Elder Law is a wholistic legal practice that focuses on the legal issues facing seniors and their families. The goal of elder law is to help seniors manage their lives and finances in case of incapacity, make sure they obtain and can pay for appropriate health care and housing and marshal the resources necessary to live out their life in the manner they wish and pass assets to designated beneficiaries.
The first step for seniors is to create an appropriate estate plan that contains flexibility. Powers of attorney (general durable and health care), living wills and HIPAA authorizations provide the authority for trusted individuals to assist a senior in case of incapacity. These documents are created to avoid the need to obtain court ordered guardianship and/or conservatorship in case of incapacity. Creating a trust is a good way to avoid probate, manage assets if incapacitated and pass on assets to loved ones. However, trusts can complicate qualifying for Medicaid and VA benefits. Some assets should not be placed in a trust if the person will soon apply for VA or Medicaid. Therefore, as estate plan needs to be created with long term needs in mind.
Second elder law seeks to minimize the threats caused by isolation, diminished capacity and the trusting nature of many seniors. Threats can come from phone solicitations, internet scams, greedy relatives or con-artists. Providing resources to seniors and their families and providing the legal ability of an appropriate loved one to step in to prevent or stop fraud is critical to protecting a senior’s assets.
Finally elder law helps seniors and their family plan for and obtain the resources necessary for seniors to obtain appropriate health care and housing through government programs. VA benefits can allow veterans or their surviving spouses assistance to pay for care necessary to meet their life needs. Medicaid can pay for health care and residence in a skilled nursing facility if all of the requirements are met. VA and Medicaid benefits can be threatened by seniors making gifts, holding large countable assets or paying relatives for assistance without an appropriate contract. Long term planning can allow the family to preserve assets for the family while still meeting a senior’s needs. Emergency planning for long term care requires an elder law attorney to work through division of assets for a couple, face issues with the application process and minimize the effect of estate recovery when Medicaid seeks payment for services from assets of the deceased recipient or the surviving family member.
A skilled elder law attorney works with the senior and family to create a plan to enhance to the life of the senior, assist the family of the senior provide assistance and if possible preserve assets for the spouse or family. As with most planning the earlier an elder law attorney consults with seniors and the family the more options can be considered and the easier a plan can be implemented. Please contact us to obtain information on elder law and the benefits of creating a senior long-term plan.