Although aging and passing on is inevitable, surprisingly few people plan effectively for their twilight years. Even when an elderly relative has made a will, his wishes are often vague or incomplete, leaving the family no choice but to make its own decisions about their relative’s wealth and property. These situations often turn contentious, especially if no one person was named as executor of the will.
What Is Elder Law?
Elder law is a practice that addresses the legal needs of senior citizens, such as drafting wills, making future plans for their estate, and making arrangements for their end-of-life care.
An elder law attorney may assist clients with one or more of the following:
- Estate planning (including creating or modifying wills for distribution of property and wealth)
- Future provisions for children and grandchildren (such as setting up trusts)
- Medical choices (such as making plans and buying insurance for long-term care)
- Disability options (applying for Medicaid or Social Security benefits)
- Hospital directives (such as providing instructions for life-saving intervention)
- Retirement planning (including savings accounts and investments to provide future income)
- Nursing home planning (instructions on which facilities best suit the needs of the client)
Not all elder law clients are over retirement age. Many attorneys provide legal services for disabled clients who need long-term care, as they may be entitled to Social Security disability or early retirement benefits.
Why Would I Need an Elder Law Attorney?
Asking the advice of an elder law attorney can save many problems down the road for both seniors and their families. Here are just a few ways that getting legal advice early can help senior citizens:
- Spousal wishes. Couples should consider the possibility that one spouse may become seriously ill or need permanent hospital care. Each spouse will need to provide clear directions on how his or her medical care will be paid for, what should happen to his or her property when he or she becomes incapacitated, and when live-saving efforts should be discontinued.
- Guardianship. Seniors who provide for children or grandchildren have the right to assign guardianship of their wards after their deaths. They should also consider financial planning for minor children or adult special-needs children, such as setting up trust funds that relatives cannot access.
- Appointing trustees. Every senior should clearly indicate which member of the family will act on his behalf is he unable to speak for himself. Assigning powers of attorney or making one person the executor of the will can help avoid many family issues after the senior’s death.
As elder law is centered on planning, illness, and incapacity of the elderly, a good attorney should be sensitive to each client’s specific needs. Your attorney should be able to offer you the best options that work for you, while presenting you with all of the necessary information to make your decision. He or she should also be able to connect you with senior service providers and networks in your area to make sure you are making the most of your retirement.
At Blackwell, Vishio & Fisher, PLLC, we see our clients as people, not numbers. Each person we meet with has specific fears about his future, as well as definite convictions about what he does and does not want to happen as he ages. Many of our clients are wary of the legal process, mistakenly thinking that lawyers will work against them to take what they have worked hard to build. We offer clear information to each client to help him understand the system and the implications of the choices he makes, allowing him to create a clear plan for his retirement that takes the fear out of the future.
If you need help drafting a will or planning for retirement, we would be happy to explain your options. Click the contact link on this page to set up a consultation with an attorney at Blackwell, Vishio & Fisher, PLLC today.