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Managing Someone Else’s Money: Protect My Money

By Michelle Goetz, Project Coordinator

Millions of Americans are managing money or property for a loved one or friend who is unable to pay bills or make financial decisions. Yet, there are billions of dollars that are inappropriately taken from vulnerable seniors and veterans. To help you know your rights and responsibilities as a conservator, trustee, power of attorney, or veterans’ affairs fiduciary/ representative payee, visit Protectmymoneymi.org

In November 2016, Sixty Plus Elder Law Clinic, Western Michigan University Cooley Law School received funding from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services  to implement the “Managing Someone Else’s Money” project through presentations and development of four (4) booklets (in English or Spanish) that are available either in hardcopy or online for residents of Michigan. The booklets are based on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Managing Someone Else’s Money guides.

The booklets are:

1. Help for Court-Appointed Conservators in Michigan

2. Help for Trustees Under a Revocable Living/Grantor Trust in Michigan

3. Help for Agents Under a Power of Attorney in Michigan

4. Help for Representative Payees and VA Fiduciaries in Michigan

The goal of these booklets is to educate the public and help expand protections for older Americans against financial exploitation. Michigan and Texas are the first states to create these booklets. The Consumer Federal Protection Bureau (CFPB) has created material for Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Oregon, and Virginia. Bookmarks were also created to help distribute the website and general information about assistance to the public.

In Michigan, the team composed by L. Pat Mock, Esq., Greg Przybylo, Esq., Kimberly O’Leary, Esq., Luis Vasquez, JD, and Michelle Goetz, JD worked to create Michigan-specific information that was included in the booklets. During the past year, this team has presented to approximately 225 individuals and distributed booklets to approximately 28 entities/organizations (including various law firms and local American Legion and VFW posts). Cass County and Ingham County Probate Court have used the Help for Court-Appointed Conservator booklet in their training sessions, and approximately five County Probate Courts (Clinton County, Eaton County, Cass County, Ingham County, and Kalamazoo County) have established these booklets as a staple in their offices to distribute to the public.

A website is created for easy access to the booklets which can be downloaded or read online. Elder abuse is a multifaceted problem facing an increasingly large portion of the population. The work of the Sixty Plus, Inc., Elderlaw Clinic is an important step in combatting elder and vulnerable adult abuse and increasing education and awareness about elder and vulnerable adult abuse prevention and signs of abuse. Elder Law of Michigan will continue the distribution and awareness of these booklets. For more information, please visit the Protectmymoneymi website.

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