Elder law is a highly sensitive and specialized area of law that focuses on helping seniors and the elderly through the later phases in life. It is different from other areas of the law because of the age of the clients. Older adults often have different things going on than younger adults, and their needs are often more specialized. An elder law attorney is often more equipped to deal with the sensitive emotional and financial needs of seniors and disabled adults. This means that they are able to handle challenging situations effectively. Elder law attorneys are able to deal with a wide variety of issues, including estate planning, long term health care, social security, guardianship, retirement, and Medicaid (or Medi-Cal in California), and Medicare.
Estate planning is essential for nearly every older or disabled adult, whether you are married or not or have children or not. Nearly everyone has the same type of issues facing them at the end of life. This process can be long, tedious, and confusing, which is why it is best to hire an elder law attorney to do the work for you. Estate planning includes things such as wills, trusts, planning for a minor or adult with special needs, and probate. Estate planning is not only for the very wealthy. It is for nearly everyone. Estate planning includes determining where your money and assets will go after you pass on, who will make your financial and medical decisions for you after you die, and long-term health care planning. This is an extremely personal process since it includes being asked a litany of questions about you, your family, and your wishes.
Medicaid/Medi-Cal and Medicare Planning
In most cases, an elder or disabled adult will need either in-home care or nursing home care. The cost for these services can be daunting, and very few can afford to pay 100% out of pocket. This is where Medicaid or Medi-Cal comes in. You may think that Medicare will do it, but that is simply not the case. Medicare is meant to be a short-term solution. Medicaid can cover the costs of long-term care. In California, there is Medi-Cal, which is basically the same thing. Using these health care systems for long-term coverage can be tricky. With guidelines and limits being different in every state, and susceptible to change at any time, it is a good idea to have an elder law attorney by your side to guide you through the jungle of protecting your assets, preparing to apply, and the application process itself. A lawyer will answer all your questions and help deal with your own personal finances to get the best possible outcome for you.
Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney (POA) authorizes someone other than you to make decisions about your financial and medical matters, along with some other aspects, and remains in effect if you become incapacitated or experience illness, accident, or decline in mental function. There are different types of POAs and not all of them are durable. A regular POA expires if you become incompetent or too ill to handle things for yourself. The purpose of a POA is to prepare for emergency situations, incapacitation, cognitive decline, or other situations that make it so that you can no longer make decisions for yourself.
Everyone needs a will, whether you are married, have children, single, or partnered. A will can protect you in a variety of ways. With a will you can express your burial wishes, choose someone you know and trust to care for any minor children, determine the charities you want your money to go to if that is your desire, and name a person to manage your health care and financial decisions for you if you cannot do it for yourself any longer. With a will you can also name who will look after the needs of your disabled children or loved one, your elderly parents, or your pet if you pass before they do. You can also make sure that your assets will be used to their benefit.
What Kinds of Questions Should You Ask an Elder Law Attorney?
There are some questions you should ask an Elder Law attorney when choosing one to hire. These questions will help guide you to the right lawyer for you and your needs. Ask questions such as:
- What area of Elder Law do you specialize in?
- How long have you been practicing Elder Law?
- Do you split your time between this and other areas of Law? If so, how much time do you devote to Elder Law?
- What kind of information should I bring to our first meeting?
- How do you compute your fees?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you choose the right person and prepare for the journey ahead.
Why Should You Hire an Elder Law Attorney Specifically?
There are a number of reasons to hire an Elder Law attorney as opposed to one who doesn’t specialize in the practice. First, an elder law attorney will focus his or her practice on the special needs of seniors and the aging population. Second, an Elder Law attorney has an understanding of the unique issues that seniors face and the needs that differ from those of younger adults. Third, they take into account and are sensitive to the physical and mental challenges that go with the aging process. Fourth, an Elder Law attorney uses a holistic approach to their practice, taking into account factors such as housing, health, long-term care, quality of life, and autonomy.