Elder law, or elder care law, is a branch of family law that focuses on issues that affect the elderly or senior citizens. Family lawyers who specialize in elder law aim to assist the elderly in age-related health concerns, wills and trusts, retirement, long-term care and Social Security issues.
While there is no exact provision that indicates at what age an older adult is covered by elder law, the benchmark age is 65 years old. Elder law attorneys also work with clients who are afflicted with a physical or mental disability, regardless of the client’s age.
Below are the common issues that are covered under the elder law.
A family lawyer who specializes in estate planning provides advice on how elders can prepare and divide their estate amongst their heirs after the elder dies. Family lawyers also provide advice on tax planning so that excessive taxes on real estate, state inheritance, and capital gains taxes on properties and investments may be avoided. Estate planning includes drafting a will, establishing a trust to save the elder’s properties and estates, and designing powers of attorney and other consent documents.
Guardianship and Conservatorship
Elder law attorneys can help older adults who can no longer make decisions for their personal welfare or financial affairs due to the deterioration of cognitive and physical functions. In such cases, the court can appoint a legal guardian or conservator to act on the older adult’s behalf. The guardian is accorded the legal authority to make decisions concerning the ward’s basic necessities, health care provisions, living arrangements, and finances. He is also authorized to manage, protect, preserve, and dispose of the ward’s estate, as long as it is in accordance with the law and the best interests of the ward.
Powers of Attorney
Powers of attorney are legal documents that appoint a designated individual as an “agent” or “attorney-in-fact” to make decisions in behalf of an elderly, or the “grantor”, in the event that the grantor becomes physically, mentally, or emotionally make their own decisions. The common types of powers of attorney include the following:
- Durable Power of Attorney
- Financial Power of Attorney
- Healthcare Power of Attorney
- Advance Healthcare Directive
Social Security and Healthcare
Elder law attorneys can guide seniors through the process of applying for Social Security benefits when they retire. They will explain the eligibility requirements for claims such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and calculate the benefit amount that they can possibly receive.
Family lawyers can also help the elderly deal with Medicare issues, patient care and rights, and injuries caused by medical malpractice.
Veterans who had served active duty or had been discharged from military service for conditions other than dishonorable discharge may be entitled to receive veteran benefits. These may include pension, medical care, and burial assistance, provided that the elderly meets the requirements set forth by law. Elder care lawyers will be able to help veterans by counseling them on how they can qualify and how they can receive a larger amount of benefit.
Elder law issues may be complicated, especially when cognitive and physical deterioration come into play. Consulting an experienced family lawyer will help elders navigate through the decisions they have to make so they can prepare well as they reach the end of their lives.