You may go your entire life never needing an attorney for more than a simple question or phone call, and that is a good thing. But inevitably, we are all going to be at a point in our lives where we need to plan for what happens when we are unable to care for ourselves, and eventually die. While it is not always easy to think about, careful planning now can save you and your heirs large amounts of money, time, and anguish as decisions must be made about your care, treatment, and property.
Elder law is a large and growing field of the law. We are getting older, living longer, and it is costing more and more money to continue living a comfortable lifestyle. As more and more of your care is handled by other people, you have to make sure that your best interests are taken into consideration. Additionally, many decisions will have serious financial impact on you and your family, so it is very important to seek advice from an experienced elder law attorney.
Elder Law Basics
Power of Attorney
The main issues in elder law surround questions of care, control, and inheritance. When most people think of elder law they think of a will. But what can be more important that a will is a durable power of attorney. Before your death, there may be short or extended periods of time where you may be incapacitated and unable to make decisions on your own. A power of attorney is a document that gives your designated person the authority to make those decisions. It can be limited – only giving the person authority to make decisions regarding a certain issue, or it may be broad – giving the person complete control to make any decision regarding your care and finances.
Your will is the legal document that will instruct a person of your choosing (the executor) on how to distribute your property when you die. If you die without a will (interstate), your state’s laws will determine who gets what, which may not be to your liking. A properly created will, updated when necessary, can assure that your wishes are carried out with the minimum tax consequences possible.
One of the most powerful tools to plan for the transfer of your property is the trust. Trusts are a separate legal entity created to control assets and administer them as instructed. A properly drafted trust can help you avoid costly probate, and may diminish or eliminate tax obligations. An increasingly important issue is Medicaid planning. A trust is an excellent way to help control the high costs of health care as we age.
An experienced elder law attorney can be a vital part of your financial team. Smart, thoughtful planning with a knowledgeable professional will give you piece of mind and allow you to enjoy your later years knowing that your heirs are provided for and you have taken all of the necessary financial and legal precautions for the inevitable issues that arise with aging.