By B. J. Coleman
New nonprofit provides legal advice for seniors and family caregivers
Longevity has attendant difficulties, but so does life. That is the cautionary tale Yvonne Amrine has to tell from her personal family experiences.
And that is also a major reason why the longtime Downtown resident launched the nonprofit San Diego Planning Partnership (SDPP) to provide advice and legal counsel to seniors and family caregivers.
In fall of 2003, Amrine’s recently widowed mother was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, which proved to be the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Then, when Amrine’s daughter had left home for college, she was found to have contracted a life-threatening form of leukemia at the age of 19. Amrine suddenly became a “sandwiched” family caregiver to both.
“These were life-changing events,” Amrine said.
Her response was surprising resilient, based on the legal hoops she had to jump in giving care for both women simultaneously.
“Tomorrow is not promised to anyone,” she continued, discussing the rollout of her newly established venture.
SDPP had its official start date on July 2. Experts on estate planning and senior care involved with SDPP will include representatives and advisors from St. Paul’s Senior Services and The Salvation Army.
Amrine decided, at the age of 47, to go to law school and become an attorney. She graduated from California Western School of Law in 2010, and subsequently set up her legal firm Amrine Law in Encinitas in June 2011.
SDPP will now offer information and counseling from Amrine’s life experiences and her legal studies.
“Around 70 percent of aging Americans will need long-term care,” Amrine said of those entering their sunset years.
Amrine wants to help people plan ahead for whatever needs they encounter as they are growing older.
“Every adult needs a plan in place,” she continued, noting how young her daughter was when she fell ill.
Amrine plans to assist San Diegans in putting together the plans and documents to ensure their wishes are met for their care.
During her law school studies, Amrine gravitated naturally to working on estate and elder law issues, including conservatorships. Amrine advises that everyone should have in place both a power of attorney for medical care and a power of attorney for finances. This helps avoid the lengthy legal process of establishing a conservatorship during times of duress.
“[Conservatorships] take a long time, because it is about stripping adults of their constitutional rights,” Amrine said.
Amrine explained that attorney advice is needed regarding specifics of power of attorney papers to have in place. In particular, she cited planning for parents providing for their special needs offspring.
Amrine has a lot of valuable information about the subject to impart. She is committed to protecting seniors and other vulnerable persons by avoiding mistakes that can take a financial and emotional toll.
Amrine concluded with other cautionary observations.
“We all think we have time,” Amrine said, noting that this assumption is one obstacle that prevents pre-planning for personal care in all contingencies.
She went on to describe how lack of knowledge, fear of the unknown and the complicated legal terminology can turn people away from planning ahead.
“And many people think they don’t need it,” she added, because they have few assets.
“Anyone who owns a house in California should have that placed in trust,” Amrine continued.
SDPP will be staging free two-day workshops about estate planning and long-term care choices over the coming months. The first set will be held on Aug. 15 and 16 in conjunction with KPBS Public Media. Workshops on Sept. 12–13 will be in Oceanside, hosted by The Salvation Army, and the October 10–11 workshops will be at St Paul’s Senior Services in Chula Vista. Information and online registration forms are available at sd-pp.org.
— B. J. Coleman is a local freelance journalist and editor/staff reporter with 22nd District Legionnaire. B. J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.