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Legal

We are all protected by certain legal rights that seek to provide each of us with fair treatment and quality care, safe from discrimination, fear or abuse. The Legal Matters section addresses issues, such as living will, power of attorney, conservators and other legal matters that are important to understand when planning for your future. The Consumer Rights section will help you recognize and understand your rights within the system of long-term services and supports.

Legal Matters

Legal Assistance

Connecticut Network for Legal Aid

This network of several nonprofit legal services organizations has a shared mission to improve the lives of Connecticut’s poorest citizens by providing free legal services to low-income individuals. Their goal is to offer equal access to justice by providing information and self-help materials on a variety of legal issues. Services are free. Eligibility depends upon income, family size, assets and legal issue. Contact the Connecticut Network for Legal Aid.

Consumer Law Project for Elders (CLPE)

The CLPE Hotline provides free legal assistance, including advice, representation and referrals to people aged 60 and over. Call 1-800-296-1467 (Toll Free).

Need a Lawyer?

Local and county bar associations offer lawyer referral services to help you find a private attorney in your county. Call the number below that pertains to your area:

Hartford, Litchfield, Middlesex, Tolland and Windham: 1-860-525-6052

Fairfield: 1-203-335-4116

New Haven: 1-203-562-5750

New London: 1-860-889-9384

Living Wills and Your Rights to Make Health Care Decisions

In Connecticut, the legal document that expresses your wishes concerning health care is called a “living will” or “Health Care Instructions.” Currently, a "living will" or "health care instructions” permits you to state your wishes regarding any and all health care decisions, including life-support systems, surgery, antibiotics or other medical treatments in the event that you are terminally ill, permanently unconscious or unable to communicate. It can provide that you want all available life supports or, that you do not want certain or all life supports, or to specify the types of life support you want and under what conditions you want them.

A living will is different than a “do-not-resuscitate order.” A Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) order reflects a doctor’s instruction to staff and/or emergency medical technicians that Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) should not be administered if you experience cardiac arrest. Any DNR order that is made should be consistent with the wishes that you express in your living will.

There are important reasons to have a living will. These include:

  • helping to make sure that your end-of-life medical care wishes are followed
  • relieving your loved ones of the burden of making end-of-life decisions without knowing your wishes
  • enabling your doctor to follow your instructions
  • keeping your private wishes on dying out of the probate court, where these disputes may otherwise end up

While the above reasons make completing a living will a good idea, you are not obligated to do so. Hospitals and nursing facilities are required by a federal law, known as the Patient Self-Determination Act (PSDA), to ask on admitting you as a patient if you have a living will or wish to execute one, but they cannot require you to sign one in order to receive care.

Completing a living will should include thinking through your wishes, filling out a form and discussing the form with your family and your doctor. To be valid, a Connecticut living will must be signed, dated and have two witnesses. Because Connecticut health care providers are most familiar with a Connecticut living will, using the state form may mean that there is less likelihood of your wishes being misunderstood.

Connecticut law provides both a stand-alone form and a combined form that includes additional advance directives including designation of health care agent and power of attorney for health care decisions, advance designation of conservator and anatomical gift.

You can later revoke a living will at any time and in any manner (e.g. orally, by ripping it up or any other means). Please view “Your Rights To Make Health Care Decisions” prepared by the Office of Attorney General. 

Appointment of a Health Care Representative

Before October 1, 2006, Connecticut had two separate documents that allowed you to appoint someone to make your health care wishes known in the event you are unable to do so yourself:

  • The “appointment of health care agent,” which gives the individual that you choose authority to convey wishes concerning life support that you have expressed in a “living will”; and
  • The “durable power of attorney for health care decisions,” through which you can appoint an individual who can make all other health care decisions for you.

After October 1, 2006, a new form, the “appointment of health care representative,” became available that allows you to appoint an individual to make any and all health care decisions in the event that you are unable to do so yourself. It is no longer necessary to complete both a “power of attorney for health care decisions” and an “appointment of health care agent.”

If you later change your mind, you can revoke appointment of a proxy as follows:

Health Care Agent: You may revoke appointment of a health care agent at any time and in any manner; divorce, legal separation, annulment, or dissolution revokes appointment of your spouse as health care agent unless you have specified otherwise in the signed document.

Power of Attorney: You must revoke a power of attorney in writing, and have that document: (1) signed by two witnesses, and (2) signed and acknowledged (as appropriate) by a notary public, CT attorney, judge of court of record/family support magistrate, clerk or deputy clerk of court having a seal, town clerk or justice of the peace.

Health Care Representative: You must revoke an appointment of health care representative in writing, and have that document signed by two witnesses; divorce, legal separation, annulment, or dissolution revokes appointment of your spouse as health care representative unless you have specified otherwise in the signed document.

Advance Designation of Conservator

A "conservator of the person" is someone appointed by the probate court to supervise your "personal affairs" if you are incapable of caring for yourself or otherwise agree to it voluntarily. "Incapable of caring for one's self" means "a mental, emotional or physical condition resulting from mental illness, mental deficiency, physical illness or disability, chronic use of drugs or alcohol or confinement, which results in the person's inability to provide medical care for physical and mental health needs, nutritious meals, clothing, safe and adequately heated and ventilated shelter, personal hygiene and protection from physical abuse or harm and which results in endangerment to such person's health.”

Effective October 1, 2006, Connecticut law, in most cases, requires that conservators comply with your “advance health care directives” and defer to any person whom you have already appointed to express your health care wishes if you cannot.

Conservatorship is either voluntary (where you ask a Probate Court to appoint a conservator for you) or involuntary (where someone else asks a Probate Court to appoint a conservator on your behalf). 

The advantage of completing an “advance designation of conservator” is that it will help a court to follow your wishes, unless it finds the appointment of the person you chose is not in your best interests or the person you chose is unable to serve.

Anatomical Gift

An anatomical gift is the donation of your body or organs to medical science or for transplantation.

Under Connecticut law, unless you limit the reasons for an anatomical gift, your body, or parts of it, may be given “to a hospital, physician, surgeon or procurement organization, for transplantation, therapy, medical or dental education, research or advancement of medical or dental science"; or "to an accredited medical or dental school, college or university for education, research, or advancement of science"; or to a particular person if you specify a particular person who needs an organ. If you wish, you can specify that you only want to make a gift to "save life" or "for transplants."

Keep in mind that unless you state in writing that they may not do so, your family has the right to make an anatomical gift after your death.

You can make an anatomical gift in any one of three ways:

  • by signing a “document of gift,”
  • through imprint on your driver’s license, or
  • by expressing those wishes in your last will and testament. 

You can revoke your anatomical gift only by a signed statement.

Wills and Living Trusts

A will is a legal document that ensures your estate is distributed after your death according to your wishes by an executor of your choosing. While it’s always best to consult an attorney, simple wills can be prepared with do-it-yourself forms. If you don't have a will, state statutes direct the probate court on how to distribute your estate.

A living trust transfers ownership of your assets into a trust and outlines how you want your property managed for the benefit of yourself, dependents and survivors. The trust is administered by a trustee you have chosen. A lawyer should always prepare living trusts.

Choosing between a will or living trust is a personal decision that should be made in consultation with your attorney and possibly family members.

Keep in Mind:

  • a will transfers your property (estate) after your death
  • a living trust transfers your property to a trust while you are still alive
  • if assets are placed in a living trust, they do not go through probate upon your death, as they do with a will

Probate is a legal process administered by probate courts located in most municipalities to direct and oversee the distribution of your estate, including personal property, liquid assets and real estate, when you die. The court determines whether your will is valid, oversees inventories and appraisals, gives notice to creditors, including the State of Connecticut, which may make claims on the estate and distributes remaining assets according to your wishes. If you do not have a will, the court will distribute your property to creditors and heirs according to state laws.

Please view “Probate Court Users Guide – Administration of Decedents’ Estate” published by the Court Administrator, State of Connecticut.

Please view “Probate Court Users Guide – Understanding Trusts” published by the Court Administrator, State of Connecticut.

Designation of Disposition of Remains

Your next of kin has the legal right to decide how your remains are disposed of, even if you have a burial contract for a particular form of disposal. However, if you are not married, you can designate a person to have custody of your remains (and the right to dispose of them) and in that case you can select someone who will carry out your wishes.

Health Care Advanced Planning Tool Kit

A tool kit is available to assist you with the process of health care advanced planning. It’s designed to help you discover, clarify and communicate what is important in the face of serious illness. For assistance, please view the Consumer Tool Kit for Health Care Advanced Planning.

Consumer Rights

Discrimination

Federal and state laws prohibit most forms of discrimination based on age, race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin. You are protected against discrimination in the following areas: housing, credit, employment and public accommodations.

If you are experiencing discrimination in any of these areas, you can file a complaint by contacting the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO).

For persons with disabilities, you can also contact the Office of Protection and Advocacy which can pursue legal and administrative remedies for those who experience disability-related discrimination. 

If you have limited incomes and are in need of legal services, contact Statewide Legal Services.

You may also wish to seek an attorney whose practice covers these issues.

Housing

The Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 prohibit discrimination in the sale or rental of housing. However, housing developed specifically for the elderly is allowed if the structure meets specific requirements. People with disabilities may ask for “reasonable accommodations” in their housing, such as a ramp if they are willing to pay for the cost themselves.

Credit

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act is a federal law that protects against age-based credit discrimination, including application for credit, extensions of credit, credit sales and invitations to apply for credit. 

Learn more. Please visit Connecticut Judicial Branch Law Libraries, a comprehensive resource about collection practices, credit and more.  

From this site, you can access Connecticut Law about Consumer Law

Visit the Connecticut Department of Banking website to file a complaint, access downloadable consumer assistance forms or consumer information and education programs.

Employment

Federal and State statutes protect against work-place discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin. These protections include: hiring practices, referrals, advertisements for positions, termination, involuntary retirement and the formation of membership in a labor organization. In addition to contacting the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities with an employment complaint, you can contact the Boston area office of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Public Accommodations

Regardless of disability, you are entitled to full access to any building or establishment offering services, facilities or goods to the general public. “Access” may include reasonable accommodations such as interpreters for the hearing impaired in addition to physical access by ramps, elevators or other physical alterations.

Landlord and Tenant Issues

Federal and state laws protect both tenant and landlord. While a tenant is expected to respect the rules and regulations of a housing complex, the landlord is obligated to maintain a clean, safe, accessible and peaceful living situation. Connecticut law provides added protection to older adults and persons with disabilities who rent.

Keep in mind:

Your disability or medical condition cannot legally be a factor when you interview for an apartment.

  • A housing provider should never ask about your health condition, unless the purpose is to determine your eligibility for special programs, services and equipment that the housing community can provide for you.
  • A housing provider should never require confidential medical records or proof of your ability to live independently.
  • A housing manager should never inform you that supportive services are not allowed or that you can no longer live in the apartment because you need these services.
  • If the housing environment in which you live has barriers, you are allowed to make reasonable requests for modifications, but you may have to pay for them. Unreasonable requests are ones that would create an administrative or financial burden or require changes in the nature of the complex.
  • A landlord can increase your rent. However, state law protects against unfair rental increases for those who are aged 62 and over and persons with a family member (spouse, siblings, parents or grandparents) who permanently live with them and are 62 or over. The same protections exist for persons who are blind or physically disabled.

If you have landlord/tenant issues, you can:

Contact your local tenants union. If you need investigative or legal assistance, contact the Connecticut Fair Housing Center.

If you have limited income and are in need of legal services, contact Statewide Legal Services.

Need a lawyer?

Local and county bar associations offer lawyer referral services to help you find a private attorney in your county. Call the number below that pertains to your area:

Hartford, Litchfield, Middlesex, Tolland and Windham: 1-860-525-6052

Fairfield: 1-203-335-4116

New Haven: 1-203-562-5750

New London: 1-860-889-9384

Medicare and Medicaid Rights

There is much confusion about what is Medicare and what is Medicaid.

Medicare is health insurance for people aged 65 and over who have paid into the Social Security system or who are disabled and receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Individuals under age 65 must be disabled for 2 years before they can qualify for Medicare.

Medicaid is medical assistance for low-income people who are blind, disabled, or aged 65 or over. Medicaid is also available to low-income families with children.

People who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid are commonly referred to as "dually eligible" by advocates and legislators who are attempting to address the unique problems of this group.

As a Medicare or Medicaid recipient you have the right to:

  • Be fully informed about what is covered under Medicare/Medicaid benefits, what you have to pay, and how to file a complaint when necessary.
  • Receive appropriate care, including emergency treatment when needed.
  • Question medical decisions and seek a second opinion.
  • Talk with your doctor and participate in decisions about your care and treatment choices.

Please note that you have a right to hear this information in a way that you can understand. If you don't speak or understand English or you are deaf or hearing impaired, you have a right to an interpreter who can help you talk to your doctor. You also have the right to get health care that is sensitive to your culture.

If you feel as if your rights have been violated in regard to these two programs, you have two options:

For Medicare: The Center for Medicare Advocacy (CMA) works to increase access to comprehensive Medicare coverage and quality health care for older adults and persons with disabilities. Contact The Center for Medicare Advocacy.

For Medicaid: Statewide Legal Services (SLS) can provide help with Medicaid coverage and quality health care for persons with low incomes. Contact Statewide Legal Services.

Olmstead Decision

The regulations for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require states to administer services, programs and activities “in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals.” 

In a landmark interpretation of the ADA, commonly referred to as the "Olmstead Decision," the Supreme Court ruled that people with disabilities have a right to receive care in the most integrated setting appropriate and the unnecessary institutionalization violates the ADA. All states must comply with the Olmstead decision.

If you live in a nursing home and feel that you could live in the community with appropriate supports, you may qualify for Money Follows the Person Program that would allow you to live in your own home.

If you need information or you feel your rights are being violated, consider these options:

If you have limited income and are in need of legal services, contact Statewide Legal Services.

Contact the Office of Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities.

Nursing Home Resident Rights

Federal and state laws guarantee quality care to nursing home residents, ensuring a legal right to privacy, dignity, quality of life, and protection from abuse.

As a nursing home resident you have the right to:

  • Be treated with respect and dignity.
  • Receive equal and quality care, regardless of payment source.
  • Participate in making decisions about your care and about other aspects of your life.
  • Be free from chemical and physical restraints, unless required for medical treatment.
  • Manage your own finances or receive help from the nursing home.
  • Voice grievances without fear of retaliation.
  • Associate and communicate privately with any person of your choice.
  • Send and receive personal mail.
  • Have your personal and medical records kept confidential.
  • Apply for state and federal financial assistance without threats or discrimination.
  • Be fully informed prior to admission of your rights, service availability and fees.
  • Be given advanced notice and the right to appeal a transfer or a discharge.

If you feel your rights have been violated or you have concerns over your care, you may wish to speak to the home’s administrator or a staff member who is in charge. In some cases you may want to:

Call 1-800-388-1888 (Toll Free). Or contact the CT Long Term Care Ombudsman Program.

File a compliant with the Department of Public Health.

If you have limited income and are in need of legal services, contact Statewide Legal Services.

Abuse, Neglect and Abandonment

Often known as a “silent problem” because of shame, fear and embarrassment, abuse of the elderly and people with disabilities is a major unreported problem in our society. It is often inflicted by loved ones or people in charge of our care, making it particularly difficult to report. Abuse includes physical, mental and emotional mistreatment, neglect, abandonment and financial exploitation.

Some signs of possible abuse or neglect include:

  • unexplained bruises, burns or cuts
  • lack of food in the refrigerator
  • poor personal hygiene and dirty, cluttered environment
  • failure to pay essential bills such as rent or utility bills
  • isolation of the person from other family and friends

If you or someone you know is an older adult being abused, you can:

Contact Protective Services for the Elderly Program. This state program administered by the Department of Social Services offers an array of services for people aged 60 and over who are unable to protect themselves against abuse, neglect (including self-neglect) and exploitation.

If you or someone you know is a person with a disability being abused, you can:

Get assistance from the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities. This office provides information, referrals and short-term advocacy. 

Exploitation

Financial exploitation is the fastest growing form of abuse. The most common forms of exploitation include: door-to-door solicitation, fraudulent solicitation and identity theft.

Door-to-Door Solicitation

There are honest and dishonest people everywhere and in every business. Be on your guard when someone comes to your door selling items or services, soliciting donations or trying to sell you home improvements. A friendly, helpful personality does not necessarily mean you are dealing with an honest and trustworthy salesperson. Always remember, this business is an easy way for a con artist to make quick money so be very cautious.

Fraudulent Solicitation

Telemarketing, direct mail, and e-mail are primary vehicles used by dishonest solicitors. Across the United States, and in Connecticut, people have lost large amounts of money — sometimes their life savings — to unscrupulous people. To avoid scams, always be cautious and ask lots of questions. Never give any personal information over the phone or by e-mail to persons or companies that have contacted you. Ask for more information to be sent to you in writing for your review.

Identity Theft

Identity theft can happen to anyone. Thieves take advantage of any opportunity that yields the information needed to steal your identity, your credit, and your good name. The information they seek most includes Social Security numbers, bank and credit card account numbers, yearly earnings, names, addresses and telephone numbers.

To safeguard against exploitation:

  • Ask questions and read information closely.
  • Reject any offer that requires an immediate decision.
  • Do not give out personal and/or financial information over the phone or by e-mail unless you have initiated the call and know the person or company you are dealing with.
  • For home repairs, hire licensed people; check with the town and the Department of Consumer Protection. Ask for references. Check with friends. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against the person or company.
  • If you’re interested in a solicitation by phone or e-mail, ask for written product or service information. Review the material and then make a decision.
  • Be firm; you are in the driver’s seat. Don’t be forced into a decision.
  • Remember, if it’s too good to be true, it’s generally too good to be true.
  • Protect personal and financial information by being cautious in public and shredding or ripping up bills and other mail containing personal information.

Contact the Consumer Law Project for Elders (CLPE), a project of Connecticut Legal Services. The CLPE provides free legal assistance to people aged 60 and over who have consumer questions or problems. Call 1-800-296-1467 (Toll Free).

If you or someone you know is a person with a disability being abused, you can:

Get assistance from the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities. This office provides information, referrals and short-term advocacy. 

Take Action

CT Long Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP)

Connecticut’s Long Term Care Ombudsman Program works to improve the quality of life and quality of care of Connecticut citizens residing in nursing homes, residential care homes and assisted living communities.  All Ombudsman activity is performed on behalf of, and at the direction of residents.  All communication with the residents, their family members or legal guardians, as applicable, is held in strict confidentiality. Call 1-800-388-1888 (Toll Free), email ltcop@ct.gov or contact the CT Long Term Care Ombudsman Program.

Protective Services for the Elderly (PSE)

This program investigates reports of physical or mental abuse, exploitation or neglect of adults, aged 60 and over.  Please call 1-888-385-4225 (Toll Free) to express your concerns.  For more information, please visit the Department of Social Services website about Protective Services for the Elderly in your area.

Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities

If you are a person with a disability and have complaints about discrimination, abuse or violation of your rights, the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities is here to help. As an independent state agency, the Office of Protection and Advocacy safeguards and advances the rights of persons with disabilities. This agency investigates complaints and allegations of abuse and neglect. It also provides advocacy and referral services, education and training on disability issues and helps seek remedies due to disability-related discrimination. For information and requests for assistance, call the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities at 1-860-297-4300 or 1-800-842-7303, (Toll Free). TTY 860-297-4380. Or contact the Office of Protection and Advocacy.

Other Legal Resources

Connecticut Elder Law

Created to provide comprehensive, current information on elder law, government programs and legal assistance for residents of Connecticut aged 60 and older. 

Connecticut Legal Services

A not-for-profit law firm dedicated to representing, advising and educating low-income individuals and families in matters relating principally to civil law and thereby helping them secure the protections, privileges, benefits, rights and opportunities this law provides. 

Greater Hartford Legal Aid

A not-for-profit law firm whose staff helps clients with civil (not criminal) legal issues. They are advocates, primarily lawyers and paralegals, who know how to serve people who have little money.  

New Haven Legal Assistance

Provides high-quality legal services to individuals, families and groups in the greater New Haven area, including the lower Naugatuck Valley, who are unable to obtain legal services because of limited income, age, disability, discrimination, and other barriers.

Statewide Legal Services of Connecticut (SLS)

A private, nonprofit corporation dedicated to helping as many low-income people as possible to understand their civil (non-criminal) legal problems. They cooperate with other nonprofit law firms and volunteer attorneys to provide a broad range of legal services to Connecticut’s poor.

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