Elder law is an often overlooked, but critically important area of legal practice, especially for those whose health or circumstances might prevent them from defending themselves or managing their affairs. While it isn’t necessarily its own independent body of laws, elder law typically encompasses diverse legal issues, including:
Some elder law topics are based on federal law but issues affecting older people can vary by state. This page provides an overview of elder law topics and issues but for your specific needs, it is important to talk to a local elder law attorney in your area.
As people age, it might become necessary to apply for government benefits. Social Security benefits, disability benefits, veterans’ aid, and similar programs might have lengthy applications. An elder law lawyer who specializes in navigating these benefits can help older people to work through the process as effectively as possible.
Senior citizens also may need help with retirement planning. Knowing how to handle retirement accounts, pensions, and similar retirement benefits is another area in which an elder law attorney can help.
Nursing home planning is an area within elder law that can have a significant impact on a person’s life. Your attorney can help you figure out how to handle your assets now in case Medicaid or Medicare isn’t enough to cover the costs of living in a nursing home or receiving other types of long-term care.
Learning about long-term care insurance — and deciding if you need it — might also require guidance from an experienced elder law lawyer.
Seniors who rely upon Medicare for medical care may also be at an increased risk of fraud. For instance, a provider could charge Medicare for services or equipment a patient never used or needed. Individuals committing insurance fraud may also misuse a patient’s Medicare benefits or try to trick seniors into joining Medicare plans.
Some forms of elder abuse involve scams, fraud, and financial exploitation.
These issues cause almost $3 billion in losses per year, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. Most of these incidents occur in the home, but they also happen in facilities like nursing homes.
Perpetrators of financial abuse aren’t always strangers. Caregivers or family members may target senior citizens for their money, property, or decision-making power.
Nursing homes may often be run well, but some are not. When abuse occurs, it can be hard to know what to do or how to prove it. Elder abuse includes:
Care providers, such as nurses in assisted living facilities, might deny seniors their medication or forget to check on them often to prevent injury.
Nursing home staff members who do not intervene in abusive acts perpetrated by nursing home residents may also be partially liable for the abuse or neglect.
Estate planning includes a variety of legal decisions concerning preparations for death and end-of-life care. Instruments used to fulfill your wishes may include:
Some seniors may choose to create a will to distribute their property to their heirs after they die. They can also choose to place assets into a trust. Estate planning lawyers may be able to help senior citizens draft these documents according to each state’s laws.
Creating a will can help your loved ones avoid the pain and frustration of probate. An elder law attorney also may be able to help you properly arrange your assets now to make the process easier for heirs and beneficiaries when the time comes.
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 beneficial.
Any older person who has legal issues related to an area of practice within the elder law area should find an attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced with these specific issues. After all, a person who needs to get a divorce probably wouldn’t call a personal injury lawyer, so a person with an elder law need should stick to an elder law attorney.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified elder lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local elder attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.