Attorney. Unless you are one, chances are your skin creeps when you consider hiring one, or yet another, legal professional to represent your interests. After all, you have drafted a will. You may even already have long term planning in place for your loved one. So why, oh why, would you open yourself up to yet another cost, another person... another attorney?!
The answer is because, like it or not, you need one. And not just any legal professional will do if you are caring for an elderly parent. You need an elder law attorney.
What, exactly you may ask, is an Elder Law Attorney? Why do I need one? With a booming population that is aging, it's becoming harder than ever to cope with and navigate the legal system to get the help, advice and representation you may need for your loved one. An elder law attorney specializes in the issues that surround aging including retaining independence, quality of life and financial security.
Elder law attorneys specialize in a wide variety of areas that will help you weave through the legal maze of caring for a loved one, including:
- Advanced Medical Directives (aka "living wills"): a document that clearly states your elderly parents wishes not to receive (or to receive) medical if he can't speak for himself.
- Estate Administration: Tangible property, including litigation of issues between family members and with the government and/or IRS.
- Trusts: A trust allows you to pass assets to beneficiaries upon death. There are two types:
- Living Trusts: Avoids probate and the involvement of the courts.
- Special Needs Trusts: Protect inheritances and settlements that may otherwise threaten your entitlement to Medicaid or Social Security in a legally sound environment.
- Power of Attorney: Identifies a person to make medical or financial decisions if your loved one is incapacitated.
- Guardianship: the appointment of a person who acts in the stead your loved one if he or she becomes unable to make decisions on their own.
- Benefit Planning: Covers all the fun stuff... Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Veterans benefits, disability, retirement funds, 401ks, IRAs, CDs, pensions and more.
- Insurance / Investment Advice: Helps you evaluate options and provides third-party advice on best practices for elder care.
- Business Succession / Tax Planning
- Care Management and Elder Care Counseling
- Senior care abuse
- Emergency needs regarding your senior care charge
So now you know why you need one. Here's how to find him or her. Search the Internet for an "elder law" attorney in your city or area. Ask a friend or the local Administration on Aging office. Finally, when contacting attorneys for interviews, be sure to ask the following questions:
- Is "elder care" (or elder law) the attorney's primary focus?
- How many years of experience does the attorney have with elder law?
- Does the attorney have any special certifications, or has she/he attended recent courses on the issues surrounding elder law?
- Is there a charge for initial consultation? What are the attorney's rates?
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