leading legal information portal, to create a search engine covering all of the 1,800-plus blogs in our directory -- including yours. It's like Google for lawyers, pinpointing in an instant the most sophisticated and up-to-date commentary by legal professionals on any topic. Use the search box at the top of any of our pages (including our homepage), and on the search results page click on the "Blawg Results" tab. Plus you can subscribe to an RSS feed of any search to follow the results in your feed reader.

News Widget: Now you can add continuously updated ABA Journal headlines to your blog or to personalized pages like iGoogle or Netvibes with our news widget. We're posting 25 to 50 fresh stories every business day, so you're sure to deliver the latest breaking legal news to your readers. * * *

Twitter Feed: Are you using Twitter, the most popular microblogging platform? Then you can integrate our headlines into your personal Twitter page. Dozens of lawyers already have.

Facebook Page: If you're a member of Facebook, one of the most popular social networking sites, you can become a fan of the ABA Journal. Our Facebook page features our latest headlines, recent covers, and special announcements. * * * [Some links added.]

I tested the first upgrade that I find useful -- the Blawg Search feature -- by entering the word "aging" into the text box at the top of the ABA Journal's Home Page identified as "Search ABA Journal and blawgs". The results displayed, in the third returned reference, this Blog's posting from yesterday, which used that term frequently.

By default, the results are first compiled for the
ABA Journal's own "Site Results" separately. Only by selecting the button "Blawg Results" will that entered search term(s) be applied to the cataloged blogs.

Results are displayed chronologically, identifying the source, date, link, and related text found. Relevancy is not ranked, however. Such a search function, then, is not the equal of a "Google" search, which does consider relevancy, quality of the site, and other secret, but very effective, search factors to arrive at results more intelligently than a mere text search.

Still, for seeing who used a word in what context recently, the simple text search mechanism is fast & uncluttered.

The other upgrade that I found interesting -- the News Feed -- is the ABA Journal's live feed of its site content in a summary of headlines with links. As an experiment, I added it to the right column of this Blog, and will evaluate its usefulness. Initially, it appears to slow the loading of this site's webpages, which concerns me. If that delay is a burden, I will remove it, and simply add a prominent link to the ABA Journal site instead. Thus, any feedback as to substance or site useability would be appreciated.

As to the two other upgraded features, I'll put them on my "to do" list as "C" items to consider someday.

But clearly, the ABA and the ABA Journal are out in front on these technological advancements to benefit the legal profession and the public.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

PA Aging Dept Posts Draft Plan

On May 19, 2008, the PA Department of Aging announced availability of a DRAFT of the PA State Plan on Aging for 2008-20012 (PDF, 124 pages).

The announcement noted the scheduling of three additional public hearings on the draft Plan, and the acceptance of written comments through June 17, 2008.

Every four years the Department of Aging is required by both state and federal law to develop and submit to the Administration on Aging a "State Plan on Aging."

The plan is mandated by both federal and state law and is a requirement in order for the commonwealth to receive federal funds under the Older Americans Act. Additionally, the State Plan on Aging helps to structure the department’s priorities and to set an aging agenda for the commonwealth.

The department conducted Town Hall Meetings at eight locations across the commonwealth between January and March. Attendance was excellent with over 2500 participants across all locations.

All comments received were incorporated into a draft State Plan. * * *

The draft Plan focuses on four overall goals, with objectives & strategies under each:

  • Goal 1 - Solid Decisions, Solid Planning: Empower older Pennsylvanians and their families, including those from diverse communities, to make informed decisions on their health care and long-term living options.
  • Goal 2 - My Home, My Independence: Enable older Pennsylvanians, including those from diverse communities, to remain in the setting of their choice to improve their quality of life and to actively participate in the services they receive.
  • Goal 3 - Active Aging: Empower older Pennsylvanians, including those from diverse communities, to stay active and healthy.
  • Goal 4 - Prevention & Protection: Ensure older Pennsylvanians, including those from diverse communities, are free from abuse, neglect, exploitation and abandonment.
These are the same goals that were the subject of public input at the hearings previously held. See: PA EE&F Law Blog postings: Colliton Reflects on PA Aging "Town Meeting" (03/24/08); PA Aging Plan "Discussion Guide" Now Available (01/25/08); & Town Meetings for PA's "Plan on Aging" (12/28/07).

Further input on the proposed plan or the specifics in the draft Plan document can occur through two methods now:
  • Written Comments:
    • The department will accept written comment on the draft plan. Anyone wishing to submit written comments may do so by June 17 and should address them to Rocco Claroni, Department of Aging, Systems Planning and Consultation Division, 555 Walnut Street, 5th Floor, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17101-1919.
  • Oral Comments:
    • The department has additionally scheduled three public hearings. People interested in participating must call to schedule a time to give oral testimony at the hearings. Testimony is limited to ten (10) minutes per person. If you wish to provide oral testimony or if you have a disability and require an accommodation to attend one of the public hearings, please contact Nicki Hooper (717) 772-0473 no later than May 29.
    • Public Hearing Locations




      June 3, 2008

      Community College of Allegheny County

      South Campus

      Auditorium in Building B

      1750 Clairton Road

      West Mifflin, PA 15122

      1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

      June 4, 2008

      The Oaks

      Community Room

      200 Rachel Drive

      Pleasant Gap, PA 16823

      10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

      June 6, 2008

      New Courtland Germantown Home

      Education Building, Auditorium

      6950 Germantown Avenue

      Philadelphia, PA 19119

      1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Since the entities most affected by the Plan will be the area agencies on aging around the Commonwealth, the Department provided significant data regarding each county on its web page entitled "2008-2012 State Plan on Aging Planning Data for Area Agencies on Aging". However, the Department noted that "this information may be of interest to other stakeholders as well."
The data provided for each county were extracted from several sources by the Penn StateData Center.

The demographic and housing data come from the 2000 Census and the 2006 American Community Survey. The Census includes information on everyone.

The American Community Survey (ACS), which is intended to provide a picture of communities between the decennial censuses, is based on a small sample of households. Since it is based on a small sample, counties with small populations are not included. Of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, 39 are included in the 2006 ACS.

In addition to the demographic and housing characteristics, the Penn State Data Center extracted data on facilities in each county from the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA), and the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW).
Separate from the Aging Plan process, many organizations may find this data useful in addressing, on their own, the needs of Pennsylvania's senior citizens, who represent a booming market segment.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Estate Planning for Military Personnel

Pre-deployment preparations for Pennsylvania Army National Guard units, which were recently given notice for overseas posting, will involve Reservists' execution of personal & estate planning documents.

In this posting on the eve of the Memorial Day weekend, I provide some links to reliable online military resources about estate planning.

This Memorial Day occurs in the midst of announcements regarding continued deployments that will affect many service personnel and their families in Pennsylvania & other states.

February 29, 2008, The Sentinel (Carlisle, PA) reported in an article entitled "Guard unit alerted for possible deployment", by Joseph Cress, as follows:

About 1,200 more Pennsylvania National Guard troops are being told they may go to Iraq within a year.

Members of the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade, headquartered at Fort Indiantown Gap in Annville, received an alert order a couple months ago, said Lt. Col. Chris Cleaver, a Guard spokesman.

The new call-ups are in addition to 4,000 Pennsylvania soldiers with the 56th Stryker Brigade who were told in October they could be sent to Iraq within a year.

Cleaver said this is only an alert order to step up preparation for possible mobilization. * * *

“Alert orders may never mature to mobilization orders,” Cleaver explained. He added the 28th brigade would likely leave in early 2009, a few months after the Stryker Brigade.

If both forces go, it would be the largest deployment of Pennsylvania National Guard troops into combat since World War II and the first time the entire 28th Brigade would deploy overseas as a whole unit, Cleaver said. Prior to this, elements of the 28th Brigade have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. * * *

Issuing the alert order now gives 28th Brigade members ample time to work with family and employers to settle matters and prepare for possible deployment, Cleaver said. Guard counselors have already met with families to brief them on what to expect and what services are available. * * *
On May 20, 2008, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported further anticipated deployments in an article entitled "W. Pa. Guard brigade headed for Iraq -- Moves signal stable troop levels through next year", by Nancy A. Youssef, as follows:
The Defense Department yesterday announced that it will send seven combat brigades to Iraq by the end of the year, suggesting that the Pentagon is planning to maintain its troop levels in Iraq through next year.

The military also alerted four National Guard Army brigades, or roughly 14,000 troops, including one from Western Pennsylvania, to prepare for deployments to Iraq beginning next spring. * * *

The Washington, Pa.-based 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 28th Infantry Division, which includes some 2,500 soldiers from Western Pennsylvania and Ohio, previously served in Iraq in a deployment that began in 2005.

The alert was issued this far in advance of their spring 2009 deployment to give the Guard members and their families time to plan. * * *

An essential part of pre-deployment preparation is estate planning.

NCO Matters, an Association of the United States Army, recommends an online "Estate Planning Tool Kit" (10/11/2002) that briefs service personnel about estate planning:
Estate planning produces a plan that may include some or all of these: a will, military testamentary instrument, a trust, life insurance, an advance medical directive, a health care power of attorney, designation of anatomical gifts, and other dispositive documents.

The Army Judge Advocate General's Corps' new Estate Planning Tool Kit for Military & Family Members covers basic tools and techniques many military members use to plan their estates.

That very comprehensive Toolkit reiterates, in its introduction, the basics of personal & estate planning:

Military legal assistance attorneys prepare thousands of wills every year for soldiers and their spouses. This document is usually the center piece of a member's estate plan.

Estate planning is an ongoing, continuous process of coordinating your legal and financial well being to acquire, accumulate, preserve, and dispose of your assets and wealth during your life and at your death.

A well-designed plan provides not only for transfer of your property on death, but also considers authorized benefits, the adequacy and flexibility of life insurance, the need for retirement income, and the contingencies of mental or physical disability.

Effective estate planning may amount to little more than preparing a simple will and reviewing your life insurance beneficiary designations, preparing a power of attorney, an advance medical directive, designating organ donation, or it may be a highly complex plan that includes trusts and other property transfer instruments. * * *

The Military Officers Association of America recognizes that very continuum in estate planning -- from simplicity to complexity -- and notes the effect upon a proper selection of professional advisors qualified to work on appropriate documents:
For basic needs, your installation JAG or legal services office (usually open to retirees in addition to Active Duty) is usually sufficient.

As you accumulate more assets and your situation becomes more complicated, you may need some additional estate planning tools.

Also, special circumstances such as divorce, remarriage, marriage to a non-US Spouse and children with special needs require legal documents specifically tailored to meet your new circumstances.

Additional estate planning tools include: a durable power of attorney; a revocable living trust; an irrevocable life insurance trust; a minor's trust; a special needs trust; and various types of charitable trusts.

These advanced estate planning documents may be outside the scope of the installation legal services office, so you may need to seek the help of a qualified private practice attorney. * * *
Operation Home Front, operated by the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Illinois, provides generic explanations about various documents involved in military estate planning in its online article "Estate Planning Preparedness Information".

See also:
"Estate planning: What you need to know", by Mathew B. Tully, posted by The Army Times.

For a checklist of matters to be considered generally, see: "Estate Planning Checklist -- 25 Things You Can Do To Get Your Estate in Order" (PDF, 3 pages), which addresses: Estate Planning; Insurance Planning; Organizing Financial Records; & Personal Planning.

A link on the website of Ft. Bragg suggests a "Will Preparation Worksheet", in the form of a questionnaire seeking specific data.
See also: Estate Planning Questionnaire & Worksheet (PDF, 9 pages), posted by the Wyoming Military Department, Army National Guard, Office of the Staff Judge Advocate.

In his article
posted by the American Bar Association entitled "Estate Planning for the Military" (PDF, 3 pages), Capt. Kevin P. Flood, JAGC, U.S.N.R., Ret., provides a primer for attorneys as to how estate planning for military personnel can differ from the same process for civilians.
Estate planning for members of the military often differs from the model used in a civilian practice. For one thing, the military client requesting a will or other estate-planning document may be much younger than the typical civilian client.

Due to the dangers associated with service, preventive law programs in the military encourage service members to have their affairs in order and to execute wills — more than 550,000 wills were prepared for active duty and reserve service members during the Desert Storm mobilizations.

Very often clients do not have much more that their $250,000 Service member’s Group Life Insurance Policy (SGLI) and other military benefits, and these should be reviewed and coordinated with the will or estate plan. * * *
He recognized that estate planning, which leads into an estate administration process, still relies heavily upon state law:
This article highlights only the areas of main concern in assisting a military member in estate planning, with the understanding that additional issues must be dealt with, such as taxation, probate costs, fiduciary selection, and the like.
Finally, for those more visually inclined, check out the PowerPoint presentation, also prepared by Capt. Kevin P. Flood, JAGC, U.S.N.R., Ret., entitled "Estate Planning for Military Personnel", again posted by the ABA.

Update: 05/27/08:

Referenced on the Stryker Brigade News in a
posting (05/26/08), was an article, entitled "Local Guard prepares for Iraq" (05/26/08), by Steve Marrioni, published in the Evening Sun (Hanover, PA), regarding the very personal aspects of the mobilization of the 56th Stryker Bridgade:
Especially in times of war, most people know Memorial Day is a day set aside for more than firing up the grill with family, friends and neighbors.

This weekend, many soldiers with the local National Guard unit will be doing just that. Hot dogs, hamburgers, parades, ceremonies.

But they, and their families, will have something else in the back of their minds. Those soldiers will soon be serving in Iraq.

The 100 or so members of Battery A of the First Battalion of the 108th Field Artillery, based in Hanover, will be among the 4,000 Pennsylvania Guard members deploying to Iraq with the 56th Stryker Brigade. * * *

While the soldiers have a lot of questions, so do the families. And sometimes it takes other family members to answer those, or address their worries.

"When are they leaving, when are they coming home, what will they be doing," Beckner said some of the questions have been. "We're trying to be there for each other."

They're there to answer questions, too, as the soldiers prepare to go. Who gets power of attorney for the deployed soldier? What about health care? Child care? These are all things that need to be addressed along the way.

The Army has a set system in place, and groups like this help guide families through what can seem like a confusing jungle of paperwork and acronyms.

But, perhaps most importantly, they'll know what their friends are going through. They all have a loved one who will be serving in Iraq.

"We're all on a roller coaster ride for the next year," Beckner said. "And it's an emotional one." [Link added.]
Update: 05/29/08:

The American College of Trust & Estate Counsel announced to its members, in a weekly update email message, the addition of a link to this Blog posting, placed in both its "Public" and "Member" areas, under the new heading "Estate Planning -- Military", accompanied by a link to that very useful "
Estate Planning Tool Kit" provided by the Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Update: 06/09/08:

On June 2, 2008, the Daily Local (Chester Co., PA) published a weekly column by Attorney Janet Colliton, of West Chester, PA, entitled "How active-duty military personnel can gain access to legal assistance", which referenced the posting above.
This past May 23, in honor of the upcoming Memorial Day commemoration, a friend and colleague, Neil Hendershot, included in his blog valuable references to estate planning information for military personnel.

Neil, a Harrisburg attorney with the law firm of Goldberg Katzman PC, hosts the Pennsylvania Elder, Estate & Fiduciary Law Blog, a prolific site on which can be found everything from senior crime prevention programs to recent public will contests like the Barnes Foundation dispute. In glancing through it, the reader might learn everything from calculating virtual age to how to plan estates involving firearms. It can be found at

For the article on estate planning for military personnel, scroll down to May 23, 2008. Neil noted that his article coincided with the call-up of Pennsylvania National Guard reservists from Fort Indiantown Gap in Annville within a year.

He provided links to several military Web sites to assist servicemen and women in preparing for active duty. * * *

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Jewish Law Day" in Philadelphia

On May 15, 2008, an article was posted by the Jewish Exponent entitled "Lawyer and Ethicist to Keynote Jewish Law Day", by Lynn B. Edelman, which highlighted the next Jewish Law Day activities to be held on June 4, 2008, in Philadelphia, featuring keynote speaker Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff.

Jewish Law Day in America appears to be distinctive to Philadelphia only, where that celebratory day has been held annually since 1982.

announcement for a prior (19th Annual, held in 2001) recognition, noted the importance of Jewish law as a source for American law:

Over the past 4,000 years, the Jewish People have compiled a code of laws, ethics and morals that has served as the cornerstone of modern legal theory and practice throughout the world.

From individual human rights to community responsibility, Jewish law and the scholars who have interpreted it have inspired progressive developments in both Jewish and non-Jewish spheres.

In the United States, such fundamental documents as the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence draw upon the principles that Jews have handed down from generation to generation.

Jewish Law Day was created in 1982 by an ad hoc committee of lawyers and judges together with the Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia in order to establish an annual celebration commemorating the monumental contribution of Jewish Law to the development of American jurisprudence.
The article noted the background of Jewish Law Day:

The Honorable Anne E. Lazarus, a judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Orphans Court Division, since 1991, explains the origin of Jewish Law Day as "a Jewish response to the annual Red Mass."

"The mass," she explained, "is a religious service celebrated annually in the Roman Catholic Church for judges, prosecutors, attorneys, law school professors, students and government officials on the Sunday before the first Monday in October when the Supreme Court convenes. Celebrants request guidance from God for all who seek justice."

Judge Lazarus was the first Chancellor of the Louis D. Brandeis Law Society, a group for Jewish lawyers and judges.

The society has co-sponsored Jewish Law Day with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Vaad: The Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia for the past 26 years. * * *

[The program] is traditionally held immediately prior to Shavuot, when God gave the Ten Commandments to the Jewish people, Lazarus explained. * * *
[links added]

This year, the 26th Annual Jewish Law Day will be held on June 4, 2008 at 4:30 p.m. at the Jewish Community Services Building, 2100 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA.

The article noted the guest speaker's credentials and topic:
Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Ph.D., is the rector and professor of philosophy at American Jewish University.

Rabbi Dorff, who has directed the rabbinical and masters programs at AJU for 23 years, will speak on the contributions of Jewish law to Western jurisprudence, a topic taken from his new book, For the Love of God and People: A Philosophy of Jewish Law (Jewish Publication Society, 2007) [which will be available for purchase]. * * *

In his role as chair of the Conservative Movement's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, he has produced papers that have shaped the movement's stance on such controversial topics as infertility treatments and end-of-life issues. His rabbinic letters on human sexuality and on poverty have become the voice of the Conservative movement on those topics. * * * [links added]
A special aspect of the 26th Annual Jewish Law Day celebration will be the presentation of an honorary award to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

The Jewish Law Day session in Philadelphia will be free of charge and open to the entire community. For lawyers, the program will qualify for one substantive hour of CLE credit.

If interested in attending, you may obtain more information by calling Rabbi David Gutterman, event co-chair (215-832-0865), or Adam Laver (215-569-1764). You can register here online.

I thank Judge Anne E. Lazarus, of the Orphans' Court, of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, PA, for providing this information to post.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Roles vs. Reality in "Right to Die"

The award-winning movie Million Dollar Baby (2004) aired as an AMC television premiere last weekend (May 17th & 18th). That movie deals with hard struggles and choices in living, right up to the end of life.

The network's promotional summary does not give away the ending.

Veteran boxing trainer Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) has devoted his life to the ring but has precious little to show for it.

When Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) enters Frankie's gym in search of a trainer, he regards her as a dubious prospect, and isn't afraid to tell her why: She's too old, she lacks experience and technique -- and she’s a woman.

But for Maggie, boxing is the one thing in life that gives her meaning, and she’s not giving it up.
But now, four years after the release on January 28, 2004, of Million Dollar Baby, it is no secret that the plot involves an end-of-life decision affecting one of its central characters who has struggled through life.

Most folks consider that one's "right to die" is a personal issue, and many desire the ability to expedite an end-of-life decision. Still, only half of us have stated our philosophy or decisions in written health care directives, despite our ability under state law to do so.

Health care directive or "living will" statutes in every state (except Oregon), however, do not create -- either in a patient or in an incapacitated patient's designated surrogate -- the ability to make a decision consistent with a "right to die", or authorize "physician-assisted suicide" consistent with such a desire & decision.

This limitation of the law lies at the heart of the movie's climatic crisis of conscience and compassion.

Consider, in this context, the results of a survey released on May 15, 2008, described in an article entitled "
Adults Surveyed Favor Doctor-Assisted Suicide", posted by Eldr Magazine (also available in a press release posted by PR Wire here).
ELDR magazine and today released the results of a national survey on the "right to die" issue or what some call "physician-assisted suicide."

It reveals that over 80% of adults say the right to die is a personal decision, not that of government or religion; that two-thirds want physician-assisted right to die legal, as in Oregon; that half of U.S adults could eventually face a right to die caretaker role for a loved one; and that only half of adults over 60 have a living will or health care directive. * * *

The article explained why and how the survey was undertaken.

The survey is in conjunction with ELDR's Summer issue cover article, "Perfect Ending," which tells the story and reflections of a physician who had clandestinely given patients, who were terminally ill and in great physical pain, the means to end their lives. The physician profiled is not identified.

"A painful or prolonged death is something everyone worries about," said Dave Bunnell, editor-in-chief of ELDR. "Yet too few of us plan ahead to be prepared for this possibility. Our survey is telling people if they act now, they can be in charge. You don't have to leave this entirely to fate." * * *

The article summarizes other results from ELDR Magazine's "Right To Die" National Survey:

  • Half of American adults (49.1 percent) have parents, close relatives or friends in their senior years for whom they might eventually be considered a guardian caretaker or legal trustee.
  • 82 percent want the option, if they were suffering at end-of-life, of being sedated into unconsciousness, even though this might hasten their death.
  • 93.6 percent want artificial life support stopped if they were in a persistent vegetative state, where mental functioning had ceased and it was highly unlikely they would regain consciousness.
  • Fewer than 25 percent have a living will or advance health care directive which states their wishes if they were incapacitated or in persistent vegetative state. Only half of those over 60 do.
The raw data (questions & responses) is displayed on a separate webpage, "Survey Results: The Right to Die".

The survey's results were cited in a Time magazine article, dated May 16, 2008, entitled "A New Fight to Legalize Euthanasia", by Kathleen Kingsbury.

Should we be allowed to determine when we die? Euthanasia may be an issue long debated in the U.S., but thus far voters in only one state, Oregon, have legalized the practice of physician-assisted suicide. But a popular former governor is determined to make Washington State the second this November.

Booth Gardner, who served as Washington's governor for two terms in the 1980s and '90s, is now leading a ballot initiative that, if approved, would allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of narcotics to terminally ill patients who want to end their own lives.

The campaign is personal for Gardner. Diagnosed more than a decade ago with Parkinson's disease, a debilitating condition, his first reaction was "how can I take control over this," he says. "Then I realized that there was no way I could. I wanted to change that."

Gardner has repeatedly said he would end his own life if given the tools to do so legally with dignity. "It is my right as a human being to decide for myself," he adds. * * *

If you have not yet experienced the emotions generated in an end-of-life or right-to-die setting, you can watch Million Dollar Baby, which will be rebroadcast by AMC on Tuesday, May 27th, at 8:00 p.m EST, and again on Saturday, June 7th, at 8:00 p.m. & 11:00 p.m.

Update: 05/21/08 @ 7:00 pm:

John R. Price, Esq., of the Perkins Coie law firm in Seattle, Washington, sent me an email message in response to this posting, which is thoughtful & insightful:
[Links added]
Thanks for your [posting] regarding end-of-life issues and Washington Initiative I-1000.

Earlier this month I helped organize a lunch time presentation on the right-to-die by Kathryn Tucker, Esq., the legal director for Compassion and Choices, Portland, Oregon. Kathryn is also an adjunct professor at the Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland (while she lived in Seattle she held a similar position at the University of Washington School of Law). An article she has written on the history of right-to-die legislation will be published in the June issue of the Michigan Law Review.

As Ms. Tucker points out, the object of the initiative is to assure terminally ill competent adults the right to die peacefully at a time of their own choosing -- it is, I believe, not fairly characterized as "euthanasia", which carries some negative implications.

The data regarding the experience with the Oregon initiative are very reassuring -- and reflect low usage of the process. From what I have read and heard, there have been no complaints that the process has been abused or misused. Indeed, the requirements of the Oregon law and I-1000 are quite stringent in order to provide strong assurance against the process being abused.

The article in Time mentions the earlier, 1991, Washington initiative, but doesn't provide much background about the vote. In fact, up until the time of the vote, it was widely thought that the 1991 initiative would pass. It was narrowly defeated after Dr. Kevorkian "dispatched" two Michigan residents a couple of weeks before the vote -- which received wide publicity in Washington and was thought to have been a major factor in the defeat of the initiative.

Institutionally, the Catholic church opposes I-1000, as it opposed the 1991 initiative, although the position is not shared with many parishioners.

For those who would like to read a thoughtful philosophical piece on the right-to-die, I recommend Ronald Dworkin's book, Life's Dominions [1994, available through Random House, Amazon, among other booksellers]. Dworkin was, and perhaps still is, Professor of Jurisprudence at Oxford and a member of the law faculty at NYU. [Links added.]
See also: Book Review, "Life's Dominion: An Argument About Abortion, Euthanasia, and Individual Freedom", by Richard A. Epstein.