The laws regarding elder care often change as the elder population grows, leading to confusion and misinformation. Elder care attorneys provide legal advice to families about the many different aspects of an elder’s life – including housing options, health care, estate planning, public benefits, and more. They differ from traditional attorneys because they specialize in an area of legal practice that places emphasis on issues that affect the aging population.
When thinking about your loved one's legal future, there are five important services an elder care attorney can provide:
1. Estate planning – Creating appropriate estate planning documents, such as wills and trusts, ensures a person’s assets will be left to their intended beneficiaries. Elder law attorneys focus on integrating estate planning with other goals that are important to a senior, such as protection of assets from long-term care costs, qualification for veteran’s benefits, or other public benefits.
2. Locating resources for care and assistance – Elder care attorneys are familiar with the local network of services and providers, appropriate state and federally funded programs, and Geriatric Care Managers that provide the services and support needed for seniors and their families.
3. Assisting with qualification and application for public benefits – There are many public benefit programs available to assist low-income and low-asset elders with the care they need. Public benefit programs and eligibility requirements constantly change, and elder law attorneys are always up-to-date with the current laws and regulations.
4. Guardianship and conservatorship – When a senior is no longer able to make his or her own decisions, an elder care attorney can assist family members in obtaining authority from the court to make decisions on the senior’s behalf. Decisions relating to their assets require a conservatorship, and all other personal decisions may require a guardianship, also known as Powers of Attorney.
5. Educating seniors and family members – One of the most important services elder care attorneys provide is educating seniors and their families about current resources, laws and regulations and planning strategies that are appropriate to each individual client.
For those who may not be able to afford an elder care attorney, check with your local county for grants offered through the county’s aging department or local nonprofit organizations. Elder care attorney services are about more than just protecting your loved one’s assets. These five important services of an elder care attorney are just some of the many things they can do when making the legal decisions regarding your aging loved one.