Elder Law is defined by the needs of older clients and, as a result, overlaps with many other areas of law. Elder Law takes a holistic approach to providing legal advice, focusing on how legal decisions and choices you make may change as you age.
For instance, doing a Will is a much different experience for a 70 year old than it is for a 35 year old. While Elder Law intersects with Estate Planning, they are not the same thing. As we live longer, Elder Law focuses on your needs as your life continues to change.
The primary difference between Elder Law Attorneys and Estate Planning Attorneys is that Elder Law also deals with the unique, and often more immediate, issues that face elderly clients. Many of the procedures are similar, but an Elder Law attorney also addresses issues that affect quality of life such as retirement, housing, financial well-being, social security, health, long term care and age discrimination.
Your Elder Law Life Plan
A solid Elder Law Life Plan consists of several components:
- An updated Estate Plan (Will, Powers of Attorney, Living Will)
- Health care plan including long term care options, when to access Medicare & Medicaid
- Asset preservation & Gifting options
- Evaluating housing options including long term health care facilities and managing assisted living costs.
Another important Elder Law consideration is making sure the individual or their spouse is not disqualified for benefits they may need as they continue to age. Planning for long-term care insurance, making sure Medicaid and veteran’s benefits are available and protecting and possibly gifting assets are important components to consider for aging clients.
Updated Estate Plan
The first step in developing an effective Elder Law Life Plan is to update your Estate Plan or, if you don’t have one, put one in place. While an Estate Plan for a 40-year old is likely to focus on providing for your spouse and minor children, an Estate Plan for adults over 60 is likely to consider factors like minimizing inheritance taxes, providing for a surviving spouse, retirement needs and long-term care. This isn’t always easy because many of us don’t think we’ll ever need nursing home care.
While positive thinking is a valuable tool, planning for potential undesirable situations is an important way to maintain as much autonomy as possible. It’s important to consider your options prior to a crisis situation when care is desperately needed. Reviewing your current assets and monitoring the assets over time is an important step in having a solid plan in place if and when long-term care needs is needed.
Power of Attorney vs. Guardian
As individuals age, it’s important to be sure that they have appropriate Powers of Attorney in place before the onset of any illness or injury that makes the individual incapable of managing their daily personal, health, or financial matters. This can be a major Achilles heel for any adult if it’s not addressed in a basic Estate Plan or Elder Law Plan. If a person lacks the appropriate Powers of Attorney and becomes incapacitated, a Guardianship Petition will need to be filed in Orphans’ Court. This creates unnecessary expenses and stress for the individual and his/her family members. It’s also possible that a professional guardian, rather than a family member, will be appointed to make decisions for you.
If a Guardianship becomes necessary, Rentschler Law LLC counsels clients about the guardianship process and how to become a guardian. Our office represents the guardian throughout the guardianship process and advises the guardian about their duties and responsibilities when making medical and financial decisions.
In addition, Rentschler Law LLC may represent the allegedly incapacitated person who seeks to avoid the appointment of a guardian. It’s hard to overstate how difficult this situation can be for the person and their family members. If this situation occurs, it’s important for all parties involved to have legal counsel to avoid pitfalls and get through this challenging time.
Medicaid & Long Term Care Planning
We counsel clients about planning for their future medical and healthcare needs. Together we explore options, which may include:
- Long-term care insurance
- Medicare and Medicaid benefits available to you
- Qualifying a person for Medicaid and preserving assets, independence and peace of mind to the greatest extent possible
- Guiding you through the Medicaid application process and handling appeals of Medicaid denials
We can also help you and your family with your Medicaid benefit needs. Medicaid coverage for long term care services is incredibly complex and, without an attorney, any issues that arise can take a long time to resolve and could be potentially costly. Please contact [link to contact form] our office to discuss your situation.
There are several options that may be applicable to protect your assets as you age. Each option has its own benefits and costs. Options to consider include:
- An Irrevocable Income Only Trust
- Purchase of a Life Estate in a residence
- A Long-term care insurance policy with a five year term
- Purchase of needed items such as medical equipment at fair market value
- Creating an Irrevocable Burial reserve
- Exempt Transfers of Assets to Qualified Individuals such as a Special Needs Child
- Transfer of Residence to your spouse under certain circumstances
- Reviewing and perhaps changing Wills if a spouse needs to enter a facility
If you are considering becoming a resident of a continuing care retirement community, an assisted living facility or nursing home, we can provide the following services for you:
- Review the admission agreement so that you have a thorough understanding of the agreement
- Advise you about the facility’s obligations to you
- Explain issues concerning any personal financial guarantees you will be making to the facility
- Review any arbitration clauses so you understand the method of dispute resolution
- Serve as your advocate to protect your interests
Believe it or not, as people live longer, divorce is becoming a growing part of elder law. Divorce is very different for a couple in their sixties or seventies than a couple in their thirties with young children. It’s important to take into account factors involving retirement accounts and pensions that are in pay status, Social security impacts and other factors for older divorce clients.