Who may want an Elder Law Attorney and why?
A. Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers, persons needing long term care, persons without, or who wish to change or enforce advance directives or other incapacity documents; persons without or who wish to change their wills or trusts; persons who need guardianship; persons who need assistance with the probate process when a loved one has died; persons who need assistance with long term care policy evaluation, nursing home billing, resident rights and transfer and discharge issues.
B. As with most other aspects of life, preventative is better than rehabilitative. It’s rarely too early to begin estate planning, particularly if you are married and have children. If you have a debilitating illness or one that is likely to result in a period of incapacity, you should make decisions now before you are unable to make them for yourself. As you approach an age when incapacity is more likely to occur, or when you are more likely to need long term care, you should examine how to pay for such events. Lifetime and estate planning for disabled children, spouses or siblings is also critical, particularly where there is a need to preserve the disabled individual’s access to public benefits.
What does an Attorney practicing Elder Law Do?
Elder Law Attorneys are lawyers with experience in the legal issues that affect us as we age or become disabled.
A. Wills, trusts, probate, guardianships and estate planning are traditionally thought of as issues relating to age, disability and death.
B. Elder law attorneys are also familiar with incapacity planning, health care cost planning, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and nursing home rights.
C. As defined by the Florida Bar, “elder law” means legal issues involving health and personal care planning, including: advance directives; lifetime planning; family issues; fiduciary representation; capacity; guardianship; power of attorney; financial planning; public benefits and insurance; resident rights in long term care facilities; housing opportunities and financing; employment and retirement matters; income, estate and gift tax matters; estate planning; probate; nursing home claims; age or disability discrimination; and grandparents’ rights. The practice encompasses all aspects of planning for aging, illness and incapacity. Elder law clients are predominantly seniors, and the specialization requires a practitioner to be particularly sensitive to the legal issues impacting these clients.
D. The practice is not necessarily age related. Disability and incapacity planning are important aspect of many elder law attorneys’ practices, e.g., testamentary and intervivos supplemental needs trusts where preservation of public benefits are at issue; and, other trusts available to provide for those who cannot or should not manage finances and personal issues.