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.
Elder law is focused on meeting the legal needs of seniors and their families. The goal is to plan for and provide documents to provide as much control and dignity to seniors while still protecting them from fraud, elder abuse and physical and mental issues. Concerns for seniors and their families include managing the cost of long-term care, avoiding the having to go to court to obtain a guardian or conservator, making sure someone can make decisions for the senior seamlessly in case of a disability and making sure a senior can make the legacy he or she wants. In addition elder law assists the family in helping the senior live as she and/or he wishes. This includes being aware of the requirements to obtain Medicaid and/or VA Aid and Attendance benefits. Both programs have many requirements for documentation of exempt assets, penalizing the senior if the senior makes gifts within five or three years before application and proving need. I focus on collaboration with the senior and family to work for solutions to meet the senior’s needs while secondarily helping with family assistance and preserving resources for the family. This can include creating caregiver agreements, loans with promissory notes and mortgages, annuities, and transferring assets between spouses.
Meeting the requirements of special needs children takes planning for disability through court and non-court proceedings, enhanced estate planning documents and knowledge of government benefit programs and responsibility for meeting the child’s needs if parents can no longer provide for the child. Special needs trust can hold funds for the child while allowing the child to keep government benefits. Thus a special needs trust can pay for services, resources and materials that the government programs will not pay for. Estate planning for parents of a special needs child could include making sure who can make decisions for the child if the parents are not available, a special needs trust for the child if both parents are not alive, setting up a special needs trust during their lifetime so other relatives can contribute that trust and creating a letter of instructions so others can know the best ways to meet the desires and needs of a special needs child.
Special needs planning also includes creating trusts for persons injured in accidents or receiving compensation who need to preserve Medicaid benefits. In such cases a supplemental needs trust must be created to preserve current or future benefits. Creating these trusts requires understanding the current and future needs of the person receiving compensation, what government benefits are or will likely be needed to meet the needs of the person, what government entities require in the documents and the procedures to obtain approval or acquiescence in the document.