Elder law is a broad set of services designed to help people maintain control and dignity as they age. Generally, these services fall into two categories:
Planning for Incapacity
Age-related dementia and/or Alzheimer's can interfere with your ability to make legal decisions on your own behalf. This is called incapacity, and it often requires a court-appointed "conservator." This conservator, often a child, if given the legal authority to manage your affairs much the same way that parents have the legal authority over their children. Because the conservator is appointed by the court, they are required to report all of your private financial affairs in a public court filing.
Your conservator is also frequently given the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf - everything from which medications to take all the way to whether to continue life support during end-of-life situations.
This loss of control and privacy can be avoided with proper planning. Through the use of a financial power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and advance directive, you can choose your helpers in advance and give them instructions that guide their decisions and actions on your behalf. This gives you control and avoids the problems associated with going to court.
Planning for Disability and Long-Term Care
Medical advances have led to an increase in life expectancy. And, that has led to an increase in the likelihood that seniors will need long-term care at some point in their lives. Paying for this care can create a severe financial strain on the family. And, for married couples, one spouse's care needs can drain resources that the other spouse needs for support.
Disability planning involves determining how you want to be cared for, and then ensuring that your financial resources are used according to your wishes without draining assets needed to care for your spouse and/or other family members.
This often involves helping you qualify for government assistance programs through Medicaid or the Department of Veterans Affairs. We work with families planning for future care needs, and we also in "crisis" situations where the senior is already in the nursing home and assets are being drained rapidly. In those cases, we can often step in and prevent most of the assets from being lost to the nursing home.