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What is Elder Law?

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The three main areas of focus for elder law attorneys include health care, estate and tax planning and guardianship matters.
July 21, 2022 ★  | |

Elder law is a branch of law that deals specifically with the legal issues faced by older adults, such as senior citizens. This can include issues such as estate planning, health care, long-term care, and retirement planning. Elder law attorneys are specially trained to help seniors and their families navigate these complex legal issues.

The legal needs of many older Americans go beyond basic legal services. They are also all intertwined. In addition to understanding the legal issues and complications that older Americans face, elder law attorneys must also understand the surrounding personal concerns of their clients, such as health, financial and family issues, and how those affect their clients’ legal issues.

What does an elder law attorney do?

An elder law attorney can help clients with issues such as:

  • Estate planning, including wills and trusts - Estate planning is an important process that can help you protect your assets and ensure that your wishes are followed after your death. Drafting a will and creating trusts are two important aspects of estate planning.
  • Powers of attorney and health care proxies - Powers of attorney allow you to appoint someone to make legal decisions on your behalf. Health care proxies let you designate someone to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself.
  • Medicaid and long-term care planning - Long-term care planning is an important part of Medicaid eligibility. Without proper planning, you may not be able to get the coverage you need.
  • Retirement, pension and Social Security planning - When it comes to retirement planning, there are several important factors to consider. For example, many people rely on Social Security benefits to help support them during their golden years. Consequently, it's crucial to have a solid understanding of how the Social Security system works. In addition, many people also have 401(k) plans or other pension plans that they need to take into account when planning for retirement.
  • Disability planning - Disability planning is an important process for ensuring that individuals with disabilities have the resources they need to live independent and fulfilling lives. The first step in disability planning is to assess one's individual needs and determine what type of assistance would be most beneficial.
  • Asset protection - Asset protection is a legal term that refers to the safeguarding of your assets. This can be done through a variety of methods, such as creating trusts, investing in insurance, and diversifying your investments. By taking steps to protect your assets, you can help ensure that your hard-earned money is safe from creditors, lawsuits, and other risks.
  • Elder abuse and fraud - Elder law attorneys specialize in cases where an older client is being victimized.
  • Guardianship and conservatorship - Guardianship is when a person is appointed by a judge to make decisions for another person who is unable to make decisions for themselves. Conservatorship is when a person is appointed by a judge to manage the finances and property of another person who is unable to do so themselves.

Elder law attorneys also help clients deal with the practicalities of aging, such as:

  • Housing options and reverse mortgages
  • Transportation
  • Meals and in-home care
  • Government benefits
  • End of life planning could extend to planning your health care support system as you age, signing a power of attorney, establishing a living will and other issues surrounding end of life care.
  • Financial issues frequently entails questions about retirement and proper financial planning, housing financing, income and estate tax planning and gift tax issues.
  • Residents’ rights issues may include claims or complaints you bring while a patient in a nursing home or long term care facility.
  • Workplace discrimination issues stem, from the fact that older Americans sometimes face age and disability discrimination in the workplace.
  • Landlord-tenant law may mean handling disputes with landlords, contesting an eviction, dealing with foreclosure issues, rent increases and more.

An elder law attorney can be a great partner for you as you plan out the legal and financial aspects of the next stage of your life-or the life of a loved one. Speak to us today. Benjamin Eckman is an experienced elder law attorney who focuses his practice on issues that concern older people. However, it’s not exclusively for older people, since we counsel other family members of the elderly about their concerns.

A big concern for many families is how do I get started and how much planning do I have to do ahead of time?

Do you need an elder law attorney?

Elder law attorneys can help you with the legalities and emotions surrounding eldercare, saving you from having to stress about financial or practical burdens that may come up if you become ill or disabled. They can assist with choosing the right senior living facility, drafting a will or trust, and protecting yourself from any form of abuse. Basically, they're there to make your life easier and take on anything that might be confusing for you – letting you relax and live your best life.

What to look for in an elder law attorney

If you need legal assistance for an older person, it's crucial to locate an attorney who is experienced in the specific subject matter area that you need help with. For example, if you're looking for guidance with long-term care planning, find an attorney familiar with Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

While an abundance of specialized knowledge is great, it's also important to find an elder law attorney who will be sensitive to your individual needs. Caring for aging parents can evidently take a toll emotionally and financially. Consequently, the ideal candidate for this position would be somebody experienced in handling these types of cases while maintaining composure with the family members.

Common questions about elder law

How common is elder abuse?

It is estimated that one in ten older adults faces various forms of abuse. The pandemic may have caused an increase in the abuse or neglect of older adults, as people have had less opportunity to check on their loved ones. Everyone deserves to age with dignity, and any form of elder abuse should be reported immediately.

Can I Be My Older Adult Parent's Legal Decision maker for Health Care?

Their legal arrangements will depend on the situation. In some cases, there may be a life insurance policy, living will, health care directive, medical power of attorney, or other document that dictates their wishes. These types of documents can also be referred to as an “advance directive."

If your loved one is unable to make decisions for themselves, you may need to go through a legal process to become their conservator or guardian. This would give you the authority decision-making for them in regards what is in their best interests.

At what age should a person contact an elder law attorney?

You can contact an elder law attorney at any age, but it is generally recommended to start thinking about legal planning when you are in your 50s or 60s. This allows you to have a plan in place in case of any unforeseen circumstances, such as illness or disability.

Do I need both and advance directive and a durable power of attorney for health care matters?

Yes! If you have both an Advance Directive and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, your treatment wishes will be more likely to be carried out as you desire. Your doctor and Health Care Agent will also appreciate the clear guidance provided by an Advance Directive.

How does an advance directive work?

With an Advance Directive, you can tell your health care providers exactly which medical treatments you do or don't want. Some people choose not to receive certain types of treatment, while others opt for all available options (such as pain relief, resuscitation, artificial nutrition/hydration, intubation or mechanical intervention). Ultimately, it's your choice whether you want your life prolonged or if you're comfortable with dying naturally.

The Advance Directive is used by your healthcare provider if you have a terminal condition, are in an irreversible coma, or other permanent unconscious condition from which there is no reasonable hope of recovery. The Advance Directive must be signed by you and two witnesses who 1) are not related to you 2) will not inherit anything from you 3) are not individuals providing health care services to you.

If you are ever diagnosed with a terminal illness or placed in a vegetative state, it is crucial that your hospital knows what type of care you would want to receive. If you do not specify your wishes beforehand, the default will be for the medical team to try and sustain your life through whatever means possible. However, by having an Advance Directive—as well as designating a Health Care Agent via Durable Power of Attorney—you can rest assured that whatever treatment choices you make will be respected.

Who is responsible for paying for long-term care?

Most Long-Term Care is provided by unpaid family members. The remainder of Long-Term Care services are delivered in private homes or institutions and are paid for out-of-pocket, through insurance policies, or via government benefits programs like Medicaid or Veterans benefits.

The only Long-Term Care that Medicare pays for is up to 100 days of rehabilitation in a skilled nursing facility, and even then, it will not pay for "custodial care". Custodial care includes costs like physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.

What does long-term care insurance cover?

Long-Term Care insurance will pay for various types of care, like nursing home stays, assisted living expenses, or in-home health assistance based on the conditions specified in your policy.

Long-Term Care insurance is an insurance product that acts as a safety net against the expensive nursing home and community-based care costs. When an individual can no longer take care of him or herself due to frailty, he or she may need assistance in the form of home care services, assisted living, memory care, or nursing home amongst others. Long-Term Care insurance policy owners don't have to worry about how they're going to pay for these because the policies will cover it.

If you are located in New Jersey and would like to speak with an elder law specialist, book a call with attorney Benjamin D. Eckman. We have offices in the Union, Wayne Hackensack.

Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm of Benjamin Eckman
Planning Today for Your Family's Tomorrow

1767 Morris Ave., Suite 314
Union, NJ 07083

By Appointment Only:

73 Mt. View Blvd.,
Wayne, NJ 07470

1 University Drive, Suite 609
Hackensack, NJ 07601

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Union Office

1767 Morris Ave., Suite 314
Union, NJ 07083

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Wayne Office

By Appointment Only:

73 Mt. View Blvd.,
Wayne, NJ 07470

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Hackensack Office

1 University Drive, Suite 609
Hackensack, NJ 07601

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