As the name implies, elder law attorneys focus on protecting the legal rights and financial security of the elderly. This includes ensuring health care coverage such as Medicare and Medicaid, and preparing wills, powers of attorney, trusts, appointed guardianship, and advanced medical directives. They can also help protect against financial, physical, and emotional abuse and neglect.
In recent years, they have added life care planning to their dockets to help elders and their loved ones be prepared for times of crisis and uncertainty and ensure their final wishes are honored. When planning, you can decide if this representation is a good fit for you. Here’s a look at the plethora of services they generally provide.
The security of knowing that your wishes will be carried out, whether you’re alive or not, and that your loved ones will be properly taken care of will give you peace of mind. That’s why estate planning is so crucial, especially as you progress in age. An elder law attorney will be able to help you put together the following documents to better protect you and your family.
General durable power of attorney (POA)
The appointee of this POA, also known as the agent, is authorized to make personal and financial decisions for you if you’re incapacitated and unable to communicate your wishes. This includes overseeing your health care due to a medical emergency or cognitive decline, making medical decisions on your behalf, and ensuring that your finances are safely managed.
If you have underage children, you will need to appoint someone to be their legal guardian in case you, and your partner if applicable, are no longer able to care for them due to incapacitation or death. You can also request guardianship of your elderly parent and their estate if they can no longer make decisions for themselves.
Health care power of attorney
This specific type of POA is similar to a general durable POA, but it’s only for health care and does not include finances. This document is especially important if you want to ensure your medical wishes are granted. The person you designate will make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re unable, particularly if it’s a life-and-death event.
Last will and testament
This legal document enables you to appoint a personal representative, or executor, to manage your estate and carry out your will after you die.
There are several different trusts an elder law attorney can help you set up, the most notable being a revocable living trust (RLT), which is used for estate planning. It enables you, the grantor, to appoint a trustee to manage your money if you’re unable to do so. It also provides for you while you’re still alive, and your trustees after your death. In addition, setting up an RLT can help to avoid probate, a process by which the court reviews the deceased’s assets to ensure proper distribution to the beneficiaries.
Life care planning
Many elder law firms have begun to expand their practices to include life care planning through the Elder Care Continuum model, promoting continuity for the family and helping them understand the progression of aging and how its impacts finances, health care, and housing. Ultimately, the attorney’s goal is to assist in customizing and coordinating a plan where care advocacy, crisis intervention, and community resources are available if needed. This includes trigger events, such as sickness, dementia, or similar debilitating chronic conditions, which can affect your ability to pay for health care, housing, and other necessary services.
Planning for your financial well-being is crucial as you age. This should include protecting your assets to maintain your quality of life and ensure that any inheritances are shielded from ill-intentioned individuals. In addition, if your health begins to falter, it can impact finances due to health care costs. An elder law attorney can help you preplan for this by integrating an asset protection component into your estate.
Regardless of where you reside, at home, in an assisted living community, or in a nursing home, you want to know that you’re receiving the best possible health care. An elder law attorney can assist you in planning for this long-term care as well as finding the best living options based on medical needs and financial capabilities.
Depending on your financial status and external support systems, a change in your health or financial situation may directly impact your ability to pay for care in a nursing home or assisted living. However, an elder law attorney can help you navigate the Medicaid maze. If you’re using up your financial resources, Medicaid will allow you to remain in your home and receive the necessary care there.
Elder abuse, neglect, and fraud
Sadly, this is something that happens all too frequently to the elderly population. Whether the abuse is physical, emotional, simple neglect, or financial, its impact is immeasurable and can be life changing. Unfortunately, this abuse can occur anywhere and from anyone, in nursing homes and assisted living communities and by in-home caregivers, family members, and predatory companies trying to defraud your loved one. If you suspect that they’re experiencing any abuse, an elder law attorney can help you understand their rights and how to navigate the legalities of the situation.
With the progression of age, needs change. Trying to understand and maneuver through the complexities at this time of life can be difficult for most older adults. Seeking professional guidance and advice from an elder law attorney can help provide you and your family peace of mind.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for individualized legal advice. Please consult your legal advisor regarding your specific situation.
LPL Financial Representatives offer access to Trust Services through The Private Trust Company N.A., an affiliate of LPL Financial.
This article was prepared by ReminderMedia.
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