200 Highland Ave, Suite 302, Needham, MA 02494



Elder Law Case Study

So, what does a typical elder law case look like?

Having practiced elder law since 1998, we’ve found that there’s no “typical” case. Every family has its unique set of challenges. But here’s a composite of the stories we hear.

The Clients’ Problem

Jerry and Louise Smith are 82 and 80 years old, respectively. They have lived in their home for nearly fifty years, but now Louise has been hospitalized after a stroke and may not be able to come home. Their oldest daughter, Susan, called our office. She was concerned that her mother had been displaying increasing confusion even before the stroke. Susan saw that Jerry had been wearing himself out caring for Louise, and was becoming alarmed that if he didn’t start taking better care of himself, she’d have two sick parents to look after on top of the needs of her own children and her job. Susan was frightened that there might not be enough money to pay for her mother’s care – or even sure what kind of care she really needed.

First Steps

We started by sending out a questionnaire and list of documents and scheduled a meeting with Jerry and Susan. We made certain to be clear that we represented the elder, not Susan, and got Jerry’s permission to include Susan in our meeting.


We then reviewed the couple’s legal documents and finances. The couple’s Wills had not been updated in eighteen years. Jerry’s power of attorney named only his wife as his attorney-in-fact – a job which she could no longer carry out. Louise’s power of attorney lacked language which would allow her family to help plan for the cost of long-term care.


We also discovered that Larry had invested $200,000 – nearly half of their life savings – two years ago in a deferred variable interest annuity, which had high surrender charges if Larry needed the money back within seven years. When we asked Larry why he made that choice, he said that “the financial planner at the bank told me it would protect my money.” We asked Jerry if he was told about the surrender charges if he needed to get to that money quickly or other options he might have for savings and investment. Jerry said that the financial planner never told him about any such thing.

Getting Outside Help

We wanted to be sure that Jerry and Susan got the information they needed to make a well-informed decision about how to best care for Louise. So, we asked one of the outstanding geriatric care managers we work with to consult with the family and Louise’s physicians and develop a plan for Louise’s care once she was released from the hospital. Jerry made the difficult decision to place his wife in the memory care unit of a local assisted living facility. Before the move occurred, we reviewed the contract with Jerry and helped him understand its terms. With the client’s permission, we also filed a complaint against the unethical financial advisor and referred Jerry to an attorney for further legal action.