WHAT IS ELDER LAW?

Elder law focuses on long-term care planning and how to pay for it.

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By Jessica L. Estes

Ever wonder what “Elder Law” is?  Most people think that if you are 65 or older, it is called Elder Law and if you are younger than 65, it is called Estate Planning.  The real difference, though, is the focus of the representation.

Generally, the focus of estate planning is to make sure you have legal documents in place that provide the following: (1) the ability to control your property while you are alive and able, (2) planning for you and your loved ones should you become disabled, and (3) after you die, making sure your assets go to the people you love without unnecessary cost or delay.  Usually, these documents include financial and health care powers of attorney, advance directives or living wills, last will and testaments and perhaps, trusts.

Elder law, on the other hand, focuses on long-term care planning and how to pay for it.  Long-term care is required when an individual is unable to perform the basic activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, eating, toileting, walking and transferring, for a period exceeding thirty days.  Long-term care can include homecare, adult daycare, respite care and assisted living or nursing home services.  And, in this area, those types of costs can be daunting – more than $100,000 per year, and most people simply cannot afford to pay that.

Moreover, one might require long-term care, but be under the age of 65.  For example, if you have a child or a younger adult who is disabled and requires long-term care, most likely you would want to consult an Elder Law attorney to determine what, if any, benefits are available to help pay for that care even though the disabled person may not be elderly.

Not only can an Elder Law attorney advise a client about public benefits (including Medicaid and Veteran’s benefits) that may be available to help pay for long-term care, but they can also assist with the qualification and application process.  As part of this process, Elder law attorneys often engage in asset preservation to protect a client’s assets from the high costs of long-term care.  This is especially true if there is a dependent spouse or child at home, or if the individual does not have long-term care insurance to help pay those costs.

Finally, Elder Law also encompasses special needs planning.  Elder law attorneys are well-versed in the different types of special needs trust that may be available to a disabled individual and can advise which option is the best for a particular client.  So, Elder Law is not just for the elderly!

#TuesdayTips: Effective Estate Planning

A proper estate plan should provide for the following: (1) the ability to control your property while you are alive and able, (2) planning for you and your loved ones should you become disabled, and (3) after you die, making sure your assets go to the people you love without unnecessary cost or delay. 

A proper estate plan should provide for the following: (1) the ability to control your property while you are alive and able, (2) planning for you and your loved ones should you become disabled, and (3) after you die, making sure your assets go to the people you love without unnecessary cost or delay.  Moreover, for an estate plan to be effective there needs to be proper asset ownership and control of the process.

Every person over the age of eighteen, at the very least, needs a financial power of attorney, a health care power of attorney, and a will.  The powers of attorney are for when you are alive but for whatever reason, are unable to manage your assets or make medical decisions for yourself.  Additionally, the health care power of attorney should include your wishes and instructions for life sustaining treatment should you be terminally ill, in a persistent vegetative state, or at the end-stage of a condition.  These powers of attorney terminate upon your death.  At that time, the will takes effect and your assets would be distributed in accordance with the terms of the will.

In addition to the powers of attorney and will, every estate plan should include long-term care planning.  With the advance of medicine, people are living longer; yet, most of us have not made ample provision for our future long-term care needs.  Creating an estate plan now ensures that you are in control of your future.

With that in mind, here are some questions you should consider:

  1. Do your current documents name individuals that you trust and who would be appropriate (e.g. a family member or other trustworthy person who lives nearby and who has the time and ability)? Have you named alternates?
  2. Does your financial power of attorney allow your agent to engage in asset preservation or long-term care planning?
  3. Who are the current beneficiaries under your will? Are they still alive?  Do you have alternates?
  4. Have you made provision for an underage beneficiary? Does your will provide for a disabled beneficiary?
  5. How are your assets titled and do they have beneficiary designations? If so, you need to review this information to make sure it coincides with your will.

The attorneys at ERA Law Group, LLC today are here to help.  Call today!