How Elder Law Attorneys Assist Senior Citizens

As you and your loved ones get older, new situations will be encountered  that involve issues due to aging. You are not quite sure how to solve these problems. Where can you get advice? A good starting place is going to an attorney that specializes in elder law.

What is Elder Law?
Elder Law is a rapidly growing legal practice that assists senior citizens needing help and guidance with legal matters. It specifically focuses on older adults in areas such as estate planning, long-term care, medical directives, nursing home issues, and Medicaid.

Estate Planning
Your parents are aging. You want to encourage them to develop an estate plan. This is a type of advance planning to organize property and financial assets and put in writing what a person’s wishes are for their assets after they are deceased. It is a hard conversation to have with your parents, but will be very useful after they have passed.

Long Term Care
As you age, you may begin thinking about the possibility that you might need assistance in everyday living when you get older. Or maybe your loved ones need that type of help now. There are several options. [Read more…]

Elder Law: The Importance of Planning

A recent Boston Globe article reveals as many as 60% of Massachusetts nursing homes are finding ways to skirt a 2012 dementia care law intended to prevent deceptive practices. The law requires that facilities advertising dementia care must meet specific criteria including dementia-specific training for staff, specialized activities, and security measures to prevent wandering.

This story is just one of many that illustrate how important it is to do your homework and advocate for your loved one through estate planning and long term care planning. Our firm assists clients with all of their elder law concerns. Areas within elder law include:

  • Nursing Home Issues – Sadly, as our population ages, we see increased cases of abuse, neglect, and exploitation in nursing homes. An elder law attorney can help secure return of assets in a case of financial exploitation or recover damages for injuries resulting from neglect or abuse.
  • Medical Directives – Should you become incapacitated and unable to communicate your wishes, it’s imperative that you have medical directives in place. In Massachusetts, you will need a living will and health care proxy. An attorney can help you through this delicate process.

[Read more…]

Elder Financial Abuse in Massachusetts

In 2013, there were 21,000 contacts made with the Massachusetts Protective Services which concerned elder abuse – a third of these involved financial exploitation.

In the Massachusetts General Laws financial exploitation is described as the substantial monetary or property loss of an elderly person due to an act or omission of another person.  This exploitation also applies to circumstances where the elderly person has given consent of the act or omission under coercion, threat of force, or misrepresentation.

Financial exploitation is any action that is harmful to the elderly victim through the illegal acquisition, inappropriate use or concealment of funds, assets or property for the benefit of another.  It can encompass misdeeds from theft of money or valuables, unauthorized withdrawals, illicit use of credit cards, identity theft, transferring property, coercing a change in a Will, forging signatures on checks to internet scams.

Because seniors often have accumulated more wealth than the younger population they are attractive targets.  The ability to properly manage one’s finances generally diminishes with age.  A 2010 study found that the annual financial loss due to elder financial exploitation was close to $2.9 billion. [Read more…]

Alternatives To Nursing Home Care

Many seniors choose to stay in their homes, apartments or assisted living facility despite significant care needs.  This can, however, present considerable challenges to adult children who are trying to balance their own family responsibilities with coordinating care for a parent, as well as for a spouse who may be faced with being a primary caregiver around the clock for an indefinite period of time.

Unfortunately, many elders have an ongoing need for assistance in order to remain safe in their home.  Such a need for assistance can be the beginning of a difficult and frustrating journey for both the elder and their family.  Families try valiantly to meet all the care needs their loved one  may have but often they realize they can’t do everything, or caregivers may become burnt out and resentful.

Fortunately, there are a number of options for services available to families in such a situation.   These services include homemaking, laundry, food shopping, and meal preparation as well as personal care, safety checks, and meals-on-wheels.  These services can be coordinated to ensure the elder can maximize their chances of remaining safe in the community and hopefully avoid the need for placement in a long-term care facility.

A comprehensive analysis by an Elder Law Attorney is a valuable step in the process of creating a successful plan of care for a loved one in need.  Such an analysis can reveal more options for finding affordable care in the community while planning for the possibility that long-term placement in a facility may be needed.  Some individuals can qualify for Community Medicaid Benefits and then be eligible for expanded home services through their ASAP or other Medicaid subsidized home care programs such as PACE (Program for All Inclusive Care for the Elderly).

There are significant differences in eligibility for each Medicaid program, so the analysis should be done by professionals with experience in working with both Community and Long-Term Care Medicaid.   Please call our office for more detailed information on community based programs or to schedule a no-cost initial consultation.

Caregiver Contracts On The Rise

A recent study by the AARP found that nearly a quarter of the adult population are providing voluntary care for family members and friends.  As the population ages and people live longer, this number is sure to rise.  To reward these caregivers, parents often would leave an unequal inheritance to the caregiver child.  Often these unequal inheritances would lead to family feuds.

One alternative to an unequal distribution to a caregiver is to hire the caregiver and pay them for their services.  This is accomplished by drafting a “caregiver contract”.  This option allows the elder to acknowledge the time, effort, and services provided, and possibly eliminate the feud inherent in unequal distributions at death.

Caregiver contracts, by listing what duties or services the caregiver will provide, will often open the lines of communication and encourage families to discuss the arrangements to care for the elder.  If there is family communication, most times additional family members will assist the caregiver in providing certain services.  This often times will minimize family disagreements pre- and post death. 

Be sure to discuss your personal situation with a qualified elder law attorney as there may be tax consequences  or if your goal is to qualify for medicaid benefits.

What Is Elder Law?

Elder law is an area of law that encompasses any legal issue facing the elderly.  It is often associated with estate planning but can involve much broader social, economic and health related difficulties facing aging Americans. Some of the concerns that become more important to us as we grow older and may require more careful planning include:

  • estate planning
  • planning for a long term medical care requirement including Medicaid planning
  • planning for incapacitation with the use of durable powers of attorney and health care proxies
  • issues requiring guardianships and conservatorships
  • elder abuse and other issues involving nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities
  • SSI, SSDI and other government benefit programs
  • special needs trusts

As the elderly population grows each year, so will the issues facing these individuals requiring a comprehensive estate plan that addresses long term care needs.  Often times, planning  must take into account strategies involving financial planning, estate planning, and other asset protection techniques.  Other times ancillary issues involving home health care, skilled nursing facilities, long term care insurance and disability benefits must be addressed.  Elder law attorneys, geriatric or nurse case managers, financial planners and professional well versed in benefits planning are often involved to ensure all needs are met.  Advanced planning can help to minimize the problems and stress associated with these issues.