6 Things An Elder Law Attorney Can Do For You
WRITTEN BY Donna Mae Scheib ; Reposted from Senior Living Link, October 17, 2019
This article provides a list of six things an elder law attorney can do to help family caregivers. In a nutshell, elder law addresses the concerns of seniors and their loved ones (often their adult children) as regards healthcare, finances, housing, and care. Elder law attorneys can help caregivers make appropriate choices regarding a client’s long-term care, and many specialize in estate management, finances, elder abuse cases, Medicare and social security, long-term care placements, and assets. Between all of these specialties, you can find an elder law attorney capable of assisting with advice, long-term care plans, durable powers of attorney, Medicaid, assets, and information.
Emotions often run high when it comes to the issue of the care that adult children want their parents to receive. Sometimes, aging parents will leave different family members in charge of their care without getting both on the same page about their exact wishes –or at least one may disagree with the parent themselves. In these situations, it can be very helpful to defer to a neutral third party.
Elder law attorneys can provide helpful assistance in this area because they have more objective knowledge of the most practical decisions without a complicating emotional connection. For instance, they can help negotiate with reluctant seniors about changing their living situation to better accommodate their health. Elder law attorneys manage this by outlining reliable strategies that seniors can be assured will work.
Long-Term Care Plans
Most long-term care plans take into account such complicating factors as disabilities, chronic illnesses, or Alzheimer’s and dementia. Like care advising mentioned above, long-term care plans involve emotionally difficult choices and changes to living situations; unlike them, long-term care plans outline the whole process of changes anticipated down the road. For instance, they cover a transition from independent living to assisted living to nursing homes or other facilities rather than the immediate move from one to another.
Elder law attorneys with enough experience are likely to have witnessed and handled most medical and financial issues that typically arise late in life. They can make informed judgments regarding the long-term care and housing changes a client should receive, including steps to protect assets in the process. Elder law attorneys thus provide valuable insight to families who have difficulty seeing the big picture due to confusing systems, emotional conflicts, or any other complications.
Establishing Durable Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney is a legal document that allows an individual to appoint a surrogate who will make decisions on their behalf when they become incapacitated (hence the word “durable”). Durable powers of attorney for healthcare and finance are generally separate documents limited to their respective fields. One dictates the form of care a patient wishes to receive while the other dictates transactions on their behalf.
While hiring an elder law attorney is not required for preparing these documents, they can provide invaluable advice based on your loved one’s wishes and needs. Moreover, elder law attorneys can help keep you on track with creating the document before your loved one will strictly need it; many families put off establishing their durable powers of attorney until it is too late. If your loved one does become incapacitated before you can prepare the documents, however, elder law attorneys can commence guardianship proceedings to ensure their wishes are met even without the documents.
Assisting with Medicaid
Many seniors and their families have difficulty navigating Medicaid, the long-term care program that the United States federal government and state governments administer. Rules and regulations, including some eligibility requirements, can vary greatly depending on the state. However, some consistent eligibility requirements include U.S. citizenship or permanent residence in one’s state and either low income or medical expenses exceeding income.
Elder law attorneys can provide invaluable financial advice regarding Medicaid as long as they are certified. More specifically, they can help determine a client’s eligibility and help them apply for benefits. Additionally, certified elder law attorneys are likely to be knowledgeable about veteran’s benefits, Medicare, and other government resources. They can inform you of the most practical and cost-efficient options for government-assistance programs based on your loved one’s specific needs and finances. In this case, consulting their services can save you a lot of stress and time associated with navigating the bureaucracy.
Elder financial abuse becomes increasingly common when seniors’ health declines. It often involves adult children or other caregivers, neighbors, or scammers gaining access to the individual’s funds or property and using them illegally. Seniors often have difficulty reporting this abuse, common reasons being that the perpetrator was someone trusted or they were unaware of the occurrence.
Elder law attorneys can help protect seniors’ assets from fraud because they are familiar with methods that seniors and caregivers often miss. They report criminal activity where it has occurred and advise seniors and caregivers on precautions they can take to prevent such occurrences. These range from keeping accounts secure to recognizing the signs that someone cannot be trusted, in addition to actions one can take to report them.
Providing Accurate Answers
Finally, families often have difficulty knowing which information to trust about any of the important actions detailed above. They likely have many questions about complicated processes, especially the matter of preparing durable powers of attorney or guardianship proceedings after having neglected it. Also, individuals have probably received conflicting advice from multiple sources with different interests and would benefit from hearing a third party weigh in.
Caregivers can rely on elder law attorneys for accurate answers because they have special knowledge and lack the biases of personal connection. They can make difficult but necessary advice appealing by explaining it rationally.
How to Consult an Elder Law Attorney
As the examples above have shown, elder law attorneys mainly provide useful advice on complex subjects. The most reliable are certified elder law attorneys, and you can find one near you through the National Elder Law Foundation or NAELA directories. You are practically guaranteed to receive sound instruction when you contact a certified professional.