Elder Law comprises those areas of the law of most concern to the aging population:
- Guardianship, conservatorship, fiduciary administration
- Estate planning including wills, powers of attorney, and health care proxies
- Medicaid planning and asset protection
Guardianship and Conservatorship
- Conservatorships– It is axiomatic that a competent adult manages their own finances. However, if a person is disabled due to mental disease or is a spend-thrift, we can request that a judge appoint a conservator to manage the disabled person’s finances. The conservator may be family member, friend or an a professional conservator. His or her duties range from paying bills from the person’s checkbook to selling real estate or establishing a trust for tax saving and/or asset protection purposes.
- Guardianship– An almost sacred principle in our country is that a competent adult can make decisions about their own lives. No one can tell another where they can live, what medical care to receive (or if any at all) who they can marry, associate with or how to manage their day to day lives. However, mental disease or injury can make a person unable to make rational decisions about their lives making them a danger to themselves or others. When this occurs, we can request that a judge appoint a guardian. A guardian is a person appointed by a court to make personal, medical or residential decisions for another person who cannot make them themselves. Because this is a serious limitation on one’s personal liberty, the court procedure has strict requirements that must be met in order to be appointed. Over the years, we have gotten many individuals appointed guardians enabling them to take care of their parents, children, relatives or friends. The context is often an elderly or mentally ill parent, sibling or relative who now needs assistance in areas they formerly managed themselves.
- Estate planning is planning for the future in the light of present and future financial and personal goals. One area important to most people is leaving instructions about what we would like to have happen when we are no longer alive. It can also mean planning for the way we would like things to be if we were alive but unable to issue instructions because of a mental or physical disability. Our business is providing our clients with several legal tools so your wishes are carried out if you are unable or unavailable to direct events yourself.
- Power of Attorney– A Power of Attorney is a document in which one person (called the “Principal”)grants to another the legal right to manage their financial affairs. If you need a representative to execute documents when you are thousands of miles away or if you want someone to sign checks and pay your bills for you, a Power of Attorney will provide a legal tool to do so.
- Durable Power of Attorney– While a regular power of attorney gives another person authority to manage your financial affairs, the authority is automatically terminated if the grantor of the power were to become mentally or physically incapacitated due to disease or accident. A Durable Power of Attorney allows the person receiving the power to continue managing a person’s financial affairs even when the Principal is no longer mentally competent.
- Health Care Proxy– (sometimes called a “living will”)–A Health Care Proxy does not confer any financial authority but rather it authorizes one person (the “Health Care Agent”) to make medical decisions for another (the Principal”). It is used when the person who grants the power is unable to communicate their wishes when disease or physical injury make the expression of their wishes impossible. We will make you a Health Care Proxy with as little or as much medical decision making latitude/authority as you wish. We will make your Health Care Proxy highly specific as to what type of decisions can be made and how much discretion you want your Health Care Agent to have. It can be limited to only routine medical decisions such as authorizing a flu shot or shingles vaccination or it can contain directives on end-of -life decisions including “do not resuscitate” or “comfort measures only” orders.
- Wills– A Will is a document that allows a person to exert control over their property when they are no longer alive. We can make your will contain clear instructions on what asset will go to which person or charity and assist to nominate a person to organize the carrying out of your wishes. Wills can also contain instructions about how to discourage beneficiaries in the will from fighting over the inheritance. We are highly experienced at making wills that maximize the chances that a person’s wishes will be carried out exactly as he or she wants them to be.
Medicaid Planning/Asset Protection
- Medicaid Planning– When a person becomes unable to care for themselves due to illness, most people need to at reside in a nursing or rehabilitation facility so they can have 24 hour care specialized care. The cost for nursing homes can be approximately $7,000.00 per month. This can be a financial blow no matter what a person’s income. For some, private paying for a nursing home is simply impossible. For others, private pay is financially feasible initially, however without proper planning their savings are promptly depleted placing the spouse, child or other dependent in a precarious financial position. To enable a person to remain in a nursing home after one’s assets are gone or when one’s assets are minimal, the federal and state governments have established a system (Medicaid) which will pay for nursing home care if a person cannot afford to pay privately.
- In order to prevent a nursing home resident from plunging a spouse or child into poverty, there are numerous programs available to preserve a person’s assets for the benefit of the spouse or children living in the community. The law contains many programs to protect the family home, bank accounts, investments, automobiles, and other assets. We have assisted many individuals and families in planning ahead in this complicated process. We have successfully protected the family home for the surviving spouse and/or child, protected money assets and other property. It’s a complicated process with strict time requirements. Planning ahead is best, but we can also help protect assets in an emergency situation after a person enters a long term care facility with little or not advanced notice.
- Call us to discuss many ways to protect your assets such as Disability Planning, ?Reverse Mortgages, Homestead Declaration and Annuities.
Will Contests/Probate of Estates
- Will Contests– This occurs when heirs have questions about whether the will represents the actual intent of the testator. There might be accusations of undue influence, fraud or a belief that someone exploited the testator when he or she was in a vulnerable state. These accusations can be made by the beneficiaries of will, relatives and/or friends of testator. We have a great deal of experience in representing parties who feel like there has been some kind of unfairness or pressure on the creator of the will. We are equally experienced in defending against these claims/accusations. Whether we are prosecuting or defending a case, we pride ourselves on obtaining the evidence to prove our client’s case and present it in a way to either force a settlement or bring it to trial in a time efficient and cost effective manner.
- Probate of Estates– We have a great deal of experience in probating estates. We are especially skilled and successful in probating complicated and/or problematic cases and can work as efficiently as possible to find lost property, lost heirs, remedy tax issues, and handle any unforeseen issues that can arise and delay the distribution of the assets. In representing parties in the probate of estates our main goal is to provide legal protections for the Personal Representative so they can rest assured that their job has been done correctly and there will be no future liability or problems.