There are a lot of factors to take into consideration as a loved one ages, and having the proper legal documentation in order is one of them. When it comes time for estate planning and making other vital decisions, such as healthcare directives, having the essential legal documents in place gives you the necessary legal rights to provide the best choices for your senior loved one, now and at the end of life.
Elder law attorneys specialize in the legal area focused on older adults. They offer legal guidance and other services for disability planning, probate and estate planning, preservation and transfer of assets and Medicaid. Here are a couple of ways that an elder law attorney can help seniors and family caregivers:
● Plan and protect assets for the future: You or your loved one may be worried about protecting financial assets while still being able to afford necessary care. An elder law attorney can help you create a plan that complies with complicated tax and Medicaid rules. Make no mistake, estate planning isn’t only for the wealthy. Providing care is costly and complicated. For families with modest resources mistakes – and failure to plan being the most common – can mean losing control of how a loved one is cared for.
● Ensure all legal documents are compliant: Each state has specific laws when it comes to legal documentation, especially in the case of Power of Attorney, advance directives and wills. An elder law attorney can help ensure that all documents are compliant with state and local laws.
So when is an elder law attorney needed and how do you choose the best one for your needs?
It is recommended that people above the age of 65 enlist the services of an elder law attorney, even if they are healthy. This will ensure that they can be involved in the making of a holistic strategy beyond estate planning. Waiting until a crisis can make the work stressful and limit options.
As a person ages, their legal needs may change with their healthcare needs. In the event they become incapacitated, a Power of Attorney will prove to be critical. If your loved one needs care in the home or move into an assisted living facility or nursing home, pre-planning with an elder law attorney will ensure flexibility complying with Medicaid and tax rules and protecting their finances.
Referrals are one of the best ways to find a reliable elder law attorney. Your clergy, financial advisor, accountant or existing attorney might be able to refer you to an elder attorney in your community who can fulfill your needs. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) is a professional organization for attorneys specializing in elder law and can be a good place to start looking.
Local agencies that work with seniors can also help you with referrals. For example, town social workers and support groups for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s can all assist you with information. Oasis Senior Advisors can also provide referrals of vetted, local, elder attorneys their clients have used.
Here are some questions you should ask before hiring an elder law attorney:
- How long have they been practicing?
- Is there a consultation fee and how are ongoing fees charged?
- Have they handled cases similar to your loved one’s?
- What do they see as the biggest threat to your loved one’s financial security?
- What are the advantages of working with them as opposed to doing this yourself?
Take your time to thoroughly vet prospective attorneys. Not every attorney will be the right fit for you and your loved one’s needs. Elder law is a specialty, find an attorney familiar with this part of the law. A relationship with an elder law attorney must be based on mutual trust, so it’s important to take the time to choose the right one.
If you’re unsure about how to find the right elder law attorney, contact a professional: the team at Oasis Senior Advisors can help answer your questions and make sure that your loved one receives the assistance they need. Call them at 475.619.4123 or 914.356.1901 or contact them online to learn more.