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

Flowers bloom at Soldotna City Hall on Wednesday, June 24, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna OKs bumps to city water, sewer rates

The changes are effective July 1

Triumvirate Theatre President Joe Rizzo testifies before the Kenai Planning & Zoning Commission on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai OKs permit for new Triumvirate playhouse

The playhouse design describes a $4.7 million facility that is two stories with an audience capacity of 150 people

Kenai City Council member Alex Douthit testifies in support of legislation allowing chickens on some city lots during a meeting of the Kenai Planning & Zoning Commission on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai planning group gives conditional thumbs-up to chicken ordinance

The legislation would allow Kenai residents to keep up to 12 chicken hens on certain lots

Emergency personnel respond to a fire on R/V Qualifier, in the Northern Enterprises Boatyard on Kachemak Drive, Jan. 19, 2023, in Homer, Alaska. (Photos by Nika Wolfe)
Research vessel catches fire in Homer boatyard

The cause of the fire and extent of the damage is not yet known

Alaska Vocational Technical Center Executive Director Cathy LeCompte presents during a Soldotna Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
AVTEC director plugs programming at chamber luncheon

AVTEC is about more, LeCompte said, than just checking off classes to gain certification

From left, Dave Carey, Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings, Zach Hamilton and Peter Micciche participate in a Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor candidate forum on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Borough mayoral candidates participate in Tuesday forum

The forum was hosted by the Peninsula Clarion and KDLL 91.9 FM in partnership with the Central Peninsula League of Women Voters

A volunteer ladles Hungarian mushroom soup donated by Odie’s at Kenai United Methodist Food Pantry in Kenai, Alaska, on Monday, Jan. 23, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Church food pantry marks 20 years of service

The Food Pantry at Kenai United Methodist Church opened Jan. 26, 2003

Library Director Dave Berry and Advisory Board Chair Kate Finn participate in Library Advisory Board meeting on Tuesday Jan. 17, 2023, at Homer City Hall, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Emilie Springer/Homer News)
Homer Library Advisory Board upholds decision to retain LGBTQ+ books

A citizen’s group last year submitted a petition asking that the books be removed from the children’s section

Most Read