Estate planning concerns distributing assets after one dies, including the use of last wills, trusts and preparing the estate to minimize assets passing through probate. Elder law is more focused on protecting the individual during their lifetime.
Elder law provides people with legal rights and protections, as they become older and become vulnerable. The field of elder law covers a range of issues impacting seniors, including long-term care planning options, end-of-life and estate planning and problems including nursing home abuse or neglect. There are a variety of issues for which seniors benefit from legal assistance, says a recent article titled “Elder Law: A Complete Guide” from Forbes.
Medicare Planning and Social Security. An elder law attorney can help seniors understand their options to maximize Social Security benefits. Claiming benefits before full retirement age results in a reduction in monthly benefits, while a delayed claim leads to a larger monthly income. Signing up for Medicare can be daunting, with so many options and decisions to be made. An elder law attorney can help get it right the first time.
Incapacity Planning. While one can become incapacitated at any time in life, the chances of becoming physically or mentally impaired increase as one ages. Having a living will allows you to specify what kind of medical treatments you want to accept or decline. A durable power of attorney allows you to name an agent to control your assets, and a healthcare power of attorney lets another person make medical decisions on your behalf.
Guardianship. If no incapacity planning has been done and action needs to be taken on your behalf, the court will assign a guardian. This could be a family member, or if none is available or the court does not deem the family member to be a good candidate, a professional guardian might be assigned.
It takes time for a person to be declared legally incapacitated and for a guardian to be appointed. The process can be costly and is stressful for all concerned.
Long-Term Care Planning. Someone turning 65 today has as much as a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care during their lifetime. Long-term care planning addresses making decisions in advance for having care at home or moving into a nursing home for rehabilitation or as a permanent resident. Long-term care planning includes planning for Medicaid and protecting assets.
Elder Abuse Laws. Unfortunately, seniors are vulnerable to abuse, especially when they must rely on others for care. Elder abuse laws exist to protect you from physical, mental, emotional, sexual, or financial abuse. An elder abuse claim can be pursued to recover compensation for medical bills, loss of assets, emotional distress, or physical pain.
An elder law attorney can help create a plan to address issues and protect those who are lucky enough to enjoy a long life.
Reference: Forbes (Jan. 11, 2023) “Elder Law: A Complete Guide”