Elder law is a specialized area of law that focuses on a wide range of legal matters that affect the elderly. The portion of the population aged 65 and older is growing rapidly. The United States Census Bureau reports that in 2017, individuals over 65 years old represented 14.9% of the population. With advancements in medical technology, this number is expected to continue rising in the future.
Although many individuals may face similar legal issues, there are specific issues that arise for those ages 65 and older that could impact other areas of their life, such as:
For this reason alone, it is important that these individuals employ experienced and reliable elder law attorneys to ensure that their legal matters are handled carefully and properly.
There are three major areas of law that make up much of the legal matter that elder law focuses on. These areas are:
Elder law and estate planning issues generally intersect at the time it becomes relevant for an individual to start thinking about long-term care planning. As individuals age, there is typically a need for money to cover additional medical expenses. Benefits that are available through government programs are an important consideration as part of one’s solution to cover these costs. Examples of these government benefits are Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). These benefits are means-tested programs, which require individuals to meet certain criteria regarding income and resources in order to qualify for the benefits.
However, most individuals have assets available to them that make them ineligible for benefits because they are over the income and resource limits. At this point, they face a decision of whether they need to consider legal and ethical asset protection strategies in order to shield their assets so they can become eligible for benefits.
If it is time to consider restructuring assets in an ethical and legal way to become eligible for benefits, it is essential to consult with an elder law attorney to ensure that important considerations are made during planning. For instance, if the client has a spouse, it is important to consider planning options to protect the spouse. Structuring a plan that will keep that spouse at home and protect the couple’s assets will create a huge difference in the couple’s quality of life.
There are other important considerations to discuss when it comes to estate planning, especially if there are disabled or special needs family members involved or children that rely on their parents for support. In any situation, a knowledgeable elder law attorney should be involved in your estate planning.
Oftentimes, a person may become unable to make their own decisions regarding medical and financial matters. In these situations, it may become necessary to have a trusted person appointed to make these decisions for them. A guardian is an individual that is appointed to handle these decisions. A conservator is an individual that is appointed to handle financial decisions for an incapacitated individual.
While a guardianship is designed to protect a person that is vulnerable and prone to exploitation, it does take away that individual’s right to make decisions on their own. Because of this, a court proceeding is required in order to have a guardian appointed to make sure that the guardianship is necessary and in the best interest of the incapacitated person.
An accomplished elder law attorney can assist in evaluating all of the relevant circumstances of a situation to provide the proper advice and guidance to help an individual obtain guardianship, if it is possible.
If you have specific issues that you are facing related to guardianship, estate planning, long term care planning, or any other elder law matter, contact our office today to schedule a consultation.