Category Archives: Elder Law

Elder Law. Advanced directives. Power of attorney. Living will. Health care power of attorney. HIPPA. DNR. Long Term Care Insurance. Medicaid. Medicaid Penalty Period. Medallion Signature. Social Security Payee Representative.

Bad mistake made by heiress Huguette Clark

Huguette Clark was an heiress who died in 2011 at age 104.  She left behind a $300 million estate.  The bulk of the money was inherited from her father, a copper tycoon in Montana.   She owned a 23-acre estate near Santa Barbara valued at $100 million, a $24 million house in Connecticut and a $100 million coop on Fifth Ave. in New York.  She was a painter and a collector of rare French and Japanese dolls.  She had no children, no close relatives and only limited contact with any of her distant relations.

She spent the last 20 years of her life living at Beth Israel Medical Center as a recluse, closer to her doctors and nurses than any family.

When she died, the only people who attended her burial were funeral home employees.

What did she do wrong?  She left behind two wills, written just six weeks apart.

The first one left  $5 million to her nurses and the balance of the estate to her distant relatives, even though 14 of the 19 involved said that they had never even met Huguette.

The second will left nothing to the relatives.  It specifically said” I intentionally make no provision…for  any members of my family…having had minimal contact with them over the years.”  Instead, charities are the largest beneficiaries, receiving over 80% of the estate.  Also named was her registered nurse, Hadassah Peri, who would receive $15.3 million after taxes, and a goddaughter who would get $7.9 million.  Lesser beneficiaries included Beth Israel Medical Center, her attorney, her personal assistant, her accountant, property managers and one of her doctors.

In addition to what she was given in the will, her registered nurse received more than $31 million in gifts before Clark died and the estate administrator is asking that the $31 million be returned to the estate.

Family members are claiming that the second will was written under duress when she was mentally ill and incompetent and the victim of fraud by her nurse, attorney and accountant.

Negotiations have been going on for a few years, with 60 attorneys involved in the case.  However, the chance of a settlement is not certain and a jury trial is scheduled to begin in Surrogate’s Court in Manhattan on September 17th.

Huguette Clark should have had better legal counsel when she decided what to do with her sizeable estate.  She should have prepared a trust, including directions on who had the right to make decisions on her behalf when she was unable to do so.  And she probably should have destroyed the first will.

It will be interesting to see what the probate court decides if a settled hasn’t been reached prior to September 17th.

For more information about Hugette Clark and her reclusive life, look for a book being released on September 10th titled “Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune.”

To learn more about how to plan for the end of your life, go to

DNR order – should your pet have one?

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Do you know what a DNR (do not resuscitate) order is?  It is a medical document that alerts doctors and other medical and rescue personnel about whether you want them to do anything they can to revive you if your heart stops.

I have been in the local hospital a few times for various medical procedures and am used to the questions that the staff asks before admitting you.  And I have a DNR (do not resuscitate) document that I  keep on file there.  If my heart stops and reviving me will negatively impact my quality of life, I want my loved ones to let me go.

Information for and against human DNRs is readily available on the web and in books; anyone you ask will have an opinion.

However, for pets it’s a different story.  Last week I had to take my dog, Suzi, to the veterinary hospital for a minor medical procedure and was given several forms to sign.  One of them caught me totally off guard.  I was asked to sign either a DNR or an “administer CPR” form for her.    I had never thought about a DNR in relation to my dog and didn’t know what to do.  I had no idea about how easily a dog’s heart stops beating during surgery and how quickly it’s quality of life will be impacted after that stoppage.

The vet told me that asking for a pet DNR is becoming common practice for many animal hospitals but would give me no recommendation on which form to sign.

When I got home, I got on the web and tried to research a pet DNR to see what the recommended practice is.  I could find very little helpful information.  I called friends with pets and they had no idea what to do either.

Luckily, the procedure went smoothly and Suzi was fine.  But what if there is a next time?  What should I do then?

We at Die Smart would love to hear from you with your opinions on this subject.  To write a comment or to find out more about end of life planning, including human DNRs, go to

Vermont passes doctor-assisted suicide law

Yesterday, the Vermont House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill that will legalize doctor-assisted suicide.  The State Senate had approved the measure previously.  All that remains is for Governor Peter Shumlin to sign the bill and the Patient Choices at the End of Life Act will become the law.

The bill is patterned after the Oregon model, which has several built-in safeguards.  These include a requirement that the patient state three times – once in writing – that they want to die.  Another safeguard is the requirement of a concurring opinion from a second doctor that a patient has less than six months to live and is of sound mind.

Critics of the bill feel that there is potential for abuse of senior citizens, while those in support of it believe that it makes a positive statement about the value of personal freedom.

If the governor signs the bill, Vermont will become only the fourth state in the US to permit doctors to help patients to die by writing a prescription for a lethal dose of medication.  The other three states – all in the west – where this is legal are Oregon, Washington state and Montana.

For information about end of life issues and planning, go to

Whole Body Donation – Another Option


The other night, I was at the emergency room of our local hospital and overheard half of a phone conversation.  Evidently, a relative had died of cancer within the last hour and there was no money available for a funeral.  The person I could hear was lamenting that she had no idea what to do.  She wanted to do the “right” thing for the deceased but didn’t know what that was.

Respecting her privacy (even though she was talking on a cell in the middle of the lobby), I said nothing….but I began to think about options she might have.

One that is not talked about much but could have been the solution to her quandary is whole body donation. Study of human bodies can help in the discovery of cures for many diseases and medical conditions and can aid in the development of new medical and surgical procedures as well as new, potentially life-saving, medicines.

If you think this is something you’d like to do, you should make the arrangements prior to your death.  You can preregister with a medical school or research organization by signing a consent form stating your wish to donate your body.  A copy of the consent form should be put with your will and other valuable papers so it can easily be found.

When you die, your family should notify the facility.  They will transport your body transported to the research facility or medical school with which you signed the consent form.

If you did not sign a consent form agreeing to whole body donation, your family can still decide this is what they wish to do after your death.  They will need to contact the medical facility or research center of choice and sign an after death donor form.  Then the process is the same as if you had made arrangements pre death.

When the group to whom the body has been donated is finished with it, they will cremate it and return the ashes to the next of kin or dispose of them in the way you have designated.

Cost to the family – usually zero.

For a list of medical schools which accept whole body donations, check out the list published by the University of Florida State Anatomical Board.

A national organization we found which provides a lot of information about this subject is MedCure.

Finally, for further information about funeral options and body and organ donation, go to













Long term care insurance: If you’re a woman, be prepared to pay more!

Over ten million people have purchased long term care insurance, primarily to cover healthcare expenses that may occur in old age or during catastrophic illness.

Up until now, this insurance usually treated men and women equally.  Policy price depended on health status and age, not gender.

But this year, long term care insurance companies have indicated that they are going to start charging women more for their policies.  One of the first companies to introduce this new type of pricing is Genworth Financial Inc., purported to be the largest seller of insurance in the United States.  Their goal is to reflect statistical realities.  Women live longer than men and prepare more effectively for their futures by buying long term care policies.

According to Genworth, two thirds of its long term care payouts go to women, even though, in 2011, women only bought about 57% of its policies.  Women live longer than men and have higher rates of disability and chronic health problems.

So this spring, if their proposed plan is approved by regulatory agencies, Genworth will introduce gender specific policy pricing.  For women, that will boost the cost of a new policy by 20 to 40%, depending on age and benefit package selected.

A Genworth spokesperson said that the new pricing will only affect women applying on their own.  Lower rates will still be offered to married couples who purchase joint coverage and the changes won’t affect current policy holders.

For more information about long term care, go to