The saying “nothing is certain but death and taxes” is used to describe the inevitable. Much like death and taxes, aging is another inevitable consequence of life that comes with a unique set of legal implications.
As we get older, our legal needs evolve. This evolution makes it essential to have an elder law lawyer near you on your books. If your loved one is aging or finding themselves in declining health, you may also have inquiries about guardianship, conservatorship, or other issues related to caring for an aging loved one. These situations are prime examples of when the services of an elder law lawyer can be extremely helpful.
Elder law lawyers represent older adults, their employed caregivers or nurses, or their families. They have a deep understanding of the issues with aging, such as estate planning, retirement, disability planning, nursing home placement, probate and administration of an estate, long-term care planning, and more.
Elder law lawyers also leverage their knowledge on government benefits that older adults become eligible for as they age and help them to pursue these benefits. Not only do they understand the legalities surrounding these issues, but they have experience dealing with the emotional roller coasters that can come with them.
One common mistake is to equate the job of an elder law attorney with that of an estate planning lawyer. Wrong. While elder law lawyers protect your income or assets so they can be used for your benefit while alive, estate planning is entirely different. Estate planning entails the distribution of your assets in a manner that gets you the most tax advantage after your death.
An elder law attorney is an attorney who specializes in legal issues related to older adults and the elderly. Elder law attorneys can help with various issues, including Medicare and Medicaid planning (especially when diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or any other ailment that requires long-term health care), estate planning, guardianship, and more.
Elder law attorneys can also help with elder abuse and exploitation issues. If you suspect that an elderly loved one is being mistreated, an elder law attorney can help investigate the situation and take appropriate legal action.
If you are an older adult or have an aging parent or relative, you may want to consider meeting with an elder law lawyer near you to discuss your specific situation and needs. An elder law attorney can provide valuable guidance and assistance in navigating the complex legal landscape surrounding aging and eldercare.
Though they primarily help aging individuals legally navigate the realities they now face due to their age, often, an elder law lawyer will be able to help their clients avoid these problems altogether.
A bank advises an older adult to invest in an annuity, knowing that such an individual may not be around long enough to gain the income of such a long-term investment. Once the elderly individual makes this investment, a termination would mean withdrawing before the agreed maturity date, which can attract a heavy cancellation penalty.
In such a case, an elder law lawyer can intervene, lodging a complaint to the bank on behalf of the client, demanding that the invested funds be fully returned without the applicable penalty. If the matter escalates to a dispute, an elder law lawyer can provide legal representation.
It is also worth mentioning that some elder law attorneys are conferred with Certified Elder Law Attorneys (CELA) status by the National Elder Law Foundation, while others are not. However, a Certified Elder Law Attorney is mandated under law to meet licensing, a minimum threshold of experience, and continuing education requirements in elder law.
Pro tip: Certification should not be a deal-breaker for you if you’re looking to hire a lawyer for elder law near you, as an uncertified elder law lawyer may be just as skilled or experienced as a Certified Elder Law attorney. For this reason, a consultation is always recommended before hiring any new lawyer.
Hiring an elder law lawyer can be a difficult decision. First and foremost, you want to ensure that you are getting the best representation possible. At the same time, you also want to make sure you are not overspending on legal fees.
Here are a scenarios when you should consider hiring an elder law lawyer:
Elder law lawyers can help with various estate planning issues, including wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. If you are unsure about what estate planning documents you need or how to create them, a lawyer for elder law near you can help.
If you or a loved one is facing the need for long-term care, an elder law lawyer can help you navigate the complex rules and regulations surrounding Medicaid and other government benefits. An elder law lawyer can also help you create a plan to pay for long-term care without depleting your assets.
Elder law lawyers are well-versed in the rules and regulations governing Medicare and Social Security. If you have questions about eligibility, benefits, or claims, an elder law lawyer can help.
If you seek guardianship of a minor child or an incapacitated adult, an elder law lawyer can help you navigate the legal process. Elder law lawyers can also help with conservatorship proceedings, which are used to protect the assets of an incapacitated person.
If you suspect that a loved one is the victim of elder abuse or exploitation, an elder law lawyer can help you understand your legal options and take action to protect your loved one.
Elder law lawyers are familiar with the unique legal issues that affect older adults. If you have any other legal issues such as guardianship, conservatorship, or estate planning, an elder law lawyer can help.
There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing an elder law attorney:
Take some time to interview several elder law attorneys near you before deciding on who will take on your case. Ask about their experience, how they plan to approach the issues you are facing, and how they would work with you. Use this conversation to evaluate their customer service as this could be someone you will work with for many years.
Choosing the best elder law lawyer near you is an important decision, so take your time and choose wisely.
The cost associated with hiring an elder law lawyer depends on the type and scope of services provided by the lawyer. Elder law encompasses many legal areas, including estate planning, probate, guardianship, Medicaid planning, and more. As a result, elder law lawyers typically charge by the hour, with rates ranging from $150 to $400 per hour. Some lawyers may also charge a flat fee for certain services, such as estate planning.
In addition to hourly rates, some lawyers for elder law near you may also charge a retainer fee which typically ranges from $500 to $5,000, depending on the type and complexity of the legal matter.
Some elder law lawyers may offer a free initial consultation—usually, a brief meeting, lasting 30 minutes to an hour, during which the lawyer will get to know you and your legal needs. After the consultation, the lawyer will be able to provide you with an estimate of the total cost of their services so that you can make an educated decision about who you will hire.
There is no definitive answer to this question, as many factors must be considered. However, generally speaking, you should contact the best elder law lawyer near you to start planning your life as an older adult by age 60 or when you begin to experience signs of aging.
Some common signs that may indicate the need for elder law assistance include difficulty with activities of daily living, cognitive decline, and/or financial instability. If you are experiencing any of these issues or have questions about your legal rights and options as an older adult, it is best to consult with an elder law lawyer.
There are a few ways to avoid probate, though none are foolproof. While some people go with a trust, others name beneficiaries which will allow your loved ones to inherit your property without going through probate. Ultimately, probate laws vary across states, so you will need to hire an attorney in your jurisdiction.
The best way to avoid probate is to have a valid will that clearly states your wishes for your property.
There are many options available, and it comes down to your personal preference. Giving your assets away is always an option. You can also put your assets into an irrevocable trust. If you really treasure your assets, you can also purchase long-term care insurance.
The laws guiding asset protection will vary according to your state. Besides your will, you can elect to include an added layer of protection with a separate memorandum dedicated to your most prized possessions and items of acute sentimental value, such as a mega-money antique handed down by your grandmother.