When Do We Need an Elder Law Attorney?

Consult an elder care lawyer preemptively, to avoid making a panicked phone call in the moment.

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Elder law
Estate planning is a critical part of the retirement planning process. As we kick off the new year, this is a perfect time to ensure that your plan is up to date.
 
Things change over time. That includes our lives, our family, and even the laws that apply to estates. This means the wills, trusts, and other estate documents that protect our families and secure our legacies may need to change, too.
 
With that in mind, we’re thrilled to have Keith McManus, attorney at McManus Estate Planning, back on the podcast. In our conversation, we discussed the downside of not reviewing and updating your estate plan, different ways to protect your biggest asset such as the family home, and the pros and cons of life estates and much more.
 
In this podcast discussion, you’ll learn: 
  • Reasons why a “set it and forget it” strategy can put your estate at risk.
  • How to take advantage of incredible opportunities before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act sunsets in 2025.
  • Why you may want to prepare estate plans to protect young adult children, even if they haven’t accumulated much wealth yet.
  • What it means to create a life estate–and the potential risks and benefits of this approach to retirement.
  • Why there’s no such thing as a cure-all trust–and how this makes estate planning more important than ever.
  • Why you never want to rely on a will as the backbone of your estate plan.

Kiplinger?s article ?When Elder Care Requires Legal Advice? explains that this is when a lot of panicked calls are made to elder law attorneys. These attorneys specialize in planning for the legal complications that can arise in old age. However, seldom do people think to consult one preemptively to avoid making that panicked phone call in the first place.? This issue occurs with more frequency in areas of Massachusetts that have somewhat older populations, like Cape Cod and Plymouth.

Elder care lawyers work in the best interests of the older person, although how that is accomplished may differ. If the senior is competent and contacts the attorney, it can be fairly straightforward. However, if an adult family member or friend is an agent or has power of attorney for an elderly person?and asks for help, the attorney is representing the agent. In any event, anyone who has power of attorney has a fiduciary responsibility to do what is best for the elderly person granting them that authority.

If a power of attorney isn?t in place and the elderly parent is incapable of giving it, the family is required to go to court to have someone appointed as a guardian, which can be a time-consuming option. If a parent is cognitively capable and doesn?t want help, there?s nothing an attorney can do about it.

Although state laws vary, elder law primarily concerns these topics:

  • The client?s wishes and health
  • Family dynamics; and
  • The client?s financial assets and income.

An elder care attorney will also make sure that all important documents are in place and up-to-date, according to state laws. This includes a will, a trust, a power of attorney and an advance directive that includes a health care proxy.

Elder law attorneys also help moderate tough decisions, like when family members can?t agree about how a loved one wanted to be buried.

In addition, elder care lawyers understand the complex laws for Medicaid and VA benefits. An elder care lawyer can speak to many other issues, ranging from long-term care insurance to capital gains taxes.

A key when meeting with an elder law attorney is that you feel comfortable, that you?re not rushed and that your questions are answered.

Reference: Kiplinger (Sep. 15, 2020) ?When Elder Care Requires Legal Advice?

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