Seniors given legal rundown at workshop

By Thomas Garcia

Legal problems that sometimes catch senior citizens off guard were presented at a workshop on Nov. 7 by Susan E. Page, staff attorney for the State Bar of New Mexico.

The workshop was held at Tucumcari Senior Citizens Center to inform senior citizens about the Lawyer Referral for the Elderly Program, which provides legal advice, information and referrals to all New Mexico residents 55 or older.

“Getting information out to the public is the focus of what we are doing,” Page said. “We cover some of the most frequent problems that can affect senior citizens today.”

Twenty people attended the free workshop that covered issues such as power of attorney, probate and creditor problems.

Page discussed the difference between the health care power of attorney and financial power of attorney as well as the importance of making the right decision when using the power of attorney for both health care and financial situations.

Power of attorney means giving someone else, your agent or attorney, the power to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated. It is only in effect as long as you are alive.

According to an information sheet distributed at the meeting, there are several types of power of attorney:

• Financial power of attorney means an agent or attorney will act on a person’s behalf to make financial decisions.

• Health care power of attorney means an agent or attorney will act on a person’s behalf to make health care decisions.

• Springing power of attorney comes into effect only if a person becomes incapacitated.

• Durable power of attorney remains in effect even though a person becomes incapacitated.

“You always want to choose someone that you completely trust and never be forced into giving anyone power of attorney over you,” Page said.

Page discussed the importance of having a personal will and consulting an attorney, so that after death, property is distributed according to a person’s wishes.

After the workshop Page met one-on-one with seniors to answer questions or to go over a legal matters.

“I think that the information that they went over was very helpful,” said Tommy Bauler of Tucumcari.

Those could not attend the workshop are encouraged to call the toll-free number with their question or problem, Page said.

“About 70 percent of what people need we can solve on the phone,” Page said. “It is free to talk to us, and if we can not help, we can refer you to an attorney that can.”

The site manager of the Tucumcari Senior Citizens Center, Lorretta Lucero, said that the workshop was beneficial and hopes another workshop will be presented in Tucumcari.

Information, referrals and copies of the information sheets and legal tips for seniors presented at the workshop are available by calling the State Bar of New Mexico’s Lawyer Referral for the Elderly Program between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 1-800-876-6657.