I would like you to meet someone today. In time, you will come to know him well but first, let me explain.
For many years – yes, years – I have tried to add an elderlaw attorney to the roster of Time Goes By contributors. You would be surprised how hard it is to find someone in that world who even knows what a blog is, let alone cares or wants to help elders understand the many legal questions that come up in old age.
I worked at it in fits and starts, giving up in frustration for long periods when, for example, someone who seemed like a good fit couldn't write an English sentence a non-lawyer could understand.
Or, more commonly, I'd throw up my hands in disgust when attorneys I contacted, some recommended by their colleagues, couldn't be bothered to respond to my queries. Not even a polite “no, thank you” in some cases until I followed up a couple of times.
Organizations of attorneys showed little interest. One wanted to provide us with articles of canned generalities more suitable to sales brochures than education and information.
It was a disappointing project for a long time and then one day Orrin Onken, located right here in Oregon, showed up on my screen.
At the basic level, he has all the appropriate professional credentials – and more: After college, he attended Willamette University College of Law where he was editor-in-chief of the law review, graduating cum laude in 1982.
He is a current member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the Oregon Gerontological Association, the Guardian/Conservator Association of Oregon, the Oregon Mediation Association and the Elder Law Section of the Oregon State Bar.
Orrin occasionally writes about elderlaw for a blog he keeps here and there is more about his law practice at this website. You can see in both places that the law has not corrupted his ability to write in English. In fact, Orrin also writes novels. I'll let him tell you about that himself:
There is another thing you should know about Orrin. “I may be the only practicing lawyer in the state of Oregon,” he writes, “to have been disbarred and readmitted to the Oregon State Bar.”
It was serious business that got Orrin disbarred – taking client funds. More than a decade later, he applied for reinstatement and at first, he seemed to have convinced the powers-that-be of his renewed good character:
“The Applicant has maintained complete responsibility for the thefts,” wrote the chairman of the trial panel.
“The Applicant has been faithful to his sobriety, and has strengthened his relationships with his family, friends and co-workers. The evidence of reformation of character is not only clear and convincing, it is substantial and impressive in the complete reversal of habits that consumed the Applicant for years.”
That sounds like a win to me. But it wasn't. It took another year of additional legal proceedings until Orrin was readmitted to the Oregon bar in 2003. If you are interested in the details, you can read more here. Orrin has been in recovery now for 20 years.
So with Orrin's professional elderlaw experience, his writing skills and 'tude on his blog, his openness about being disbarred further convinced me I had found the right person.
Then I discovered one more thing that made finding Orrin feel like a match for us.
At about the time I was beginning to vaguely formulate the idea for this blog, Orrin wrote and published his Older American's Pledge. He could have been reading my mind:
• We will not be judged by the values of youth.
• We will not be expelled from work or play.
• We will not equate aging with illness.
• We will not be a subject matter for experts.
• We will not be the objects of condescension or ridicule.
• We will not be a social or economic problem.
• We will not be trivialized.
• We will not be docile.
• We will not be interned.
• We will treat our later decades as a unique stage of human development.
• We will grow and learn.
• We will integrate our social, our psychological and our spiritual lives.
• We will take care of our own.
• We will cooperate across generations to create a better world.
• We will nurture and guide the young.
• We will contribute according to our abilities.
Twice a month, Orrin will write about legal issues elders should know about. It is amazing how much new legal stuff there is to learn when we get old: wills, living wills, trusts, guardianships, powers of attorney, advance directives, tax planning, long term care, patient rights, elder abuse, employment discrimination, a whole lot more and even pet trusts.
But today, it's your turn. To give us a sense of where to begin, let Orrin know in the comments below what legal information you are interested in knowing about and discussing here. IMPORTANT: Keep in mind that Orrin cannot answer questions about your personal legal circumstances.
So please welcome Orrin Onken to the Time Goes By tribe. I am so pleased to have found him and even better, that he has agreed to take on this assignment.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mark Sherman: How to be an Aging Parent