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Elder Shame and Ego

Introducing the TGB Elderlaw Attorney – Orrin Onken

category_bug_elderlaw 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.

Nice, huh?

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


Congratulations on finally magnetizing Orrin Onken! His statement of values in the Older American Pledge is completely aligned with everything we believe at Sage's Play. Marvelous! I am still contemplating your essay on language and your phrase about how brainwashing from childhood makes us unconscious about internalized ageism "complicit in our own stereotyping." And that paper from International Longevity Institute is great. Thanks for what you do Ronni.

Ronni, you think of everything, and labor hard to gather the best to share w your community. JUST this morning, I was discussing with a friend long term care and related topics on taking responsibility for myself NOW and LATER as I most probably will eventually need to shift/share the responsibility with others. The recent NY Times articles (When I Needed Help) by Jane Gross, on suddenly discovering during a real-time health crisis the need for a plan drawn earlier to care for oneself (despite KNOWING about the need), re-triggered my research. My friend said, "You read Ronni's blog, right? What resources have you been finding there?" And here comes your post today (to add to what you've compiled and blogged about over the years). Thank you, Ronni, and a warm welcome to you, Orrin.

Really appreciate your effort to get an attorney to blog.

I'd like to know more detail about power of attorney; I live alone, and don't have that yet. I'm concerned about illness and/or disability and who would take care of my financial affairs.

Excellent, Ronni. I await Orrin's wise words.

My concerns are similar to Cara's. I do have some paperwork in mind, but wonder about things like access to IRA's and how specific some types of papers must be. Mine are were made a long time ago and I wonder if updating is needed. My designated hitters are the same.

Welcome Orrin. We are eagerly waiting for your sage advice.

With tongue-in-cheek I want to ask Orrin how we can get the young to listen so we can nurture and guide them.

Yep, the Older American's Pledge of his clinched it for me.

I too like alcoholics. I'm not a recovering one but my days of heavy drinking were unique experiences and usually put you in touch with salt of the earth people, warts and all.

As a paralegal, still working at age 68, I am thrilled that TGB has an attorney. I specialize in discrimination cases and find that age is particularly hard to 'prove.'

I would be interested in careful and thoughtful legal moves one should make if one co-habitats at this age. Thank you.

Thank you Ronni and welcome Orrin,

Congratulations on your twenty years sober. I'll celebrate eleven next month, and they've been the best of my 75 to date.

I hope you will help people sort out health care proxies, health care directives, living wills, etc. I have the privilege of belonging to a faith community where providing access to informed and proactive assistance to people of all age groups in many matters of private-public concern is part of what we do. I know we're the exception, not the rule.

I also know there's a wealth of information "out there", but people don't know how to find it. In New York State the Department of Health has information and forms and explanations on its website, and the Elder Law section of the Nassau County Bar Association has Senior Days at least twice a year where you can get free advice on just about anything - as long as you can get to the Bar Association. So some people are trying to reach out, but they are not reaching their target audience. Plus of course every state has different definitions for all these forms and instruments.

Ronni, thank you for encouraging us to write with descriptions of our interactions - successful and failed - with bureaucracies. I'm sure for many of us your blog is the first place we even become aware of both pitfalls and helping hands.

Wonderful Ronnie. Welcome Orrin and congratulations on your twenty some years. This is going to be a great journey.

Welcome,Orrin and thank you for agreeing to help us .

I'm sure you will be a great adviser and I look forward to your advice and wisdom.

This is wonderful. A great addition to this blog. I loved his Older American's Pledge, which is everything I believe in at my age of 72. I'm posting it.
Thank you Ronni, and thank you, Orrin.

Orrin sounds like a wonderful addition. I have no requests at the moment. I'll just sit back and read what comes my way, for now.

Great news, Ronni. After browsing his blog and web page, I'm sure you've chosen a winner. One area of interest: strategies for protecting personal estate in the event spouse runs out of money for his/her care. This will probably depend upon whether it's a community property state or not.

A very sincere and grateful welcome to Orrin and a very sincere and grateful thank you to Ronni. You do not spare yourself in your efforts to spare us.
I have lots of questions I'd like to ask Orrin but I need more time to think about how to phrase my questions clearly. But I greatly appreciate the option this gives me and others.

This is such good news. Thank you, Orrin and Ronni.

Welcome Orrin! I'll be reading and thinking ... and probably come up with questions.

Trusts vs. Wills. I would like to know the pros and cons of having a trust when there's not a fortune involved. My mother had a trust, but not a fortune, and when she died, everything she owned transferred to me (an only child) without any trouble at all - no probate no court approval and whatever else can be involved. It made things very easy for me, but I have heard here and there that trusts are pointless for most people.

And please explain revocable and irrevocable trusts. Irrevocable sounds so permanent.

Thank you.

Thank you, Ronni, for your diligence in find things for us Elders.

And welcome, Orrin. Look forward eagerly to reading you work.

Subject I've just run into you might want to enlarge on is creating a trust vs just writing a will and naming a trusted trustee.

I add my thanks t Ronni for adding such a valuable and needed member to this community.

Welcome Orrin-as a fellow Oregonian it's nice to know you are here for us.

I very much admire the Elder Pledge. Following it is something every person should consider.

Elle Hayes

Welcome! I would love to see advice on legal protections that should be put in place before an adult child moves in with an aging parent (or has their parent move in with them) to provide care. What should each do to protect against potential financial abuse and also to protect assets in case the older parent at some point needs greater care.

That's wonderful! Welcome to Orrin! Can't think of any issues at the moment... I'm an American living in Sweden, so my issues would probably be tax related. Anyway, welcome Orrin!

Wills and trusts. I don't understand them. I know my estate is high enough to be taxable. What does a trust do for our children?
Thanks! I look forward to your wisdom - a great addition to the blog!

The legal issues are important for everyone and especially for single women with no children to rely on. Some of us have few or no relatives at all, are used to calling our own shots but are now aware that we will need outside help in order to live well in our later years and also to ensure that our money goes where it should and fast. Looking forward to reading the new blog.

Margaret and I have the same problem, and I've bookmarked Orrin's site under...Self Defense.

Had considered relocating in June to Colorado - scratch that! I need to be where at least someone with common sense understands us:)

Welcome Orrin.

Welcome Orrin! The timing is perfect for me for this addition to the TGB elder resource center. I'll look forward to reading what you share here which may well prompt questions I'll have in mind.

Thanks, Ronni, for your continuing to add individuals with specific expertise of interest to the aging population.

I'm a bit late to welcoming you, Orrin. Glad you're here!

Is it possible to begin a discussion about reverse mortgages? I would particularly like to see reader feedback about experiences with this type of financial arrangement, in its current manifestation. The rules have changed in recent years. It has begun to sound more favorable to the "borrower" than it was several years ago.

I realize you can't offer a one-size-fits-all solution, particularly as there are at least four options available (to me, anyway).

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