As you age, you face specific legal issues related to healthcare, long-term care, and protecting your assets. Estate planning attorneys who have expertise in elder law can assist you in making informed decisions, like setting up Medicaid planning in ways that can allow you to take advantage of benefits without losing all of your assets. Knowing you are protected allows you to enjoy your golden years free from worry.
What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning focuses on how you want your assets to be distributed after your death. It is a service needed for individuals of all ages. Depending on your needs, this may involve the preparation of your last will and testament in addition to establishing revocable or irrevocable trusts to pass assets to your beneficiaries in ways that save on taxes and avoid probate. In addition, you may want to name a caretaker for your children if you die while they are still minors – this will also need to be established as part of your estate planning needs.
Whatever plan you create, you will need to update it whenever you have a life change, such as divorce, having a child, selling or buying real estate, or retiring. You also want to periodically review and update your estate every few years, even if you do not have a life-changing event.
What Is Elder Law?
Elder law applies to your needs while you are still living. It may involve planning for how to pay for your medical care or long-term care while still preserving your assets. The American Bar Association lists 12 areas of law that are particularly related to elder law. They range from health care planning to insurance issues, retirement plans, employment, and other significant areas of the law applicable to a population of senior citizens.
Why You Should Address Elder Law Concerns With an Estate Planning Attorney
There is an overlap in the two areas of law: estate planning and elder law. An estate planning attorney can help you with your elder law needs. It is likely you have established a rapport with your estate planning attorney who knows your needs. Legal skills used in estate planning are the same skills that are applied to elder law.
There are aspects of estate planning that carry over into elder law, particularly in the area of preserving some of your assets in ways that allow you to qualify for Medicaid for long-term care, in-home care, assisted living, or nursing home care. The estate planning attorney can do this by establishing trusts and other estate planning tools.
Needs in estate planning that overlap with elder law include:
- Designating an individual with a medical power-of-attorney to make medical decisions for you when you are unable to make them for yourself.
- Appointing someone you trust with a financial power-of-attorney to make financial decisions for you when you are unable to make them for yourself.
- Creating an Advanced Directive or Living Will which is a written document where you specifically articulate what you want for end-of-life care. For example, if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious, do you want all possible “life support systems” to keep you alive, or do you want to avoid those measures even if it means you will die?
The Department of Aging at the Connecticut Department of Social Services has a publication explaining Advanced Directives and Living Wills and also defines the meaning of important terms like “terminally ill” and “permanently unconscious.”
There are so many similarities between the two areas of law and many areas where they overlap. It makes sense to have your estate planning attorney work with you to plan for your elder law needs.