All painters use paint (duh). It’s just that some are house painters, while others are sometimes Picasso.
Similarly, all lawyers are (hopefully) familiar with the law. It’s just that some use it to sell houses and get you out of traffic tickets, and they might not be the best or most capable people to create your estate plan or help you with your legal needs as it pertains to aging.
Being in and around the home care industry, I have noticed a troubling reality: People don’t really know about elder law. If you’ve used a lawyer friend who mainly works slip-and-fall cases (or your uncle Steve who manages classic rock cover bands) to draw up some kind of will or plan, I’m talking about you.
There is a whole category of people, elder law attorneys, who specialize in that. Elder law is a great big topic full of complicated and important nuances.
Here are just three of the many areas and issues within elder law for which you may need to consult an elder law attorney:
Everyone with family or assets they have particular plans for should have an estate plan. Perhaps one of the most important things to organize while you still have the ability to do so.
Here’s where you decide who gets what of your things. Without it, people or organizations you care about may be left without anything. There are other benefits to a well-prepared plan. For instance, if you create a plan with a trust you can also avoid probate, which is a process that divvies out possessions and assets as according to your documented last testament (or Will).
Life can change at any moment, and it’s even truer as you advance in age. Just like your estate planning, you want to preserve your health care decisions while you still can. An experienced elder law attorney can help you create what is known as an advanced directive, which is a legal document that lists out what actions, pertaining to your health, should be taken if you are no longer able to make decisions due to incapacity. You can also appoint an agent (or power of attorney) to act on your behalf – usually, a spouse or family member that you trust.
Insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and governmental aid programs.
Finally, we have an area of elder law that is confusing and frustrating without fail! Aging in our society is an expensive affair. There are options through the government as well as private insurance plans that aim to mitigate those expenses related to aging. But the devil is in the details, as you must figure out whether your eligible – and when it comes to insurance, what claims are covered and what claims are reimbursed. There are other options to consider as well, depending on your background. For example, if you or your spouse was in the military, you may qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits. Many who qualify for such benefits aren’t even aware of them!
If you are thinking about these issues or are already dealing with them, consider consulting or talking with a few elder law attorneys first. They may be able to clarify concepts, fix issues, or introduce solutions you may have never even thought of before!
Below are a few resources that you can use to find an elder law attorney:
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