Although most of us understand estate planning and administration as the planned distribution of our assets at death, "Elder Law" is a newer concept that encompasses a number of issues. Rather than focusing primarily on tax planning and post-mortem distribution of assets, Elder Law is largely concerned with planning for the care needs of seniors and the disabled. We are very proud to employ several associates who are members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.What is Elder Law?
Elder Law is more than simple estate planning or retirement planning. Legal issues for the elderly, disabled and their families are complex. Laws and regulations involving Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, nursing homes, assisted living, special needs trust and benefits planning can be difficult to understand.
According to the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, "Elder Law" is the legal practice of counseling and representing older persons and their representatives about the legal aspects of health and long term care planning, public benefits, surrogate decision-making, older persons' legal capacity, the conservation, disposition and administration of older persons' estates and the implementation of their decisions concerning such matters, giving due consideration to the applicable tax consequences of the action, or the need for more sophisticated tax expertise.
As Elder Law attorneys we are capable of recognizing issues of concern that arise during counseling and representation of older persons or their representatives with respect to abuse, neglect or exploitation of the older person, insurance, housing, long-term care, employment, and retirement. We are also familiar with professional and non-legal resources and services publicly and privately available to meet the needs of the older persons and are capable of recognizing the professional conduct and ethical issues that arise during representation.
Rather than being defined by technical legal distinctions, elder law is defined by the client to be served. In other words, we handle a range of issues but for each specific type of client (ie. individuals who have specialized legal needs related to a medical illness or disability) we focus on the legal needs of the disabled and elderly using many legal tools and techniques to meet the goals and objectives of the disabled or elderly client.
Under this holistic approach, we may perform general estate planning or counsel a client about planning for incapacity. We also assist in planning for possible long-term care needs, including nursing home care and intermediate care. Locating the appropriate type of care, coordinating private and public resources to finance the cost of care, and working to ensure the clients right to quality care are all part of our normal practice. Legal problems that affect the elderly are growing in number. Our laws and regulations are becoming more complex. Action taken by older people with regard to a single matter may have unintended legal effects in other areas. It is important for attorneys dealing with the elderly to have a broad understanding of the laws that may have an impact on a given situation, to avoid future problems. An Elder Law attorney needs a broad background in the law and the ability to work with families in crises.
Elder Law encompasses many different fields of law, which include:
- Preservation/transfer of assets seeking to avoid spousal impoverishment when a spouse enters a nursing home
- Medicaid Planning
- Medicare claims and appeals
- Social security and disability claims and appeals
- Supplemental and long term health insurance issues
- Disability planning, including use of durable powers of attorney, living trusts, "living wills", for financial management and health care decisions, and other means of delegating management and decision-making to another in case of incapacity
- Conservatorships and guardianships
- Estate planning, including planning for the management of one's estate during life and its disposition on death through the use of trusts, wills and other planning documents
- Administration and management of trusts and estate
- Long-term care placements in nursing home and life care communities
- Nursing home issues including questions of patients' rights and nursing home quality
- Elder abuse and fraud recovery cases
- Housing issues, including discrimination and home equity conversions
- Age discrimination in employment
- Retirement including public and private retirement benefits, survivor benefits and pension benefits
- Health law
- Mental health law