Legal issues for older adults can be complicated. When you are tasked with helping an elderly loved one to navigate the many issues that can impact your loved one and your family, it can be difficult to know when or if you need to get help from an elder law attorney. Elder Care Direction can help you to determine whether or not you need to get help from an elder law attorney. If your loved one’s legal issues warrant getting an attorney’s help, we can refer you to one of our trusted partner attorneys. Here are some facts that you should think about when you are trying to decide whether it is time to get help from an attorney.
Elder law issues
Elder law issues are governed by state laws that specify such things as what can and cannot be included in a trust, will, financial power of attorney, and advanced medical directive. These laws vary by the state and control who is able to serve as a trustee, personal representative, attorney-in-fact, or health care surrogate. The laws also outline the rules for witnessing wills, durable powers of attorney, and trusts and cover the procedures and formalities that must be followed when these documents are being signed.
The individual states also administer Medicaid, a federally authorized program, at the state level. The rules and laws that govern Medicaid can differ substantially from state to state. When you work with an experienced elder law lawyer, your attorney may help you to avoid making mistakes that could be quite costly. Elder law attorneys understand the various laws in the states in which they practice and may offer guidance.
Caution is important
Some people make the mistake of thinking that they should download forms from the internet or complete Medicaid applications for their elderly loved ones without help. However, forms on the internet may not follow the laws in your state and may contain inaccuracies. It is easy to make errors on Medicaid applications that could cause them to be denied, leaving your loved one without the ability to pay for his or her nursing home care.
People may also try to use generic software to create wills, durable powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney, or trusts. However, these documents may not meet the legal requirements of your state and may be found to be invalid when the time comes for them to be enforced. Estate planning documents that are deemed to be invalid are treated as if they never existed.
Fixing mistakes after the fact can cost thousands of dollars more than what you might expect to pay to have the documents drafted by an elder law attorney.
Elder law is about more than the process of dying
Elder law encompasses more than drafting estate planning documents. Besides worrying about how the assets might be distributed after death, it is also important to consider what would happen if your loved one becomes mentally or physically incapacitated and unable to take care of his or her needs.
There are several options that are available to help your loved one and your family through these issues, including living trusts and powers of attorney. Revocable living trusts may be established so that someone else can begin managing your loved one’s assets if he or she is unable to do so for himself or herself at some point in time.
Dealing with complex financial and family situations
The following family and financial situations may necessitate the advice of an elder law attorney for older adults:
- Elderly loved one is in a second or subsequent marriage
- Elderly person owns businesses
- Elderly person owns real estate in two or more states
- Elderly person has a disabled adult child
- Elderly person has minor children
- Elderly person does not have any children
- Elderly person has children who have problems
- Elderly person wants to leave assets to charity
- Substantial assets are held in IRAs or 401(k)s
- Elderly person was recently divorced
- Elderly person recently lost a spouse
- Elderly person has a spouse who is incapacitated and needs care
- Elderly person’s estate is large enough to be subject to federal or state estate taxes
Contact Elder Care Direction
Deciding whether it is time for you to seek help for your loved one from an elder law attorney can be difficult. Elder Care Direction is able to help you to decide whether you might need to get legal help, and we can help to save you money by assisting with some of the preliminary paperwork. To learn more, contact us today by filling out our online form.