Elder Law Attorneys in Matthews
Elder law includes many areas of the law that affect senior citizens, such as Medicaid, guardianship, long term care planning, and estate planning. An elder law attorney helps seniors and their family members navigate their way through these matters. The goal is to get their loved ones the best possible care and security. Weaver, Bennett, and Bland is a Matthews law firm dedicated to helping clients in the following practice areas.
Medicaid Planning and Special Assistance
Powers of Attorney
There are two types of powers of attorney: a durable general power of attorney and a healthcare power of attorney. Everyone, especially seniors, should have a durable general power of attorney and a healthcare power of attorney.
A durable general power of attorney allows you to select someone to make decisions during your life regarding your financial matters. This document can be effective immediately or only upon incapacity.
A healthcare power of attorney allows you to select someone to make decisions regarding medical decisions. This is important when you’re unable to discuss matters directly with the doctor.
Another important document regarding healthcare decisions is a living will. A living will is a document that allows you to make decisions regarding end of life care. This includes if and when you want to receive life prolonging measures, like a feeding tube for example.
If you do not have these powers of attorney and there comes a point when a loved one needs to step in to help you regarding your financial or medical wellbeing, then your loved one will have to go through a process called guardianship.
Guardianship is a court proceeding where a clerk of court determines if you’re able to make decisions regarding your financial or medical wellbeing. Signing a durable general power of attorney, and healthcare power of attorney, prevents your loved ones from having to go through the guardianship process. It also allows you to select the person who will act on your behalf.
During a guardianship proceeding, the clerk determines if you’re unable to make financial or medical decisions about your wellbeing. They will also determine:
- Who should be named as your guardian of the person (physical wellbeing)
- Guardian of the estate (financial wellbeing)
- General guardian (guardian over both physical and financial wellbeing)
The clerk is not required to select the person who petitioned the court for guardianship. That means the court may not select a family member to act as your guardian. It’s not uncommon for the clerk to name an attorney to act as a guardian for a senior, even when family lives nearby and is willing to act as guardian.
We recommend all seniors get legal services to sign a durable general power of attorney, and healthcare power of attorney, to help prevent court involvement.
Many seniors are able to handle their financial and health care decisions without the help of a family member or friend. Many seniors are also worried about giving someone the authority to handle their assets and make decisions regarding their health. However, a sudden accident or progressively degenerative disease can make it necessary for a friend or family member to step in. That person will need to make certain decisions for the benefit of the elderly individual.
An elder law attorney at our law office can help guide you in methods of limiting someone’s authority. We can also provide a mechanism for them to step in if the time comes that it becomes necessary. They can also help you make the decision if two individuals should be named to act together as your decision maker. Both people must agree that something is in your best interest before a decision can be made.
Picking the right person to make financial and healthcare decisions
It’s very important to name the right person to act as your financial and healthcare decision maker. You must also decide who should take their place if your first choice is unable or unwilling to fill that role.
Most people want to name their spouse as their first decision maker. However, with seniors it becomes more likely that a spouse will have passed or is incompetent. In this case a senior may need someone to help them regarding their wellbeing. Therefore, it is very important to name a second and even a third individual who can step in if necessary.
You don’t need to name the same person as both your durable general power of attorney and your healthcare power of attorney. If one of your children is in the healthcare profession, while another is knowledgeable with finances, then you can name each child the role that best fits them.
Many people execute their wills when they first start a family or purchase a house. However, as laws change and your family grows, your will may no longer distribute your assets as you intended. Therefore, it is important to review your will regularly to determine if it still achieves your wishes. An elder law attorney can walk through your will and determine if it needs to be updated or amended.
To update or amend a will in North Carolina, the senior must understand:
- What property they own
- What individuals would naturally expect to receive their property (generally, spouse and children).
- What the document is they are signing, and how signing it will affect their estate.
Unfortunately, illnesses like dementia can impair cognitive ability and prevent an individual from being able to satisfy these requirements. It’s important for seniors to review their will, and make any necessary changes, before any illness prevent them from doing so.