What Is The Difference Between Elder Law And Estate Planning?

The legal fields of Elder Law and Estate Planning offer vital services to individuals and families, yet they are not one and the same.  In North Carolina, the Brady Cobin Law Group believes in making complex legal concepts accessible to everyone. So, let’s dive into the key differences between Elder Law and Estate Planning, ensuring you’re well informed about what legal services you might need.  

A Focus on Senior Rights and Needs in NC

Elder Law is an area of legal practice focusing on issues affecting the aging population. This practice area addresses a wide variety of concerns specific to older adults. At its core, Elder Law deals with individuals’ legal, financial, and healthcare needs as they age. In North Carolina, this can encompass:

  1. Legal Protection for the Elderly includes guardianship, physical and financial abuse, and fraud protection.
  2. Assisted Living/Long-Term Skilled Nursing Facility Planning: We assist with long-term care planning, including Medicare, Medicaid, and other public benefits that can assist with the costs associated with long-term care. Much of the aging population mistakenly believes that they earn too much or have too many assets to be eligible for assistance with long-term care; however, many senior citizens are surprised to find that they can qualify for assistance with some carefully executed strategies and planning.  
  3. Financial Planning for Later Life: covers retirement planning, social security, and managing assets to ensure financial security and long-term care needs, whether that is in the comfort of your own home or in a facility.

Securing Your Legacy

Estate Planning is a critical process for anyone looking to secure their legacy and ensure their wishes are respected not only after their passing, but as they age. In North Carolina, this process involves several key components, each playing a vital role in the management and distribution of assets. Let’s delve into these components in more detail:

  1. Wills and Trusts:
    1. Wills: A will is a legal document that specifies how you your assets are to be distributed after your death. It can include instructions on who should inherit your property, who will be the guardian of your minor children, and even your preferences for funeral arrangements. In North Carolina, for a will to be valid, it must meet specific legal requirements, including the presence of witnesses during its signing.
    2. Trusts: A trust is another estate planning tool where you transfer assets into a trust to be managed by a trustee for the benefit of your designated beneficiaries. Trusts can be used to manage assets both during your lifetime and after your death. They offer several benefits, such as avoiding probate, potentially reducing estate taxes, controlling how and when assets are distributed, and maintaining privacy regarding your estate.  In addition, certain Trusts can protect assets from being considered as countable for Medicaid eligibility purposes.  
  2. Healthcare Directives:
    1. Healthcare Power of Attorney: This document enables you to appoint someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you cannot do so. This person, often a trusted family member or friend, will have the authority to make decisions that align with your stated preferences.
    2. Living Wills: Often a part of the health care power of attorney, this directive allows you to state your wishes for medical treatment in case you become incapacitated and unable to communicate your decisions. It can outline which life-sustaining measures you want or don’t want.
  3. Power of Attorney:
    1. Durable Power of Attorney: This legal tool allows you to designate an individual to handle your financial and legal affairs if you’re unable to do so. Unlike a regular power of attorney, a durable power of attorney remains in effect if you become incapacitated.
    2. Springing vs. Immediate Power of Attorney: A springing power of attorney “springs” into effect under specific circumstances that you define, typically upon two physicians declaring you are incapacitated.  Your agent cannot act until the circumstances have been met. An immediate power of attorney, just like it sounds, is effective the moment you execute it, giving your agent the power to act immediately.  
  4. Understanding North Carolina-Specific Laws and Regulations:
    1. Estate planning in North Carolina requires an understanding of state-specific laws and regulations. This includes knowing how estates are taxed, the process of probate, and how state laws might affect the distribution of your assets.
    2. It’s also important to consider how North Carolina law treats out-of-state documents. If you’ve moved to North Carolina with existing estate planning documents, they may need to be reviewed and possibly revised to align with state laws.

Contact Us, Brady Cobin Law Group

At Brady Cobin Law Group, we pride ourselves on our approachable, client-focused service. Whether it’s guiding you through the intricacies of Elder Law or helping you craft a comprehensive Estate Plan, or both, our goal is to provide you with peace of mind and clarity. If you’re looking to secure your future or the future of a loved one, we’re here to help. Call us at (919) 782-3500 or online to speak with a compassionate Raleigh and Wake Forest elder law or estate planning attorney. At Brady Cobin Law Group, we’re committed to meeting your legal needs with experience and empathy.