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What can an Elder Law or Elder Care lawyer help me with?

Clients and even colleagues who practice in other areas ask me what an elder law attorney does.   We help family caregivers explore options for their loved one's current situation and explain how to plan for what could happen, especially if a debilitating illness necessitates long-term care.

Families are frequently split on the type of care they want for their parents. Unlike family members who have an emotional connection to their loved one, an elder law attorney can offer an unbiased opinion to develop an objective long-term plan.  Every parent wants to stay in the home, but sometimes that's not the best advice.

Specific ways an elder law attorney can help your family include the following: 

Develop a plan for long-term care.

Elder law attorneys focus on issues families face as parents or spouses age. We discuss what kind of care is required and whether the person is able to stay at home or needs long-term care. We work with a team of professionals, including senior placement specialists, senior realtor specialists, financial planners, care specialists, and many others, to create care plans for our clients.

Then, we look at steps to protect assets in case of long-term care.

Help with Medicaid Benefits

elder couple at window

Medicaid eligibility depends on their financial assets, the cost of the medical treatments they need, and their individual state's Medicaid requirements. Qualifying for Medicaid, many of the care services needed may be covered. You might even qualify for payment as their family caregiver.

Elder law attorneys provide advice on the right time to enroll in Medicaid and how to manage finances and assets while navigating the Medicaid Look-Back Period.

Apply for veteran benefits for a veteran or surviving spouse.

Many veterans may not realize they're eligible for certain benefits through the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). For example, the Aid and Attendance benefit is one of several benefits that can help veterans pay for long-term care. An elder law attorney can provide guidance and help your senior loved one complete an application or provide information about other long-term care benefits for veterans.

Ensure incapacity planning is in place.

A condition such as Alzheimer's or another type of dementia may affect your loved one's ability to make decisions about their care. It's important to seek assistance before the condition progresses, and an elder law attorney can help your family prepare incapacity documents such as a power of attorney and healthcare surrogate. This allows an appointed person to make medical or financial decisions on your loved one's behalf should they become incapacitated.

Without a durable power of attorney, if your loved one becomes incapacitated, an elder lawyer can help your family obtain guardianship. While guardianship is often considered a last resort, it will allow you or another guardian to manage your loved one's personal and financial affairs.

Protect assets from financial exploitation.

Elder law attorneys can help family members identify risky situations that could lead to financial exploitation. When dad and mom slow down or their health declines, a dishonest neighbor has the opportunity to come over and start "helping out," or an unscrupulous adult child might try to obtain access to financial accounts.

Protecting their assets from dishonest predators is essential. An elder law attorney can report potential criminal activity or fraud to stop it or advise the children.

Set up a living trust or an irrevocable trust.

An elder law attorney can help guide your senior loved one through the creation of an estate plan. A trust is an effective tool often used to help ensure a loved one's assets are managed properly if they become ill, disabled, or otherwise incapacitated. A trust can also help protect your aging loved one against elder financial abuse. A great benefit of preplanning is an irrevocable trust created five years before Medicaid benefits are needed or three years before Veterans benefits are applied for.

Additional ways an elder law attorney can help you and your family.:

  • Administration and management of estates and trusts

  • Estate planning and probate

  • Trusts, wills, and other financial documents

  • Long-term care placements in senior living communities and nursing homes

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