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.

Is a Trust Right for You? Distinguishing Trusts and Wills in Estate Planning

Most people understand the concept and importance of a Will. A Will is a legal document that transfers assets at death and allows a person to name an executor to transfer those assets. A trust is similar in that a grantor transfers assets to the trust and names a trustee to distribute trust assets. You must understand the differences between the two documents before you can decide if a trust is suitable in your situation.

A Will takes effect at death. A trust, however, can be set up to manage assets during the grantor’s lifetime. A Will is a public record that can be viewed by anyone. A trust provides privacy. Other benefits of a trust are probate avoidance and providing protection for a handicapped or disabled relative.

The use of a trust in estate planning is not the best approach for everyone. A sound estate plan is created based upon many factors including the size of the estate, types of assets, and personal objectives of the owner. You should consult a professional to determine if a trust is right for you.