Q: What does an Elder Law Attorney do?
A: An elder law attorney is an advocate for the elderly and their loved ones. Most elder law attorneys handle a wide range of legal matters affecting an older person, including issues related to health care, long term care planning, advanced directives, estate planning, asset protections, guardianship, public benefits, and other important matters.
In many ways, elder law attorneys are “specialists” because of their focus on the needs of older adults, which are often different and more specialized than the needs of younger adults. Not only can they handle important financial and estate planning matters, they also have a variety of resources to assist with the day-to-day issues affecting the actual care of seniors, such as assisted living and life planning.
In addition, elder law attorneys are often more equipped to handle the sensitive emotional and physical needs of older adults and are therefore able to handle a variety of challenging situations.
Q: How can an Elder Law Attorney help me?
Q: Why is Estate Planning important?
A: Estate planning is planning for the management of one’s estate during life and its disposition on death using trusts, wills, and other planning documents.
Estate planning is especially important for those who are in the later years of life and may be dealing with a myriad of financial and health related issues such as:
- Increased wealth and related tax issues;
- Major illnesses and/or cognitive impairments;
- Asset preservation and spousal protection; and
- Family disagreements and/or exploitation.
A comprehensive estate plan which takes into account an individual’s financial, medical, and family circumstances, can provide peace of mind, family stability and security in the event of incapacity or death.
Q: Can an Elder Law Attorney help me make decisions on behalf of others?
A: Sometimes an adult becomes incapacitated or unable to make decisions on their own behalf without having executed any estate planning or advanced directive documents. If decisions need to be made on their behalf, a guardian will need to be appointed by the Superior Court. Guardianship of an elderly or incapacitated individual may include guardianship of the person, guardianship of the estate, or both.
Guardianship of the person requires the guardian to make decisions regarding the care and support of the elderly or incapacitated individual. The guardian may be required to consent to and monitor medical treatment as well as monitor the ward’s living condition. The guardian is expected to consider the ward’s wishes and desires, as well as their physical and financial needs when making decisions. The guardianship continues until the ward dies or until the court determines that the guardianship is no longer necessary.
Guardianship of the estate requires the guardian to assume responsibility for the ward’s property. The guardian is required to take steps to preserve and protect assets, obtain appraisals of property, and distribute income. The guardian is also required to keep the court continuously informed of the status of the estate. The financial guardianship continues until the ward dies or until the court determines that the individual no longer requires a legal guardian.
Guardianship is costly and time consuming, however, an elder law attorney can assist you with understanding and navigating the process.