When to Consult an Elder Law Attorney

Published: March 1, 2024

When to Consult an Elder Law Attorney

As we get older, navigating legal matters can become increasingly complex. We think about the many ways we want to leave a legacy for our loved ones. More than just money, we want to plan ahead to make sure we get to live on our own terms as long as possible. That includes considerations about our health, our homes, our finances, and our families. From estate planning to navigating the many options within Medicare, there many instances when older adults and their families should consider consulting an elder law attorney. Elder law attorneys are lawyers who specialize in the legal issues we may face later in life. Here are five examples of when you may want to consult with an elder law attorney:

Estate planning and asset protection: Estate planning involves more than just drafting a will. It encompasses various legal instruments such as trusts, powers of attorney, and advance directives. When older adults wish to protect their assets, minimize taxes, and ensure their wishes are carried out regarding the distribution of their estate, consulting an elder law attorney is essential. This is particularly important if there are complex family dynamics, blended families, or concerns about potential disputes among beneficiaries.

Long-term care planning: Planning for long-term care needs, including in-home care or assisted living, requires careful review of financial resources, your potential need for long-term care insurance, and possibly Medicaid eligibility. In Washington state, we have a five-year lookback period for Medicaid. When individuals or their loved ones anticipate the need for long-term care in the future, consulting an elder law attorney can help families navigate Medicaid planning, asset protection strategies, and options for paying for care while preserving assets for spouses or dependents.

Additionally, older people maintain certain rights even if they move to long-term care such as a nursing home or assisted living community. An elder law attorney can help the whole family understand these rights and how to advocate appropriately.

Guardianship and conservatorship matters: We all want to live independently in our homes for as long as possible. But it’s worth considering what you will do in the event you or a spouse becomes incapacitated and are unable to make decisions. Establishing a guardianship or conservatorship may be necessary to protect your interests. Consulting an elder law attorney can help family members understand the legal processes involved in obtaining a guardianship or conservatorship and ensure the individual’s rights are protected.

Health care advocacy: Understanding Medicare coverage, navigating health care benefits, and advocating for appropriate medical care can be challenging for older adults and their families. When older adults encounter issues with Medicare coverage, face challenges getting needed medical services, or need help with health care decision-making, consulting an elder law attorney with expertise in health care advocacy can provide invaluable support and guidance.

Elder abuse and financial exploitation: While people of any age can fall victim to a scam, we know that fraudsters specifically target older adults who are likely to be sitting on a lifetime’s worth of assets. Older adults may also be vulnerable to other forms of abuse, including physical, emotional, and financial exploitation. The advice of an elder law attorney can help protect the rights of older adults, explore legal remedies, and take appropriate action to prevent further harm.

Consulting an elder law attorney can provide older adults and their families with peace of mind and assistance in navigating the complex legal issues associated with aging. By seeking timely legal advice, older adults can proactively address their unique needs and safeguard their interests for the future. The National Association of Elder Law Attorneys can help you find an elder law specialist near you.

Source: IlluminAge