Some people ask us “What is an elder law attorney?”
It’s not necessarily a very old lawyer. Instead it is an attorney who focusses on the special needs and concerns of those who are aging. Elder law attorneys may help with planning for disability, planning for incapacity and planning for death. Beyond that, elder law attorneys help you to navigate through the final years which may include health issues and the need to navigate the long-term care system.
An elder law attorney can help you with issues you face before death.
Seniors have different concerns from young adults due to the special challenges they face. Planning for a possible decline, and the certainty of an eventual death, can be an enormous help to those your leave behind. Estate planning can make sure your estate passes to the people you choose. An experienced elder lawyer can also draft your estate planning documents with specialized asset preservation provisions. What would be a non-issue for younger folks (sheltering some assets in case of the need for long-term care) looms larger the older you get. You should become aware of the planning that is allowable in Florida and maximize your use of these techniques. In the same way you ask your CPA to get maximum allowed tax savings on your tax return, you should also avail yourself of asset and income savings in the long-term care realm.
After reviewing your unique financial situation, an elder law attorney can consider Medicaid eligibility and advise what steps to take in preparation.
Some may mistakenly believe that Medicare will cover their nursing home stay should they need that level of care. But Medicare will only cover up to one hundred days in a nursing home to rehabilitate the patient. Afterward, the nursing home bill must be paid for by Medicaid, your long-term care insurance or private payments. Since private payment for a nursing home can quickly deplete your assets, an elder law attorney can advise on your ability to obtain long-term care insurance or how to qualify for Medicaid. Sometimes a trust can be used, depending on your marital and financial situation. Other times there are exempt categories of assets into which you could re-deploy your investments.
Also a concern to an elder law attorney for their clients is the possibility of losing mental capacity.
You never know when you or your spouse may begin to feel forgetful or disoriented. This may progress to a diagnosis of dementia. If that should happen, you will need to have documents in place such as a durable power of attorney to allow your trusted loved ones to help manage your finances. You will also find it helpful to have pre-selected someone to speak with your medical providers about the kind of care you would want to have or not. If you are aging without having these documents in place, your family might have to seek guardianship to get the authority to help with your finances and medical decisions. Elder care attorneys can also help with guardianship, but we would rather avoid the need and the expense by preplanning!
There is also the issue of where to turn if you need assistance, whether rehab or long-term.
Many elder law practices have on staff skilled elder care coordinators who are familiar with the various local nursing homes, assisted living facilities, memory care facilities, and home health care agencies. An elder care coordinator can help advocate for your care while using the services of any of the above. The elder care coordinator will know what to expect and can help in selecting which facility or service to use, as well as making sure you maximize the results while you are still using that service or facility.
Another focus of an elder law attorney is planning for after death.
You should be involved in the planning of where your assets go, as well as selecting a Personal Representative or Trustee to guide the process. An elder care law firm can also help guide your loved ones through the probate or trust administration process if needed.
In short, an elder law firm is one dedicated to meeting the needs of seniors.
It is never too soon to start the planning process either. Some of the planning techniques (such as using an irrevocable trust to get beyond the look-back period) are best used before there is a crisis need for planning. And if you put off planning, there is still much assistance from an elder law firm. You just might have fewer planning options, but help is always available! If you want to start getting your plan in place, call our office at 239-434-8557 to set up a consultation.