Elder law is an area within the legal field that covers different legal, financial, and personal matters specific to older groups. With these issues, there are certain preparations that need to take place and legal documents that need to be drafted in order to provide a comprehensive solution to a senior’s needs. Among the most common issues covered through elder law planning are healthcare and finances. As people age, their health begins to decline, and they may require more frequent or more involved medical care than before. Elder law planning assists seniors with exploring different methods for covering the cost of healthcare while protecting their assets. Some of these methods may include enrolling in Medicare, long-term care planning, or creating a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust, to name a few. Financial representation is another common issue that elder law planning takes care of. Elder law attorneys see many clients who wish to create a financial power of attorney, explore housing options, or review their estate plan.
An elder law attorney does everything they can to support seniors in their right to live independently, but because of their experience in working with older groups, elder law attorneys are also able to recognize when a senior may require assistance with their affairs. Article 81 Guardianship is a New York statute that is aimed at allowing incapacitated persons as much autonomy as possible while providing a guardianship to assist them with their functional limitations in a given area such as finances or personal care. Establishing an Article 81 Guardianship can become an elaborate process, but a qualified elder law attorney can assist with filing a petition, creating a framework for the type of guardianship needed, and handle the subsequent legal proceedings.
Elder law planning concerns itself with issues that are unique to the elderly community. Some of the issues covered under elder law can be quite delicate, but however sensitive a particular topic may be, it is to the benefit of a senior and their loved ones to plan ahead and prepare accordingly. Among some of the more personal matters in elder law planning is the creation of a living will. Any experienced elder law attorney will recommend that a senior create this vital document. While a last will and testament takes effect in the event of a person’s death, a living will takes effect in the event of a person’s incapacitation near the end of their life. As people age, both their physical and mental health begins to decline, and in the final stages of their life, they may become impaired and unable to communicate their wishes. However, a living will lets an individual decide in advance how they wish to be cared for under such circumstances. There are a number of options to consider such as palliative care, pain management, and whether or not life-sustaining treatments are to be used. These are decisions of a highly personal nature and by having a living will in place, a person ensures that their decisions will be honored.
Because the issues faced by seniors are so much more critical than those of younger adults, it is essential to begin looking into elder law planning sooner rather than later. Waiting until a crisis strikes to make financial, healthcare, or personal preparations can mean that there will be fewer options and remedies available. There is no specific age requirement for starting elder law planning, but it is important to look ahead and consider what preparatory measures need to be taken for certain issues. For example, if a senior wishes to receive long-term care through Medicaid, they should consult with an elder law attorney to plan for “spending down” and asset protection at least five years before applying to the program.