Clinic answers elder law questions

Local residents armed themselves with the legal information they’ll need as they age during an elder law clinic on Tuesday at the Soldotna Public Library.

Greg Peters, an elder law program director for Alaska Legal Services, travels all over the state to give presentations to Alaska’s aging population. For an hour and a half, he answered questions and clarified misconceptions for nine listeners at the library and for those watching via teleconference from Homer, Kenai, Seward, Wrangell and Ketchikan.

“We do these kind of to provide legal information to people as a way to better serve the community and reach out to more people,” said Josh Fleshman, a staff attorney with Alaska Legal Services based in Kenai. “We also are a full-service law firm, but by doing these clinics we can reach people who don’t necessarily qualify for our services.”

While Peters went over legal issues like guardianship, wills and advanced healthcare directives, he emphasized the benefits of having a power of attorney above all. Filling out a power of attorney form allows aging residents to pass of the burden of important decisions to a third party and can simplify matters dramatically in the event of an elderly person becoming physically or mentally incapacitated.

Clinics like the one held Tuesday are important for clarifying myths when it comes to elder law, Peters said.

“Every problem we can prevent is a plus, because the ramifications of not doing something can be disastrous,” Peters said.

One of the most common misconceptions Peters hears from those who attend his workshops is that they need to make a will to keep the state from taking possession of their property and other assets.

In fact, the state has a system in place to hand possessions over to family members in the event a person dies without a will. Another is that a power of attorney continues to be valid after a person dies, which is not the case.

“We get calls on that all the time,” Peters said. “So that’s usually a shock to them when I say, ‘You were the power of attorney, but right now you are nobody.’”

Alaska is somewhat unique in that it still accepts handwritten wills as valid, but otherwise is up to date in terms of elder law, Peters said. All wills still need to be witnessed and should be notarized, he said.

Another thing that comes as a shock to many older people is that Alaska does not recognize common law marriages. All to often, Peters and others are presented with cases where two people built a life together but never married, which leaves the surviving partner with little legal claim over possessions and property. Carol Joyce of Clam Gulch said she attended the clinic to gather all the information she could to be able to revisit and reevaluate her own family’s legal situation as different scenarios come up, including the fact that her husband has Alzheimer’s disease.

“He has a lot of serious medical issues, and it causes questions to come up,” Joyce said.

It is never too early for elders, or anyone, to start thinking about power of attorney and other issues, Peters said.

“It’s only too late,” Fleshman said.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com

More in News

Council member James Baisden speaks in favor of an amendment to the City of Kenai’s budget that would add funds for construction of a veteran’s memorial column in the Kenai Cemetery during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai budget amendment allocates funds for veterans’ columbarium in cemetery expansion

A columbarium is an aboveground structure that houses cremated remains

Council member Alex Douthit speaks in favor of an amendment to the CIty of Kenai’s budget that would reduce funds allocated to the Storefront and Streetscape Improvement Program during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Funding reduced for City of Kenai’s storefront improvement grant program

Just over a year after the City of Kenai established its Storefront… Continue reading

Mount Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file photo)
Hilcorp only bidder in Cook Inlet oil and gas lease sale

8 million acres were available for bidding in the sale, spread across Cook Inlet and the Alaska Peninsula region

Council member Phil Daniel speaks during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
City of Kenai approves budget

A draft of the document says that the city expects to bring in around $19.5 million in the next year, and spend $20.2 million

A sockeye salmon rests atop a cooler at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
A sockeye salmon rests atop a cooler at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kasilof River personal use setnet opening delayed

Low counts for Kenai River early-run king salmon motivate restriction

Ben Meyer, environmental scientist and water quality coordinator for the Kenai Watershed Forum, teaches children about young salmon freshly pulled from the Kenai River during the Kenai River Fair at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai River Fair debuts with array of activities and education

Previously called the Kenai River Festival, the newly refocused fair featured booths and activities dedicated to education about the outdoors, wildlife and ecosystems

A sign welcomes visitors on July 7, 2021, in Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Seward Pride Alliance rallies after bomb threat displaces drag story hour

The event was able to continue after a delay and a fundraising effort has brought in more than $13,000

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
City of Kenai Public Works Director Scott Curtain; City of Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel; Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Peter Micciche; Sen. Lisa Murkowski; Col. Jeffrey Palazzini; Elaina Spraker; Adam Trombley; and Kenai City Manager Terry Eubank cut the ribbon to celebrate the start of work on the Kenai River Bluff Stabilization Project on the bluff above the Kenai River in Kenai on Monday.
‘The future is bright for the City of Kenai’

Kenai celebrates start of bluff stabilization project after developing for 40 years

A Kenai Peninsula Food Bank truck in the Food Bank parking lot on Aug. 4, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Peninsula Food Bank’s Spring Festival set for Friday

The event will feature a wide swath of vendors, including lots of nonprofits, who will be sharing information about their services

Most Read