Why should someone hire an elder law attorney is a question that I get with a great deal of frequency. Many prospective clients want to know what benefit they will get by hiring an elder law attorney, and whether the cost to do so makes it worthwhile.
This is a completely valid question and we try to be as open and honest as we can with our clients about the benefits and drawbacks of engaging a lawyer to assist with elder law needs. But before we get into those needs, it’s really important for people to have a full understanding of what an elder law attorney does and how we differ from your traditional estate planning attorney.
What Does an Elder Law Attorney Do?
Many elder law attorneys will help their clients with estate planning issues, but many estate planning attorneys will NOT get into the weeds with an elder law client. And the reason for this is simple.
Elder law is a complex and ever-changing area of the law that most estate planning practitioners do not feel comfortable getting into. It’s just too complicated and there are too many minefields that could blow up in your face if you don’t know what you are doing.
Primarily, an elder law attorney will counsel and advocate on behalf of senior citizens, people with special needs, and their families. Here are just a few of the things an elder law attorney can do for you:
- Preserve and reallocate assets in a way that will allow someone entering a skilled nursing facility to qualify for long-term care benefits without “spending down” all of their money
- Processing Medicaid applications and appeals
- Drafting and providing advice and guidance on “enhanced” powers of attorney that provide additional protections that are unique to senior citizens
- Assisting otherwise healthy clients with proactive asset protection strategies in the event that long-term care is needed in the future
- Advising clients on various disability planning strategies, including the effective use of durable powers of attorney, living trusts, “living wills” for health care decisions, and other ways to delegate the management of financial assets and health related decision-making authority to others in the case of incapacity
- Applying for an adult guardianship when required
- General estate planning, including using wills, trusts and other estate planning tools to plan for the management of one’s estate during their life and its disposition upon passing
- Probate and administration of estates
- Administration and management of trusts
- Assisting with long-term care placements in nursing home and assisted living communities
- Helping with nursing home care issues, including questions of patients’ rights and nursing home quality
- Elder nursing home abuse and fraud recovery cases
It goes without saying that this is a broad spectrum of cases, and not every attorney will handle all of the matters listed above. So before you call an elder law attorney, make sure you are clear about what you are looking to do so that you can ask them whether they can help you with your specific need. If you aren’t quite sure what you need, then it is ok to call and ask a lot of questions.
However, be aware that busy attorneys are just that… they are busy. You are unlikely to get an attorney on the phone with most firms. At The Hart Law Firm, we make it easy for you to schedule a quick phone conference with an attorney by clicking here.
But keep in mind that this phone call is not intended to answer all your questions – it is intended to allow both us and you to find out whether we can help you and if so, to invite you to take the next step with our office. This is typically an initial meet and greet meeting to talk more in-depth about what you are looking to do.
Generally speaking, we help seniors to protect everything they have spent a lifetime to build from the rising costs of long-term care through effective and proactive asset protection planning.
Why Should You Hire an Elder Law Attorney?
Here are several reasons that we have found that people will hire an elder law attorney:
- Primarily, they need an attorney who focuses their practice on the unique needs of the elderly population, and they realize they won’t get this from talking to a typical estate planning attorney.
- They have a spouse or parent that is entering a skilled nursing facility and they need help to legally protect that person’s assets from the rising cost of long-term care (which can easily approach $10,000 per month, depending on the location and the facility).
- They have a spouse or parent that is already a resident of a skilled nursing facility and has been paying the cost of care out of their private funds for a period of time. They recently realized that they don’t need to do that and they need help to re-organize assets to help the applicant resident to qualify for Medicaid.
- They are an aging couple who want to proactively plan for the possibility that one or both of them will need long-term care in the future.
- They are a newly retired couple who have lived their entire life without an estate plan in place and realize that they need to plan for the unexpected.
- They have a family member that needs an adult guardianship put in place because their now incapacitated parent or spouse never executed any estate planning documentation, including a power of attorney.
Do You Need to Talk to an Elder Law Attorney?
Here at The Hart Law Firm, we help the elderly to protect everything they have spent a lifetime to build. If you need to speak with an elder law attorney about your personal situation, or to assist you in relation to a family member or friend that may need help, please call our office at (919) 460-5422 or use our online contact form to schedule a time to talk.