Some of the scariest words we hear in the law library are from non-attorney patrons who walk into the law library and say things like this:
“I need advance directive, will, and trust forms for my 87 year-old neighbor. I just want to take them to her so she can fill them out.”
We want to say:
Please, please, please (!) don’t just hand over legal forms to your neighbor. Instead, please (PLEASE!) offer to help your neighbor contact a local senior advocacy center, your county’s senior services, or call your legal aid office or bar association information number. Your neighbor should have someone, not related to her (or him), listen and determine exactly what legal service or assistance is needed. The person consulted should be knowledgeable, which sometimes means experienced or trained and possibly even licensed. This person needs to be accountable for advice proffered.
Most counties have advocacy services for seniors and you can find out about them from your Legal Aid office (and ask about the Senior Law Project), your local public library, your county commissioners’ or mayor’s office, your state AARP office, to name only a few sources of information. You can also phone the Oregon State Bar Association or the Multnomah Bar Association, or your local county law library.
Many cities and counties also have seminars and classes for people who want to learn how to manage their own estates and finances and when to consult professionals. In the Portland metro area these are offered by the Oregon Bar Association, by Portland Parks and Recreation, by Portland Community College, Elders in Action, neighborhood and condo associations, and many others.
PLEASE, PLEASE don’t just deliver forms to your housebound neighbors without offering more. If that help is declined, so be it, but do make that offer.