** This article has been revised from its original version which was published on May…
What is “Elder Law” and Why Should I Care?
What is “Elder law”? According to Wikipedia, it is “an area of legal practice that specializes on issues that affect the aging population”. It goes on further to identify three major categories that make up elder law:
- Estate planning and administration
- Medicaid, disability and other long term care issues; and
- Guardianship, conservatorship and commitment matters
Although elder law can encompass non-legal services, such as social workers, geriatric care managers and psychologists, this article will focus on the legal aspects of elder law.
The Legal Aspects of Elder Law
Elder law is a complex legal field dealing with various issues, including important legal documents such as durable powers of attorney, health care directives, wills and trusts. It may also involve asset protection and Medicaid planning.
In this seemingly constantly evolving field of law, it is important to consult and work with an attorney who focuses his or her practice on elder law. There are attorneys who do elder law and elder law attorneys. An attorney who does elder law may also practice in multiple other fields of law that are not even related to elder law, such a matrimonial law or personal injury law. It is difficult to practice in multiple areas and do all of them well.
Finding an Elder Law Attorney
When searching for an attorney in this area, you should seek out an elder law attorney. Unfortunately, I have met with clients over the years who had previous work done with another attorney who did not focus on elder law. I have had to recommend to clients that the documents the attorney did were either incorrectly done or needed to be changed because the documents did not do what the client thought (for example, the trust that was done may not protect their assets if they suffer a catastrophic illness).
Questions to Consider
- What types of law does the attorney practice?
- How much time is devoted to elder law-related areas of practice?
- What affiliations does the attorney have with elder law-related organizations, such as sections or committees of bar associations?
Why is this important? Because elder law is an area of practice that focuses on your health and the preservation of your dignity and your assets. What is more important than that?
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