What is Elder Law?
Elder law encompasses a wide variety of legal needs that affect the elderly. Although each client’s circumstances are unique, certain types of services are considered the “core” areas of an elder law practice — estate planning, public benefits planning (including Medicaid and VA benefits), and incapacity planning/guardianships.
The elderly are often presented with unique estate planning considerations. These include caring for disabled adult children, second (or third or fourth!) marriage situations, passing on a legacy to their heirs free of Medicaid liens and creditor concerns, as well as protecting resources for a surviving spouse who may wish to qualify for VA or Medicaid benefits (or may already be receiving benefits).
Medicaid/VA benefits and Asset Protection
Unless significant private funds or a comprehensive longterm care insurance policy are available, the cost of longterm care in home, in an assisted living facility, or in a skilled nursing facility is often more than most seniors can afford without quickly depleting their resources. No one should be pauperized just to meet their basic living expenses and healthcare needs. An experienced elder law attorney can help navigate the maze of Medicaid and VA regulations to qualify the client for benefits while preserving assets, both to supplement the care needs of the client as well as to provide a legacy for future generations.
The lucky among us will never experience diminished capacity or serious illness. But planning for the possibility of incapacity provides a sense of security that those you have selected will have the legal authority to manage your affairs, should you be unable to do so. Incapacity planning typically involves preparing “advance directives,” which typically include:
Durable Power of Attorney
Designation of Healthcare Surrogate
Without these documents in place, a guardianship proceeding may be the only mechanism that will allow your affairs to be managed. But, unlike designations made via advance directive, and a judge will decide who makes decisions for you. Guardianships are also very costly, stressful for your loved ones, and often humiliating for you. It is far easier and less expensive to designate in advance who you would wish to manage your affairs.
A guardianship is a court proceeding whereby a fully or partially-incapacitated person (the “ward”) has some or all of their rights removed and another person (the “guardian”) is appointed to handle some or all of their day-to-day affairs. Although designed to protect the ward’s interests, guardianships can often be humiliating proceedings for the ward, as well as expensive and time-consuming for all involved. Guardianships are therefore a last resort when no other protective means are available, such as relying on a properly-drafted set of advance directives (durable powers of attorney, health-care surrogate designations), trusts, and other types of protective instruments.
Please schedule an initial consultation by calling our office at 954-227-7320 or using our online contact form (we will follow up with you within one business day).