Imagine your elderly parents have recently been medically diagnosed, one with a stroke and the other with dementia. As a result of the diagnosis, one of them has become forgetful while the other one has become disabled. You become worried about their well-being.
However, you should not worry anymore because an elder law attorney can help you seamlessly sort out such challenges.
In this article, I will explain what an elder law attorney does and give you five situations when you might need to hire an elder law attorney.
What is an elder law attorney?
An elder law attorney is a professional who gives legal counsel to senior citizens with special needs.
Among others, an elder law attorney counsels the elderly or their representatives about the legal aspects of their health, property, and financial options and the need to develop long-term care planning.
As an area of practice, elder law grew out of the need for older people to address legal issues that they are facing including the need to plan out their estates.
Consequently, with the increasing number of elderly people, elder law has grown into a big area of practice in law and the number of people looking to hire elder law attorneys is increasing.
Five situations when you should hire an elder law attorney
Elderly people have a lot of needs.
Additionally, for the purpose of this article, elderly people are those who are above 65 years of age.
In this section, I explore five key areas that give rise to situations when one can hire an elder law attorney.
1. Public Benefits
An elder law attorney advises the elderly on their eligibility for public benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), federal disability insurance, or federal cash assistance program.
Additionally, in case you are taking care of an elderly person with significant health complications, an elder law attorney can advise on the eligibility of the person to possible insurance options such as Medicare or Medicaid.
2. Protective Planning
Elder law attorneys also deal with protective planning.
Protective planning is a protection mechanism that courts give to persons with limitations as to their mental capacity—for example, those suffering from dementia.
The term protective planning encompasses practices such as guardianship and conservatorship.
The court gives guardianship orders to representatives of individuals with limited mental or physical abilities whereas the courts give conservatorship orders to representatives of individuals whose ability to manage their own property has diminished.
Guardianship and conservatorship proceedings are regulated by the Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdictions Act (UAGPPJA).
The Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act is a uniform Law that applies in all but 4 states of the US. Part of the changes that the UADPPJA aimed to bring was the unified use of the terms Guardian and Conservator.
As in the map below the states that have not enacted the Adult Guardianship and Protective Proceedings Jurisdiction Act are Texas, Florida, Kansas, and Michigan.
3. Estate Planning
Due to old age, elderly people need to plan the future of their estate.
The importance of such planning helps solve conflicts that may arise in the future regarding the inheritance of their estates.
An elder law attorney can help with estate planning by helping elderly people with the drafting of their wills. They can also help you set up a Trust for your estate. In addition, if the need arises, they can also help with inheritance disputes about such estates.
Estate planning also includes estate taxes. In some states, estate taxes apply.
4. Long-term care needs
Elder persons or their representatives need to hire an elder law attorney for their long-term needs
Examples of situations that suffice as long-term include:
- Retirement plans
- Healthcare needs due to advanced age vulnerabilities
- Old age care
- Funeral arrangements
- Debt management
5. Power of Attorney
If you are an elderly person and you are struggling with making decisions due to an accident, illness, or a mental condition.
Then you can appoint your child, a relative, a friend, or a lawyer to make such decisions for you.
Such an appointment will be drafted by an attorney.
The appointment gives the person the authority to act on your behalf.
This appointment is known as power of attorney.
It is important to consult an elder law attorney about this subject as it can get complicated.
How to become a certified elder law attorney
To become a certified elder law attorney, a lawyer will need to be approved by the National Elder Law Foundation.
According to NELF, there are approximately 500 certified elder law attorneys around the US.
If you are a senior citizen, you should consider hiring an elder law attorney.
They can help in several aspects such as estate and long-term planning.
In addition, when not counseling elderly people, elder law attorneys can also advise individuals of all ages. For example, in cases such as special needs planning, protective proceedings, and estate planning.
I hope this article has been of help.