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4 Common Legal Concerns Faced by Elder Law

Gene Kirzhner April 7, 2017

Elder Law, Common Concerns

Elder law is just as it sounds; law focused on the elderly and their needs at the end of their lives. This means estate and long-term care planning. This type of law also covers things such as power of attorney, and guardianship. While there are attorneys well versed in some areas of elder law, it is important to find an attorney that knows all aspects of elder law. Traditional estate planning, trust, and probate attorneys may not be able to provide enough help when it comes to the other areas of elder law.

Estate Planning

The most common aspect of elder law is estate planning. Wills and trusts are the best way to plan for your estate. Your estate is comprised of everything you own, your car, home, investments, bank accounts and personal possessions. Nearly everyone has an estate, and you need to determine the proper way of distributing it. Putting a plan in place while your alive of how your estate is to be handled after you death is the general idea of estate planning. The first step is deciding who gets what.

Estate planning is critical and not just for the elderly. If you die without a plan in place, your assets will be distributed according to local probate laws. In these cases, your estate is distributed by the state. Generally, state regulations call for splitting your assets evenly among your spouse and children. This may mean that your spouse doesn’t receive enough money to live. If both you and your spouse die at the same time, the court will appoint a guardian for your children, not knowing who you may have chosen.

The last aspect of estate planning is minimizing the taxes your heirs have to pay. Federal estate taxes are high, generally between forty-five and fifty-five percent. Reducing these taxes could save your family a lot of money. Make sure that if you’re married, you use both estate tax exemptions. Removing assets from your estate before you die is another way you can reduce the tax payment. You can also use life insurance to offset these costs. At the end of the day, you just want to make sure your family gets the majority of your estate.

Power of Attorney and Guardianship

Power of attorney is a document that gives a person you appoint the ability to manage your affairs if you are unable to manage them yourself. There are different types of power of attorney. Each type gives your attorney-in-fact various levels of control. A power of attorney is only valid if you are mentally competent when you sign it and incompetent when it goes into effect.

The Different Types of Power of Attorney

  • General Power of Attorney: A general power of attorney gives extensive power to your attorney-in-fact. These powers include buying life insurance, handling financial and business decisions, settling claims, operating businesses, and making gifts. A general power of attorney is good for someone physically or mentally incapable of handling their affairs.

  • Health Care Power of Attorney: A health care power of attorney allows your agent to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are mentally incompetent, unconscious or unable to make decisions on your own.

  • Special Power of Attorney: A special power of attorney allows you to specify what powers your agent has. Managing real estate, collecting debts, selling a property and handling business transactions are some common causes for using a special power of attorney.

Long-Term Care Planning

An attorney with experience in elder law will also be able to help you plan for long-term care. Long-term care covers a range of services that you may need to meet your daily needs. Approximately seventy percent of people sixty-five and older will need long-term care at some point in their lives. Whether it is around the clock nursing care or simply someone delivering your groceries. Planning ahead for these issues will take the burden off of your family.

Dealing with Family

Your attorney should also have experience dealing with children and other family members. Sometimes the distribution of your estate can get down right ugly. Your elder law attorney should be able to deal with any conflicts that arise between your family members. Children of the elderly are often involved in estate planning, and sometimes the line between client and family can be blurred. At the end of the day, you are the client, not your family members. It is important to have an attorney who understands this.

Who Needs a Lawyer’s Help?

The short answer is everyone. Whether you are young or old, if you have an estate you should have a plan in place. If you are elderly, it is especially important to have all your affairs in order, and you’re going to need an attorney’s help. Don’t wait until it is too late, start planning today.