What's the difference between elder law and estate planning and how to choose a good one?

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I need to get facts on where I stand and what I will be available if mom ends up in a nursing home or even assisted living. She has nearly always been emotionally abusive to me all of my life and now to my 7 year old son, so I don't think that part has anything to do with beginnings of dementia. She wants everything to be her way and only her way is right. Since she has been here over 14 months all ready, I don't know if there is a time limit when she might not lose her home and car to a nursing home and what about her bills and credit cards? Any good websites or how to choose a good elder lawyer? Any good websites for family caregiver laws in IL? Thanks for all of the support and letting me bounce off of all of you.

Answers 1 to 2 of 2
1. To find applicable laws, google the specific topic for Illinois; usually the first hits are either the statutes themselves, law schools, or legislative bodies. Legal research isn't easy though.

2. Generally, estate planning is for anyone, of any age. It includes not only elder issues, but special needs issues. Elder law is just that - it includes estate planning as related to elder specific issues, but can also address issues that aren't specific to estate planning.

3. I'm not sure what time limit you refer to regarding loss of her home and car. As I understand from your profile, she's living in your home. How is a nursing home involved?

4. I'm not sure what the questions are re bills and credit cards.

5. My preference for choosing an elder lawyer would be to research that specific practice area through the IL state bar journal, check out websites of potential attorneys, make a checklist of questions you have generally regarding the legal issues and more specifically regarding attorneys. Then call and see how many of the attorney issues you can get answered.

E.g., an attorney should generally be able to tell you what the hourly rate is, or whether they provide an estate plan and ancillary documents, as a flat fee. Ask if they require a retainer. How many visits are anticipated to prepare an estate plan? Do they allow you to take copies home to read the documents first? This is important because some attorneys expect clients to sign without reading the entire estate plan documents.

If they fudge on these issues, keep calling.

When you do decide on a short list, just to be on the safe side, check the disciplinary section of the state bar to ensure they've haven't had their professional hands slapped. There have been some egregious abuses by estate planning attorneys who've dipped into their clients' assets. I can't say offhand what the percentage is by state or practice area, but you'll want to be comfortable you don't get a financial cookie jar raider.
I'm assuming the time limit re house and car you're talking about is the 5 yr. Medicaid look-back period; that you're wanting her to deed and title over her house and car in such a manner that she wouldn't lose them to a nursing home - typically that would be 5 yrs. Credit cards can't come after you but if she goes to a nursing home such that she can't pay them, the unpaid balance could be considered income, but if she's on Medicaid by then not much they can do. And it depends on what her other bills are

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