By Buckley Anne Kuhn Fricker, JD, GCM
An Elder Law attorney is an attorney who specializes in providing legal services for the elderly and disabled. They assist with getting Advance Directives in place so that how you are taken care of - and by who - are chosen by you, and not just left to chance, or a court hearing.
Assuming that family members will just "take care of things" can lead to many unnecessary problems, primarily stemming from the burden on your loved ones when they're forced to make decisions for you, without knowing what you would have wanted.
Elder Law attorneys can also focus on preparing for the financial planning in the event one becomes chronically ill or disabled. This is a hugely important issue to bring up in a discussion with an Elder Law attorney who can help you understand how "just doing nothing" until funds run out is often a terrible option.
Hiring an Elder Law attorney is practically a necessity for anyone facing the aging process, particularly when a debilitating disease or condition is likely to be involved. The special legal issues handled by an Elder Law attorney are:
- Health and personal care planning (health care powers of attorney, living wills)
- Financial representation (financial power of attorney, financing housing options, estate, income and gift tax matters)
- Will and trust planning (planning for elderly or disabled through special needs trusts)
- Planning for long-term care (determining public benefits such as Medicaid for long-term care needs and protecting assets)
- Capacity (avoiding or handling a guardianship and conservatorship court process)
- Rights of residents in long-term care facilities (nursing home claims)
- Retirement and employment matters (age and disability discrimination, grandparents' rights)
An Elder Law attorney can help you to retain as much control of your own life as possible by helping you make decisions for yourself in "Advance." He or she will draft documents so YOU get to decide:
- Who will make decisions about your health care if you are unable to
- Who will handle your financial affairs if you are unable to
- How your friends and family will come to understand your wishes and avoid arguments over who should get to be in charge.
An Elder Law attorney will also determine whether you need legal documents to assist you with funding long-term care, such as
- Special Needs Trusts
- Medicaid planning to pay for nursing home care
Unlike many legal fees, an Elder Law attorney can be cost effective, since the costs incurred are usually limited to one or two visits, along with document fees. Often an Elder Law attorney will not charge for the consult and will bill a flat package-rate depending on what documents are needed for each individual case.
It is also vitally important to locate an attorney that specializes in Elder Law. There are general practice attorneys who may have some experience with Elder Law, but the regulations are ever changing and can be highly complex.
Buckley Anne Kuhn Fricker, JD, GCM is an attorney with a background in Elder Law and a Certified Geriatric Care Manager. Her experience in working with the elderly and disabled has given her a great understanding of the day-to-day difficulties they face. Buckley is a teacher and author on legal and elder care issues and is the owner of Buckley's for Seniors, LLC , assisting clients and caregivers to meet those challenges.