Elder law attorneys assist older or disabled clients with legal issues specific to their stage in life. They help navigate complicated healthcare issues, long-term care options, retirement, estate planning, and much more. While a general practice lawyer may have some knowledge of seniors needs, an experienced and compassionate elder law attorney is the most reliable option.
Following are some examples of the services elder law attorneys provide:
Financial Planning and Asset Preservation
No matter the value of your cash or assets, you do not want to see even one penny go to creditors, the government, or falsified nursing home bills. Many prefer to have a choice in how assets are distributed after death. A qualified law firm can help you decide on the best asset preservation strategies for your economic situation and long-term goals. Some things you will discuss include:
– Avoiding probate expenses
– Minimizing income, estate, and gift taxes
– Protection from judgments
– Planning for long term care costs
Wills and Trusts
Wills and trusts serve different purposes when it comes to your estate planning. Both may be useful, but you will need to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each. Key points include:
– A will takes effect after your death, whereas a trust is effective upon creation.
– A will passes through probate, meaning a court will oversee the process. A trust does not pass through probate. Not involving the court allows the terms of the trust to remain private whereas a will is a public document.
– A trust allows you to designate assets and property to others prior to your death, which may be helpful in planning for illness or saving on taxes.
– A will can name a guardian for minor children and also include provisions for funeral arrangements.
Your lawyer can help you determine whether one or both documents are right for your situation.
Healthcare and Long Term Care
No one wants to think about the possibility of becoming sick or disabled as we get older, but it’s wise to plan ahead. If you are unable to make your own medical decisions, you will want to have a plan in place that details your desires for medical care. The laws may vary by state, but some basic health related instruments you may want to discuss with elder law attorneys include:
– Health Care Proxy / Power of Attorney: This document designates someone with the legal authority to communicate a person’s medical treatment instructions. This is especially important if there is a possibility that family members may disagree about treatment options in dire situations.
– Advance Directives: This may be included with a health care proxy or be a completely separate document. It details the specific type of care the client would like. Examples are the person’s wishes regarding life support if they are in a coma or vegetative state and instructions on Do Not Resuscitate (DNO) documents.
– Living Wills: This document includes instructions if someone falls terminally ill or enters a permanent vegetative state and designates when life-sustaining treatments should be stopped. It is different from a health care proxy, in that a living well only takes effect when the person is completely incapacitated.
These are only a few of the many emotional and challenging areas that elder law attorneys can guide you through. Having plans in place for your senior years means you can have peace of mind that your wishes will be honored.