Today you’re going to learn how to select someone who’s fluent in elder law. Why is this important for you? An Elder Law attorney concentrates their practice in the area of estate and longevity planning, Medicaid, special needs trusts, and VA benefits for the over 65. Anyone nearing or over that age should know what steps they may need to take to get the right documents in place so that their plans for their finances and their family can be realized.
I recently looked at a bar association listing of attorneys who identify themselves as elder law attorneys. Frankly, I was a little surprised to see that some individuals who are really general practitioners also consider themselves to be elder law attorneys. I was a little disturbed when I saw this, because drafting simple wills and trusts does not qualify an attorney to be an elder law attorney. Wills and trusts may be part of the elder law process at times – but there is so much more involved than that!
Really, wills are what I call “death planning” – they really only control what happens after you die. Today’s seniors need an estate and longevity plan – this will help their families know what their wishes are in the event that they become incapacitated before they die. If you are married, then it’s highly probable that one of the two of you will spend a substantial amount of time in a nursing home before you die.
Will the real elder law attorney please stand up?
When trying to find an elder law-focused attorney, it’s important to understand how elder law differs from traditional estate planning (death planning). A traditional estate plan is typically designed to do three things:
1. Minimize estate taxes
2. Avoid probate court
3. Distribute assets from the deceased person to his or her heirs.
Elder law, on the other hand, is death planning plus long-term disability and care planning – what I call “longevity planning.” The elder law attorney is not only dealing with your estate plan, but must also think ahead for life care issues in the event that you or your spouse has long term health care needs during your lifetime.
These days, it is quite common to see families spend several hundreds of thousands of dollars when both a husband and wife have long term care needs. The key focus of an elder law attorney is to help the family to try to protect their assets during their lifetime, to avoid such a catastrophic loss.
No one wants to be out of money and out of options before they are out of breath. While it’s not possible to guarantee specific results, the elder law attorney works with clients and families to guide them through the minefield of public benefits, veteran’s benefits, Medicare, Social Security, special needs trusts, powers of attorney, and Medicaid. Our job is to increase the quality of life of our clients, not just to figure out who-gets-what after you pass away.
So if you are trying to figure out who is the real elder law attorney, please ask these questions:
– How many Medicaid applications does your firm do in a year?
– How many veterans does your firm assist with the VA aid and attendance benefits per year?
– How many elder law oriented estate plans has your firm done this year?
If you are looking for an elder law attorney to do any of these things, please use an attorney who can demonstrate that he or she is working in that area every day. The issues are complex, and you deserve to work with someone who is fluent in elder law.
Talk to you soon!