What Is Elder Law?

Elder law includes a large scope of practice. Almost any legal service that a person who is older might need is included in this area of practice. End-of-life planning, wills, trusts, disability claims, elder abuse, Medicare planning, nursing home care, age discrimination, and retirement planning are some areas that are commonly used by an older person.

Estate Planning

Estate planning is one area that older people often need considerable help in. This includes making preparations for end-of-life care, such as making advance directives, living wills and appointing a health care power of attorney. It also includes appointing financial power of attorney, or durable power of attorney, to a trusted individual. On top of those heavy topics, it also includes creating a will, setting up trusts, and deciding how to distribute everything.

Nursing Home Planning and Elder Abuse

Nursing home planning is an area within elder law that can have significant impacts on a person's life. One aspect of this is deciding how to handle assets in case Medicaid or Medicare will be necessary to help cover the expenses of long-term care. Learning about long-term care insurance and deciding if that is needed might also require the help of an experienced elder law attorney.

Along the same lines as long-term care planning is choosing a nursing home. Making a decision about where to live if staying at home isn't possible is one that is best made early. When deciding on a long-term care or assisted living facility, knowing the patient's bill of rights is vital. Once the transition is made to the facility, knowing how to avoid elder abuse or elder neglect is important, as is knowing how to file complaints if either of those incidents occur.

Social Security and Disability

As people age, it might become necessary to apply for government benefits. Social Security benefits, disability benefits, veterans' assistance, and similar programs might all have lengthy applications. An elder law attorney who specializes in these benefits can help older people to work through the process as effectively as possible.

Along the same lines as those benefits is retirement planning. Knowing how to handle retirement accounts, pensions, and similar retirement benefits is another area in which an elder law attorney can help the elderly population.

Age-Based Discrimination

Age-based discrimination is a problem for some people. While this is one area that can be handled by an elder law attorney, it is also an area that might require the help of an employment attorney. With the complexities of federal laws and state laws, having an attorney who is well-versed in age-related discrimination can be helpful. When the issue isn't with an employer, an elder law attorney will likely prove to be the most helpful.

Any older person who has legal issues related to an area of practice within the elder law umbrella should make sure to find an attorney who is knowledgeable in that specific area. After all, a person who needs to get a divorce probably wouldn't call a premises liability lawyer, so a person with an elder law need should stick to an elder law attorney.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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