What is Elder Law?
The practice of elder law refers to assisting people with the legal aspects of issues that affect all of us in our later years. But many elder law issues should be dealt with before you are elderly.
This elder law issue includes:
- Estate planning
- Health care planning
- Social security and retirement benefits
Individuals and couples should make plans for their elder years, such as establishing wills and end-of-life healthcare directives, while they are healthy.
At Brady Cobin Law Group, our compassionate elder law attorneys can help you with the planning you need to do today so your desires and goals are well documented. There’s no good reason to wait. We are available to answer your questions and help you plan for a secure future.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our experienced Raleigh elder law lawyers.
Estate Planning vs. Elder Law
The easiest way to distinguish elder law from estate planning is to think of estate planning as about your property and possessions and elder law as about you personally.
An estate plan establishes how your assets will be distributed upon your death and who will be in charge of administering your estate when you die or if you become incapacitated. Your “estate” is everything you own or are entitled to, as well as your debts.
A basic estate plan includes:
- Last will and testament, which names an executor of your estate and how you want your money and property distributed.
- Trust(s), which is an option for passing on money that can save your family time and administrative costs
- Power of attorney, which names a person who can make financial decisions for you if you can’t, such as paying your bills and/or investing your income.
A will can also name guardians for underage children, and you can establish trusts to hold and administer specific funds for the benefit of underage children.
We can also assist with estate tax planning to lessen your estate’s tax burden, which, if unchecked, could diminish what you are able to pass on to children or others.
Without proper estate planning, the Probate Court will decide how to distribute your money and property after you are gone.
If you become incapacitated and can’t make financial decisions for yourself, unless someone has the power of attorney to speak on your behalf, it will fall to your spouse if you have one or, eventually, the court.
Issues to Discuss as Part of Elder Law Planning
When we assist you with elder law planning, we can help you establish documents to ensure you are properly taken care of as you age, both financially and medically. By planning ahead, we can help you preserve your financial assets so you can obtain the care you require. We can help you establish:
- Medical directives, which allow you to state in advance what health care you do or don’t want in case of an injury or illness that requires extraordinary life-sustaining measures.
- Health care power of attorney, which names a person or persons who can make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to act on your own.
- Long-term care planning to protect your assets and minimize your liabilities in the case of a long-term illness. This may include long-term care insurance or VA Pension Benefits for Veterans and spouses who qualify.
- Social Security and Medicare planning, including when it’s most advantageous to apply for retirement benefits and ensuring timely registration for Medicare Part B.
- Medicaid planning, so you control how you reduce your assets and income to qualify for Medicaid if and when necessary.
Part of protecting an elder’s assets is fighting back in cases of financial elder abuse. Financial abuse of a senior citizen, through fraud or manipulation, can leave the victim’s finances drained. Our financial elder abuse attorneys can investigate if you see signs of financial abuse of a loved one and bring a lawsuit to recover stolen funds for the elder or for the estate, if necessary.
Guardianship of the Elder Person and the Estate
Without elder and estate planning, if a person without a capable spouse becomes incapacitated because of injury, illness, or advanced age, someone will need to be appointed to look after the incapacitated person. This requires the probate court to find that the individual is incompetent and appoint a guardian.
Preferably, a family member who cares about the individual’s welfare will seek guardianship. Our attorneys can guide you through the process.
A guardian may be appointed to manage the care and custody of a person, including looking after their home and medical care, or as the guardian of the estate, who manages a person’s finances and other business matters. A general guardian assumes all these duties.
Depending on the situation, a guardian may be:
- An adult who petitions for the responsibility
- A corporation under certain circumstances
- A disinterested public agent, such as a county mental health department employee or contractor
Guardianship is a big responsibility, but a guardian has wide authority over their ward’s life. If the person in need of protection has estate planning documents that state who should serve as their guardian, the court will seek to appoint that person or entity and provide the elder adult at least that much control of their life.
How an Elder Law Attorney Can Help
You probably don’t want your fate to be up to a Probate Court judge if something unexpected happens to you. Elder law planning done now ensures that you don’t put yourself and your family through an unnecessary ordeal in the future.
The Brady Cobin Law Group can help you gather the necessary information for your estate planning and walk you through your options. No matter how complex your situation is, or how much planning you need to do, we can work through every step with you to ensure your wishes are fully and legally documented.
Contact us today to start your estate planning.