I once heard a speaker who said, “The way to prevent bad things from happening is to prepare for them.” I always remembered this, and the older I get, the more I think of it. “Bad things” can include preparing for a tornado by stocking more food and blankets in your basement. To ensure a clear and conflict-free distribution of your estate after you’re gone, you’ll want to create a will. That’s a little more complicated than stockpiling food and blankets, but no less important.
In fact, the earlier you start thinking about wills and other financial or medical matters, the more you can prevent problems down the road. To create the most appropriate plan for your financial future, I recommend you talk with an elder law attorney.
Elder Law Attorneys Can Help Even if You’re Younger
What does an elder law attorney do? He or she provides legal services to older adults or people with a disability. Younger adults affected by a serious illness or injury often need the same kind of legal assistance provided to older adults.
Elder law services help clients choose the kind of health care they desire, while making sure their finances are in order and their estates are handled the way they wish. Working with an elder lawyer is not only helpful to the consumer. Elder law is also helpful to the consumer’s family.
Often, we wrongly believe our relatives will be available and/or happy to take care of each and every detail if problems arise with health and financial matters. Leaving the decisions to someone else without discussing it with them first can lead to overwhelming problems and stress.
While some may consider paying an elder law attorney to be an unnecessary expense, not planning properly for the future can bring expenses that cause bankruptcy and worse. In addition, if you put off legal consultations and then become too infirm to make informed decisions, family members can face great difficulties. Without clear guidelines on who has legal authority to handle a relative’s affairs, families often have to go to court to make decisions for or about their loved ones.
Visiting with an elder law attorney allows family members/caregivers to avoid the expense of a costly court appearance. Instead, attorneys can help families set up medical and financial power-of-attorney documents that spell out a loved one’s wishes clearly.
Get It in Writing
Supposing you have specific wishes for the care you want to receive as you near the end of life. Without those wishes being documented in writing, there is no way to ensure they will be respected. In that case, older adults can be at the mercy of others’ decisions, which may be helpful or completely selfish. Moreover, if nothing is written down, relatives who don’t have the legal ability to speak for a loved one may have to make decisions about care and finances without knowing what their loved one prefers.
Seeing a certified elder law attorney can enable us stay in control of our lives by helping us to be prepared before a crisis occurs. Legal documents drafted by an elder law attorney can specify who can make choices about a relative or friend’s health care and finances. These documents can help family and friends understand the wishes of their loved ones and avoid disagreements about who should be in charge.
Tasks Handled by Elder Law Attorneys
Preparing for possibilities down the road can be a lot easier with an elder law attorney by your side. The legal matters that elder law attorneys handle are diverse and comprehensive:
- Choosing decision makers for health, personal care planning and financial decisions
- Estate planning, income and gift tax decisions
- Will and trust planning to provide for heirs
- Attaining public benefits such as Medicare, Medicaid or other medical assistance programs
- Protecting existing funds or assets
- Conservatorship or guardianship, if needed
- Addressing residents’ rights in skilled nursing communities
- Handling retirement, family and employment matters (age discrimination or grandparents’ rights)
Elder Law Addresses the Most Specific Concerns of Older Adults
While you might think any lawyer can handle issues that affect older adults or the disabled, elder law regulations change often and can be extremely complicated. Elder law attorneys usually provide free consultations and then, quite often, only one or two appointments are needed to put the necessary documents together. You can also find elder law attorneys who offer flat package rates.
Of course, no one can predict everything or even anything that may happen as he or she grows older. Yet, a legal professional who is trained specifically in elder law can help with decisions that will protect you and those you love from mistakes or disasters.
To learn more about hiring an elder law attorney in your area, visit the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys at: naela.org. Elk Run can also assist in offering resources that address the needs of older adults.