Friday, July 22, 2011

Paul Dibert Retires as "Chief" of PA Inheritance Tax Division

Effective June 30, 2011, J. Paul Dibert retired as the Chief of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue's Inheritance Tax Division.

Paul acted as Chief of the Division since March 24, 2008.  See: PA EE&F Law Blog posting Dibert Appointed Chief of PA Inheritance Tax Division (03/27/08).  He had served as "acting chief" following the retirement of John Murphy on June 15, 2007.  See: PA EE&F Law Blog posting PA Inh Tax Div Chief Murphy Retired (12/04/07) and PBA RPPT Honors Chief John C. Murphy (03/21/2008).

Paul's credentials, as summarized in a 2010 PA DOR Fall Tax Program's Synopses & Topics, noted his skills and accomplishments:
Mr. Dibert is the Chief of the Inheritance Tax Division of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, Bureau of Individual Taxes.
He received his BS degree in Business Administration from Michigan Technological University, Houghton Michigan in 1968.  After 8 years in private industry, he joined the Department of Revenue as a supervisor in the Altoona District Office.
He transferred to the Inheritance Tax Division in 1984, where he was a Trust Valuation Specialist.  He was appointed Business & Trust Valuation Manager in 1987.
He is on the faculty of the Pennsylvania Bar Institute and has participated in presentations at least annually for the last 25 years.  He has participated in presentations sponsored by the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Accountants or the Pennsylvania Society of Public Accountants for the last 16 years.
He is a past member of the Department of Revenue annual statewide, Fall Tax Presentation staff.  He has presented seminars to various estate planning councils and county bar associations across the Commonwealth.
However, to the lawyers and accountants who filed, tracked, or corrected Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax Returns for clients (or even appealed the Division's assessments), or who sat as a student in one of his many seminars delivered to professional audiences during his leadership years -- either as Supervisor & Deputy, and then as Chief, of the Division -- Paul represented more than his credentials.  He was a hard worker, a respectful public official, a knowledgeable tutor, a progressive administrator, and a fair assessor.

Vincent B. Lackner, Jr., founder and president of The Lackner Group, Inc., stated respect and admiration for Paul in comments that he relayed prior to that retirement date:
What are we all going to do?! Wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth are the first things that come to mind.

Your common-sense, no-nonsense, even-handed, and fair-minded approach to dealing with issues and people over the years both as Deputy then as Chief has been a delight. Those were big shoes that John Murphy left for you, but you more than filled them.

For me, one of the highlights every fall was attending your PA Inheritance Tax Update at the PBI Estate Law Institute. This past November I also enjoyed the masterful job that you (and the three others) did in the "How to Prepare the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax Return" seminar here in Pittsburgh.

[We] congratulate you for your extraordinary 30 years of service, thank you for all of your courtesies, and extend to you our warmest wishes as you head into a well-deserved retirement.
Paul, after a job well done, may you enjoy your next challenges, whatever those might be, and also your leisure!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New PA Court System Initiative on Senior Issues

In Issue 2 of 2011 (July) of AOPConnected  the newsletter of the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, on page 3, I found a column entitled An All Too Common Tale, by Zygmont A.  Pines, Esq., the Court Administrator of Pennsylvania.

He identifies a new "initiative" that I would equate with a "sea change" for the Pennsylvania court system regarding elder abuse issues and controversies.

That initiative "will examine some of the myriad issues, (e.g., technology, information-gathering, fiduciary misconduct, monitoring of guardianships), that have an impact on seniors in our legal system."

He and I have talked in the past about the need for the Pennsylvania court system to respond to the increasing and specific needs of the Commonwealth's aging population.  I anticipate he wants to spread the word about the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's new initiative, so he should not object to this Blog's re-posting and highlighting of his column.

This is it:
Last year, in connection with the Interbranch Commission on Juvenile Justice’s report, this column made reference to the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood.

The Grimm brothers described their stories as Children’s and Household Tales.  Now is an apt time for another one.

The Old Grandfather and His Grandson is a tale of a very elderly man who was abused and neglected by his son and his wife.  The old man was physically frail and often spilled his soup at the kitchen table.  When the old man with shaking hands dropped and broke his earthenware soup bowl, he was harshly scolded and given a wooden bowl to eat from.

One day the four-year old grandson was found making something with wood.  When the father asked his son what he was doing, he simply said, “Oh, I’m making a little trough for you and Mother to eat from when I’m big.” The man and woman looked at each other and cried.  Thereafter, they brought the old man to the table and let him eat with them. According to the tale, “And if he spilled a little, they did not say a thing.”

This simple childhood tale came to mind when I read the following article on the web.  The story was from South Carolina.  It was captioned: “Parrot’s Chilling Comments Aid Police in Elder Abuse Case.”
A talking parrot provided what could be taken as chilling evidence in the case of a 60-year old South Carolina woman charged with neglecting her 98-year old mother, who was found on the verge of death suffering from severe bedsores.

The parrot was mimicking,“Help me.  Help me.” Then he would laugh.  “We thought he was mimicking the mother when he said, ‘Help me.  Help me,’ and mimicking the daughter when he laughed,” said Sergeant Bonnette.

Anne Copeland died at a hospital Tuesday after being found by authorities in poor condition at her home Monday…Her daughter, Gloria Park Clark, has been charged with abuse and neglect resulting in the death of a vulnerable (Source: ABA Journal, December 2010, article by Martha Neil)
Truth mirrors fiction and vice versa.  The parrot story about poor Anne Copeland could serve as a simple plot line for a “CSI” or “Law and Order” episode.

As for the grandfather’s tale, it is fiction in form only.

The childhood story was reportedly based on an autobiographical novel that the Grimm brothers had read.
Both reflect the timeless theme of elder abuse.

During the last few decades, courts have done exceptionally good work (particularly in Pennsylvania) addressing the needs of society’s abused and neglected children.  The paramount concern has been on the protection of children who depend on others for their safety and welfare.

More recently, some court systems have been paying closer attention to the other side of life’s spectrum, the so-called twilight years, when infirmities and isolation increase one’s helplessness in dealing with the evils of abuse and neglect.  The Conference of State Court Administrators speaks in terms of “the demographic imperative.” Simply put, it is the other face of dependency.

Pennsylvania ranks third in the nation for the percentage of people 65 and older.  Recognizing the harsh realities behind this statistic, our Supreme Court has endorsed an initiative that will examine some of the myriad issues, (e.g., technology, information-gathering, fiduciary misconduct, monitoring of guardianships), that have an impact on seniors in our legal system.

Chief Justice Castille recently advised us that the Supreme Court has designated Justice Debra Todd to work with the AOPC in forming a small working group.

It is a promising start.

AOPC looks forward to working with Justice Todd and others.  We hope to learn from court systems (both local and nationwide) that have pioneered good practices in the elder field.  It is an example of our justice system once again adapting and changing and helping, despite austere economic times.
For nearly five years on this Blog and elsewhere, I have advocated for such a focus and for changes to the court system that will protect seniors.  I am thrilled with the possibilities that such an initiative can pursue.

Monday, July 18, 2011

PA Bar Promotes "Wills for Heroes" Further

In an emailed member newsletter received July 18, 2011, the Pennsylvania Bar Association continues its support and promotion of a "Wills for Heroes" program, as pioneered in 2007-08 by the American Bar Association, through a specialized statewide program in the Commonwealth conducted by the PBA's Young Lawyers Division:
Invitation to Volunteer for PBA YLD-supported 'Wills for Heroes' Programs
The PBA Young Lawyers Division is a proud co-sponsor of the "Wills for Heroes" program in Pennsylvania. Through the support of volunteer lawyers and paralegals, the program provides free wills and other estate planning documents for police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel who risk their lives every day for the safety of their fellow citizens.
Consider becoming a "Wills for Heroes" volunteer. Click here for more information, including a list of upcoming summer and fall events across the state. Click here for additional details for lawyer volunteers.
I've noted the development of such programs in Pennsylvania over the years. See: "Wills for Heroes" Workshops Multiply in PA & DE (08/03/10); PBA's Young Lawyers Sponsor "Wills for Heroes" (05/06/09); and Firefighters, First Responders, and Free Wills (05/15/08). The Program appears healthy and expansive.

Pennsylvania's program is conducted in conjunction with the Wills for Heroes Foundation. It is operated on a county basis through local bar associations. Click here for a list of county coordinators. For more information, you may send an email message to the PBA's Young Lawyers Division, the Pennsylvania program Director Dan McKenna, or the Pennsylvania program Co-Chair/Director Lisa Shearman.

PBA members can sign up online here to join a thriving movement with worthy objectives.