Reasons why you don’t need to be a senior citizen to use an elder law attorney for estate planning

Jackie Bedard
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What is an elder law attorney?

Elder law attorneys focus on the unique needs of senior citizens. These attorneys typically have an in-depth knowledge about how to engage in long-term care planning and financial resources that may be available to support it, such as Medicaid. These areas are often beyond the expertise of general-practice attorneys. An elder law attorney can combine their detailed knowledge areas with estate planning tools (such as wills and trusts) to meet the needs of their client.

Elder law differs from other areas of the law because of the needs of the client, rather than the specific area of law, define it. Attorneys working in this field know the physical and mental difficulties that often accompany aging. They realize that wishes for their health care and how their assets should be passed on are extremely personal decisions for clients that take a great deal of consideration. They help them work through difficult questions such as “do I want to be put on life support if I stop breathing?” These types of questions are not necessary to create a simple will and are often not even asked by a general attorney, but your elder law attorney will use them to create a set of instructions for your family’s use when they are faced with such difficult decisions.

Elder law attorneys can help everyone, not just senior citizens

An elder law attorney can help you plan for your future, even if you are years away from entering your golden years. The two primary benefits of consulting with an elder law attorney are that you can proactively create a plan for any long-term care you might need in the future, and a plan that takes effect should you become disabled, that also meets your standard financial and estate management objectives.

Long-term care

Medical advances have made it possible for people to routinely live into their 80s and 90s. Increased lifespans also mean that over 70% of people who are alive today will need some form of long-term care in their later years. These facilities range from in-home care to nursing homes to senior apartments and today they cost anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 a year, or more. A long-term care plan proactively allows you to determine which type of facility is right for you and it financially prepares your estate for the cost.

Elder law attorneys often hear rumors that get passed around about Medicaid, such as the best way to protect your assets is to give them away to a family member three years before you anticipate entering a nursing home.  Often these rumors are incorrect or distortions of the rules. The truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to estate planning. Your income level and assets will affect your eligibility for government benefit programs. Meeting with an elder law attorney today can help you to structure your estate in a way that will protect your assets but still allow you to qualify for assistance benefits if needed such as Medicaid.

An elder law attorney will help you design a plan that addresses two main issues. First, a nursing home might not be the best fit for you. An elder care attorney can guide you through the various options available. Second, if you improperly gift your assets to family members, then you can disqualify yourself from assistance benefits and you may incur significant tax penalties. Consultation with an elder care attorney will ensure your assets are properly protected and prepare you for the future.

Disability

If you are disabled or suddenly unable to make decisions for yourself, your spouse or children are not automatically able to make decisions on your behalf. This is why it is important for every adult to create a durable power of attorney. This legal document allows you to delegate your personal, financial and medical decisions to an agent in the event that you become incapacitated. You can determine who the agent is and how much decision-making power they have. If you are incapacitated without this document, no one can legally act on your behalf until the court appoints a guardian. This process is time-consuming and costly and there is no assurance that the court will pick the same individual you would have chosen. 

Carolina Family Estate Planning can answer your questions!

If you have any additional questions about how an elder law attorney can help you, please call our office at (919) 443-3035 for a free phone consultation with a member of our staff or contact us online. At the end of the call, you’ll know the next step and at a minimum, we’ll point you in the direction of resources that can help you.   There is no obligation to you.  The consultation is completely free. Our goal is for you and your loved ones to have peace of mind and a pleasant ongoing journey.