What Is Elder Law and What Services Does It Include?

A law book with a gavel – Elder law

Everyone at one stage in their life will have a need for an elder law attorney, whether for themselves or a loved one. But what is elder law?

This area of law is actually a mixture of different practices, all of which impact seniors and their families. It includes the drafting of wills, trusts, and estate plans. It requires strategic thinking about the future, from finances to the most basic decision about health and dying.

A good elder law attorney will be able to help you and your family through many different challenges that confront everyone who will eventually face the process of aging.

Here are several different aspects of elder law you should know about.

1. Estate Planning

One of the most critical aspects of elder law is estate planning. This should be considered well before you or your parents have health or financial problems.  In fact, while you are healthy and still working is the best time to consider planning your estate.

An elder law specialist can advise on the financial implications of various strategies to enable you to retire when you like. They can advise on gifting options so that you diminish the amount of your taxable estate and give money to your children before you die while avoiding high estate taxes.

An elder law specialist can also identify different vehicles such as trusts or investments which will preserve and grow your money with favorable tax implications and protections.

2. Trusts & Estates

Making a will is an important task for everyone so that your assets will be divided up as per your wishes. An elder law practitioner should have full knowledge of this area of law so that they can draw up a will that gives your money and belongings to whom you wish and also helps minimize taxes.

Trusts are financial and legal entities that enable you to pass along your assets outside of probate court. They can simplify the process after a family member’s death so that surviving members do not have to wait years for everything to go through probate. 

Trusts can cover assets like bank accounts, but they can also cover property.

3. Medicare and Benefits

After sixty-five, seniors are eligible for certain government benefits. Some seniors are completely reliant on these benefits for their remaining years.

Some government benefits are only available to seniors who have income below a certain level. They may be ineligible for certain health benefits and housing options if they are deemed to have too much money or a house that is worth too much.

Unfortunately, the costs of senior care, especially housing, has risen a great deal, while the regulations in this area have not changed accordingly. Thus a person with a mid-level income may still be deemed to have too much money to be able to apply for a state-run nursing home, while still being unable to afford a privately run one.

An elder law attorney can help create trusts and other ways to plan for a senior to have options in their old age.

Each state has different laws on eligibility for government benefits, so make sure you talk to a specialist in your geographic area.

4. Guardianship

Sadly, another challenge of growing older is that some people may lose their ability to care for themselves. Some may no longer be able to make rational decisions about their own health and welfare.

Sometimes people get forgetful as they age and neglect to pay their bills. Others may even become a threat to themselves or others.

A family member may need legal help to step in during these situations. An elder law attorney can help with conservatorships and guardianships that enable a family member to do what is right for a loved one when they are no longer able to do it themselves. 

Power of attorney will allow a family member to make important financial decisions, write checks, and dispose of property like selling a house no longer needed.  It is often better to set these arrangements well up before the person is completely indisposed.

An elder law attorney can help set up these arrangements. 

5. End of Life Decisions

Many people want to have a say at the end of their life. They may want to have as much medical care as necessary to prolong life. They may have religious feelings about the end.

On the other hand, some people do not want to prolong their own suffering, nor that of their loved ones.

An elder law specialist can help anyone set up a will and other directives to dictate the terms of the end. You can specify that you would like a feeding tube or not. You can specify no medical intervention.

Placing these wishes in a legal document will prevent unhappy disagreements later on between family members.

You can also be clear on what kind of funeral arrangements you would like. People are often very specific in their desires in where and how they wish to be buried or cremated.

6. Elder Abuse

Seniors are also vulnerable to bad behavior. They are more likely to be targeted by internet scams and con artists. They may also be abused mentally and physically by caregivers and nursing home attendants.

If you suspect that your relative may be a victim of this kind of abuse, contact an elder law practitioner. You need to make sure your loved one is safe from predators who can take advantage of them.

What is Elder Law? Learn Before You Need to Know 

Don’t wait until it is too late to ask “what is elder law?” Everyone will face these questions eventually, and it is best to be prepared. 

For your parents, grandparents and other relatives, you can speak with them openly and honestly about their wishes and hopes for their remaining years.  Speak to someone who understands elder law so that those wishes can be put into place.

Getting old awaits all of us- if we are lucky! Therefore it is never too early to consider these issues for yourself,  no matter how old you are. 

If you have children, you should have a will. If you have strong feelings about how you do or do not want your life prolonged, you should document them so your wishes are followed.

An elder law specialist can help everyone prepare so that the end of life may be a peaceful passage.

Visit us again for more important tips on living your best life, from beginning to end.

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