In celebration of National Elder Law Month, we hope you enjoy a summary of an article written by AgingInPlace.com, explaining the history and focus areas of Elder Law.
Like so many things in life, Elder Law was born out of need. It has become a specialty arm of the legal profession because the average life span and the number of senior citizens continues to increase. In 2015, the U.S. Census recorded nearly 48 million people over the age of 65 in the United States. It estimates that number will grow to roughly 98 million by 2060. With age comes a host of issues, and while your family and close friends can be incredibly helpful, an attorney who specializes in the challenges senior citizens face may be a wise investment.
Most areas of the law focus on a specific discipline, and elder law attorneys focus on a specific type of person. The main purpose of an elder law attorney is to help aging Americans to legally navigate through the issues of life that arise simply because of age. They can offer legal guidance and counseling on preparing for long-term care, planning and settling your estate and a host of other issues that older Americans may face. As we enter retirement age, there are government benefits that may be available to us, but determining if you qualify for the federal programs can be difficult to do alone. Elder law attorneys are knowledgeable in all areas of government assistance available to seniors.
What Areas of Life Can an Elder Law Attorney Be Helpful?
At some point in our life, chances are good we will need the help of an attorney. As we age and begin planning for our retirement future, and ultimately, our death, seeking counsel from an elder law attorney can be beneficial. Attorneys who practice elder law are knowledgeable in several areas that directly affect senior citizens.
- Estate Planning – It doesn’t matter if you have a small house and a modest bank account or a lucrative business and a long list of assets, estate planning can be difficult and overwhelming. But it’s important to put your affairs in order, especially as you age. It’s sobering to think about, but we will all die, and estate planning can help us be in control of what happens to our assets when that time comes. Many elder law attorneys specialize in estate planning and can help you navigate through the decisions and the tax implications of managing and settling your estate.
- Long-Term Care Planning – The cost for long term care provided either in the home or at a facility often exceeds $50,000 per year. To lessen financial and emotional stress, an Elder Law Attorney can help you to maximize private assets, increase access to public benefits and ultimately enhance quality of life for everyone involved.
- Care Coordination – Sometimes life catches us in the middle, managing things with our own families while trying to oversee care for an ailing loved one. Having someone on your side to help navigate the changes ahead and fitting the pieces together can make all the difference. A Care Coordinator can assess medical needs and identify care goals to help you develop a plan with plenty of reliable resources to support your care-giving role. Some Elder Law firms have an individual in this critical role to help you advocate for your loved one and facilitate practical steps while educating you along the way.
- Guardianship – Guardianship is a legal relationship whereby one person receives the court-appointed authority to make medical or financial decisions for another person, typically in the following situations:
- When a child with special needs turns 18 years old;
- If an adult loses the capacity to make personal decisions due to dementia, stroke, mental illness, accident or other challenges.
- Medicare – Medicare is the federal health insurance program for Americans 65 and older. It’s a great benefit, but it is complicated and confusing. Many Elder Law Attorney’s provide education on Medicare basics and can make referrals to insurance agents that are able to help you analyze the different plan alternatives as well as sell Medicare Supplemental policies. In addition, some Elder Law attorneys are able to assist clients with the complex Medicare appeals process.
Some Elder Law Attorneys also help with estate and trust administration, probate litigation, elder abuse or fraud, employment discrimination, Social Security, and grandparent’s visitation rights. This is not in any way an exhaustive list of the capabilities of an attorney who practices elder law. But it should give you a road map of sorts on the type of legal matters an elder law attorney can handle and help you decide if working with one is right for you.
To see the full Aging in Place article click here.
To see a list of Frequently Asked Questions to consider when looking for an Elder Law Attorney click here.
To schedule an appointment with a certified elder law attorney, such as Linda Strohschein and her team, contact Strohschein Law Group at 630-377-3241.