With America’s population aging at a rapid rate, lawyers who specialize in elder law have become an important part of the effort to protect seniors’ interests. Many younger Americans are unfamiliar with the way in which many of their legal needs will evolve as they grow older. Often, seniors themselves fail to realize just how complex the legal system can be when it comes to dealing with many of the challenges they face in their later years. For seniors who rely on assistance from their adult children or friends, that miscalculation can prove costly. Sadly, far too many seniors and their families never bother to consult with an elder law attorney, usually because they don’t understand these lawyers’ important role in elder law matters.
What is Elder Law?
If the term “elder law” sounds like it might cover a broad array of concerns, then know this: you’re not wrong! Elder law is a very broad area of legal concern, and encompasses every type of issue that can affect seniors and their loved ones. Its precise definition can also vary from attorney to attorney. For example, some attorneys will advertise their expertise in estate planning and elder law, while others treat estate planning as part of elder law. The reality is that elder law can be said to encompass everything from estate planning and probate guidance to Medicaid planning, issues involving nursing home neglect and other abuse, guardianship matters, and more.
Elder law can thus be best described as dealing with all the myriad of issues related to seniors and the aging process. Of course, many of those concerns also impact younger Americans, but are still considered elder law issues. Incapacity planning is one good example of that phenomenon, since it is both an elder law concern and something that even younger people should address. Medicaid planning is another, because the most effective plans are always in place long before a person reaches those senior years.
What is an Elder Law Attorney?
Elder law attorneys are lawyers whose practice is focused on the legal challenges affecting the senior population. Many specialize in a limited number of legal areas, and may not be familiar with others. However, all experienced elder law attorneys understand the main areas of elder law, or have contacts who can assist them in areas outside their field of expertise. The enables you to work with an attorney who specializes in Medicaid and incapacity planning and still get help for other areas of concern that the lawyer may not ordinarily address.
What Do Elder Law Attorneys Do?
Elder law attorneys are well-versed in a variety of different senior-related legal concerns, including:
- Estate planning. Whether you just need a simple will or want to create more complex estate planning strategies that utilize powerful tools like trusts, elder law attorneys can help.
- Advance directives. You need an incapacity plan to address medical decision-making in the event that you’re ever unable to manage your own affairs.
- Durable power of attorney. Like the advance directive, this document can empower another person to act in your stead on matters related to your finances.
- Living will. Your incapacity plan should also include a living will to document your wishes regarding medical care. This can help you to define the type of care you’re willing to receive, and leave your agent with specific instructions about life-sustaining treatments.
- Guardianship. In cases where you failed to create an incapacity plan, you may find that a court proceeding is necessary to assign a guardian to represent your interests and make those decisions for you. A lawyer can help in the guardian selection process.
- Elder abuse. Nursing home abuse and other types of physical, emotional, and financial crimes against the elderly are all too common these days. Often, seniors struggle to know who to trust when abuse is being suffered. An attorney can always help to protect abused seniors and serve as an advocate for their rights and interests.
- Medicaid planning. With a large percentage of us expected to need some form of long-term health care at some point in our lives, we all need to have a plan in place to pay for that care. Medicaid planning is essential, to ensure that your estate is organized in a way that facilitates your ability to secure critical Medicaid benefits to meet those expenses.
Of course, those are just some of the more common areas of interest that an elder law lawyer can address. There are many others as well. If you have a specific need that you’d like to have an elder law attorney help you resolve, chances are that there’s an experienced lawyer in your area who can provide the assistance you need.
Do You Need an Elder Law Attorney?
As is true with so many areas of the law, elder law issues involve matters of state and federal law. Unless you’re a trained legal professional, there’s little chance that you’ll have the legal skills needed to manage these concerns on your own. Just consider the following facts:
- There are specific laws governing the creation of wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. You need a lawyer to fully understand those laws.
- If you need Medicaid, you need someone who understands that programs legal requirements if you want to avoid incurring penalties.
- You need to make sure that your incapacity plan can accomplish your goals. Only an experienced attorney can provide those assurances.
The bottom line is clear: if you’re dealing with legal concerns related to elder law in the state of Michigan, you shouldn’t do it on your own.
At Biddinger, Bitzer & Estelle, PLLC, we understand the challenges that seniors face as they get older. To help address those issues, we provide a full range of elder law services that can help to ensure that your rights and interests are protected at all times. If you’d like to learn more about how an elder law attorney can help to protect you in all these important areas of concern, contact us at our website or call us today at (989) 872-5601.