When I tell someone that I practice Elder Law, the most common response is something like, “Well, you know I already have a Will…” Estate planning is only one aspect. My reply is usually, “As an Elder Law attorney, I am more concerned you are well-taken care of while you are still with us and perhaps less with it, than what happens to your possessions when you are no longer with us.” Unfortunately, the majority of people I meet have no idea what Elder Law is, and how it can help those who take care of aging or disabled loved ones who are not able to take care of themselves. Elder Law attorneys focus the unique needs of a particular type of client, that being the aging and disabled, rather than a type of service, such as a Will or bankruptcy.
With so many areas of law encompassed by Elder Law, most Elder Law attorneys cannot handle all of them. We rely on a network of attorneys to cover the legal needs of the aging and disabled. However, below are a few areas commonly handled by Elder Law attorneys, including me:
One of the most common issues facing the aging and disabled is diminishing mental capacity and increasing vulnerability. Their loved ones seek to protect and assist them with personal and financial decisions. Estate planning tools may be effective to help you help them, such as living trust and Powers of Attorney for health care, mental health care, or finances. In some instances, even that is not enough protection or it is too late for the person to sign any legal documents, in which case, a guardianship and/or conservatorship may be necessary.
Long Term Care/Benefits Planning:
Another common concern is long term care. Elder Law attorneys routinely discuss long term care options and benefits planning/asset protection for programs such as Veterans’ Aid & Attendance pension and ALTCS (AZ Medicaid).
Special Needs Planning:
Like the elderly, diminished capacity and benefits planning are also common concerns for the special needs population, but with different perspectives and programs. Parenthood and support of special needs children may extend into the child’s adulthood. This may entail Powers of Attorney or Guardianship. Special Needs Trusts or ABLE accounts allow a parent to provide for and protect their children, while still maintaining their benefits eligibility.
In short, Elder Law is intended to help those who cannot help themselves, focused on the elderly and the disabled. With the exploding rate at which that population is growing, the need for Elder Law attorneys is greater than ever before. If you are interested in learning more, either for yourself or for a loved one, please give me a call to schedule an appointment.