What is Elderlaw?
Elder law is an area of law that focuses on the legal needs of the senior population. These needs may include retirement planning, insurance issues, estate planning, wills, trusts, financial and healthcare advance directives, and estate administration and probate. Attorneys who specialize in elder law usually have expertise in matters related to:
Estate Planning, Wills, and Trusts;
Financial and retirement planning, including insurance;
Probate and estate administration;
Powers of attorney, which provide a person with the ability to make medical or financial decisions on another person’s behalf;
Health and personal care planning, including medical care directives, long-term care plans, and end of life decisions;
Medicare, Social Security, veterans disability, and other government benefit programs;
Guardianship and conservatorship; and
Quality of life and independence.
Elder law attorneys may also handle issues concerning elder abuse, including physical abuse and financial abuse. Financial abuse occurs when someone takes advantage of an elderly person’s physical or mental incapacitation to steal money from him or her.
Here are some common things that elder law attorneys handle and a brief description of the area of law:
This involves the preparation of documents necessary to pass your estate to your heirs. Typically it involves the preparation of a will or trust agreement. Common goals of an estate plan are to eliminate or reduce death taxes, to ensure that assets go to the right people, and to avoid unecessary expense and delay of the probate process. For more information, follow this Link.
Probate is the court system’s method for processing the estate of a person who has died. Probate involves gathering all of the assets of the estate, paying all of the debts and distributing the balance to the heirs. It is a useful process, but it can be expensive and time consuming. As a result, a common goal of estate planning is to avoid probate altogether, which can often be accomplished through a living trust. For more information, follow this Link.
Advance directives are documents that state what you would like done if you become unable to make decisions during your lifetime. The most common advance directives are known as Durable Powers of Attorney and they allow an individual to name an agent who can make health or financial decisions for them if they became unable to do so. The Living Will, which is addressed to health care providers, is another form of health care directive. For more information, follow this Link.
When a person becomes unable to make decisions, the courts will look to their advance directives to see who should make decisions for them. If the person has not prepared an advance directive, the court must appoint somebody, called a guardian, to act on their behalf. The probate courts appoint guardians who monitor the care of disabled people. Guardianship can usually be avoided by advance directives and in some cases trusts. Where these devices are not in place, an elder law attorney can assist families and older adults navigate the guardianship system, which is quite complex.
Nursing home care is expensive and it is not covered by Medicare. If a person has exhausted his resources, healthcare costs, including needed nursing home care, can sometimes be paid for by Medicaid. In order to qualify, however, you must be almost completely out of money and you cannot give away your money in order to qualify. The situation can be more complicated if one partner in a marriage is in good health and the other needs nursing home care. The medicaid rules for how much money you can protect and the circumstances under which you can do that, are complex. Elder law attorneys are often able to help families to plan how to get the best possible care for seniors.
Nursing Home Neglect
Providing care for the elderly is a huge responsibility, and many nursing homes take it seriously. However, when a nursing home does not properly care for a resident medical errors, bed sores, fractured bones, overwhelming infections and death can be the result. Nursing home neglect cases are handled by litigation attorneys, but they are different than routine personal injury cases. In order to effectively handle these cases, the lawyers need to be familiar with common illnesses and ailments of the elderly as well as the many regulations that apply to nursing homes.
Lawyers for Seniors
An essential skill that elder law attorneys must possess is an ability to listen to their clients. Attorneys who work in the field of elder law bring more to their practice than an expertise in the appropriate area of law. They also have knowledge of the senior population and their unique needs as well as the myths related to competence and aging. They are aware of the physical and mental difficulties that often accompany the aging process. Because of their broad knowledge base they are able to more thoroughly address the legal needs of their clients.
Elder law attorneys are a resource to their clients because they understand their clients’ needs may extend beyond basic legal services and stay informed about and connected to the local networks of professionals who serve the elder population.
Whitmore Law Office serves Elderlaw clients throughout metropolitan Omaha, Nebraska as well as the near-by communities of Papillion, Bellevue, Gretna, Plattsmouth and Blair.