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Elder Law

The field of Elder law is a unique specialty in its combination of Trust and Estate Planning, Medicaid and Asset protection Planning, legal guidance regarding capacity issues and Guardianships, Tax issues and Estate Administration.  Although many of our clients are senior citizens or their children, often the clients are younger adults who need legal advice because they suffer from a disability.  Clients are often motivated to seek legal assistance because of disability, incapacity, illness and/or age. Adults of all ages who need the help of an attorney should be sure to meet with someone who is qualified to advise them as to their Estate Planning needs.  Such advice may include a recommendation for a Last Will and Testament, a Durable Power of Attorney, a Trust and/or a Health Care Proxy.  These documents become more essential if someone has a disability. The documents must be drafted so that they accurately and adequately address the client’s needs and concerns. For example, Tom and Mary Jones, both in their early 80s, come to our office.  Tom has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and Mary is concerned about protecting their assets in the event that Tom requires placement in a nursing home.  Tom is becoming more forgetful and he is starting to have difficulty signing his name.  The first priority is to have both Tom and Mary sign a comprehensive Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy. These documents authorize one or more people to make all necessary legal, financial and medical decisions for Tom and Mary in the event that they become incapable of making those decisions for themselves. By having these documents, the family is spared from having to go to Court for the appointment of a legal Guardian. The documents are prepared quickly and privately, are relatively inexpensive and easy to use and the agent is someone chosen by the client, not by a Judge. Additionally, we need to review how assets are titled.  Often, spouses own their assets jointly.  In that situation, when one dies, the other automatically inherits, regardless of the terms of that person’s Last Will and Testament.  Were Mary to die first, Tom, who can no longer make financial decisions, would inherit everything.  A better plan would be to re-title assets to Mary alone.  We would prepare a new Will or Trust for Mary that leaves her assets to Tom in a Supplemental Needs Trust.   We would then turn to a discussion about planning for protection from the costs of long-term care expenses.  Although Tom is no longer insurable, given his current diagnosis, Mary should look into the possibility of Long term care insurance for herself.  We would review what the Medicare program covers and analyze the eligibility requirements for Medicaid.  Finally, if Tom is ready for placement in a Skilled Nursing Facility, we need to know what each nursing home requires, in terms of financial disclosure.  We facilitate placement in the nursing home of the client’s choice and prepare and submit the application for Medicaid benefits. Finally, if Mary or Tom were to pass away, we offer the family the comfort of knowing that we handle all aspects of administering the estate.  This includes probating the Will, marshaling assets and preparing and submitting all tax returns. To receive a free copy of A Simple Guide to Understanding the Complexities of Elder Law – a helpful booklet we distribute to our clients which contains definitions and explanations of some important terms – please contact us.