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Mar 2019
08
March 08, 2019

What is Elder Law?

Statistics show that approximately 10,000 individuals turn 65 years old every day. This phenomenal growth in the population group aged 65 and over has sometimes been referred to as the “senior tsunami."
 
Statistics also show that people are living longer. As they enjoy greater longevity, seniors face a multitude of issues. Elder Law focuses on the specific needs of this population and often encompasses:
 
  • Estate planning
  • Tax planning
  • Incapacity planning
  • Medicaid and Medicare
  • Social Security
  • Disability 
 
Estate Planning

As individuals age they often recognize the need to have their estate in order, and an elder law attorney will guide and counsel her clients about estate and tax planning to address their concerns about the distribution of their assets.

Incapacity Planning

While an individual is still able to appoint people to act for him (in the event he later becomes incapacitated), he will execute
 
  • A durable power of attorney
  • A patient advocate designation
 
These two documents allow an individual to appoint the person(s), he chooses to make decisions regarding:
 
  • Finances
  • Medical Care
  • Housing
  • Other well-being issues 
 
In addition, the elder law attorney prepares disability documents that will allow the client’s appointed individuals to act and make decisions which assist with long-term care needs, and which may include the need to re-structure assets and/or engage in Medicaid planning.
 
Medicare

Elder law attorneys understand the benefits that are provided under Medicare programs and how an individual who is disabled or over the age of 65 qualifies for these healthcare benefits.
 
Because Medicare has different parts that cover different items, older individuals often encounter issues relating to:
 
  • Hospital stays
  • Doctor visits
  • Rehabilitation
  • Prescriptions

It is important to note that Medicare does not cover the cost of residing in a skilled nursing facility.
 
Medicaid

Medicaid provides long-term care coverage for older and disabled individuals. It has complicated rules for qualification, and coverage is often tied to one’s income and assets.
 
Elder law attorneys understand the rules that govern Medicaid qualification and can counsel their clients to avoid common pitfalls. Unfortunately, people often take it upon themselves to transfer or give away assets thinking that it will assist them in qualifying for benefits, when these transfers can instead cause clients to become ineligible for a Medicaid benefit or incur a Medicaid penalty period.
 
Qualifying for Benefits

Another important function of elder law is keeping people qualified for Medicaid benefits. Staying qualified intertwines with estate planning and asset structuring because devastating consequences can result from
 
  • Transfers of assets
  • Gifts to family members
  • Creating joint ownership of assets
 
Protecting Beneficiaries with Special Needs

Besides helping clients to protect themselves and their assets, elder law attorneys understand the importance of planning for beneficiaries who have special needs; specifically, beneficiaries who receive:
 
  • Social security
  • Medical coverage
  • Financial benefits
  • House benefits
 
Any of these benefits could be disrupted by an inheritance, even if it is small. 
 
Start Planning with an Elder Law Attorney

Elder law attorneys help you plan for your future needs, and they can guide you and your family through related issues that arise.
 
It is important not to wait too long to complete your planning in these areas. This early preparation will ensure that the people you want assisting you in a time of need are the ones who actually will.
 

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