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“Harry’s Law” – Hollywood and Elder Law Collide

Over the years, not surprisingly, there have been many televisions series that focus on the legal profession.  The stories are interesting, entertaining and often emotional.  LA Law was a popular show back when I was in law school.  Currently, Kathy Bates stars in Harry’s Law, which focuses on Harriet “Harry”: Korn and the other lawyers in her private law firm.  Last week, one of the plot lines focused on an aspect of elder law.  While it may make for “must see TV”, the episode leaves much to be desired when it comes to accuracy.

 An elderly married couple, Gloria and Abe, meet with one of the lawyers in the firm.  Gloria explains that Abe has Alzheimer’s and that he needs full time care which they can’t afford without selling the house.  She wants a divorce from Abe, allowing her to keep their assets and permitting him to qualify for Medicaid.

 Much of the discussion amongst the lawyers in the firm focuses on the ethical issues.  Would Gloria be committing fraud?  Would Medicaid challenge the divorce settlement?  Should the country help Gloria and Abe (and others) who failed to plan for long term care? 

Later in the episode we learn that Medicaid isn’t Gloria’s sole motivation for seeking divorce.  She has been unhappy for much of their 40 year marriage.  The stress of Abe’s illness has just aggravated the situation.

 It all makes for great drama, but as so often happens with television and movies, in an effort to make the story “more sexy” and in the interests of time (after all, the show is only an hour and there is more than one plot line in each show) the truth sometimes falls by the wayside.  Next week I’ll share with you where the writers went wrong and why you don’t want to get your elder law advice from television.