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What Is Elder Law?

What Is Elder Law?

Elder law is a specialty of law that is designed to meet the needs of older clients and those with disabilities. Many elder law cases focus on the clients and family’s goals of obtaining the highest quality care for a loved one in the least restrictive care setting.

Elder law attorneys also have specialized knowledge regarding special needs trust. This allows families with special needs children or grandchildren to have flexible estate plans that results in the special needs beneficiaries maintaining his or her entitlement to public benefits (such as Medicaid) while preserving the special needs trust as an important source of family funds to assist in meeting the needs of a disabled family member.

As well as care coordination, elder law practitioners are skilled in accessing all available public benefits to assist in financing the cost of long-term care, including Medicaid, Medicare, Veterans Benefits, Long-Term Care Insurance, and smart use of our client’s assets for private pay.

Elder law attorneys also are familiar with housing and residential care options such as adult day services, assisted living, continuing care retirement communities, nursing homes, and hospice, as well as interfacing with the providers in those settings to ensure that the client’s goal of self-determination is met.

Many elder law attorneys are called upon to assist families in financial and health care decision making through the use of durable powers of attorney, health care, and end-of-life decision making and many times will provide family training for advocacy in these new roles.

Elder law attorneys are well equipped to provide probate and estate administration services. Many clients are often surprised to know that elder law attorneys regularly counsel clients of all ages, who are very healthy, but wish to proactively manage the possibility of any disability issues that might arise and jeopardize their well-being and their financial security.

State laws are very specific about what can and cannot be in a will, trust, advance medical directive or financial power of attorney; who can and cannot serve as a personal representative, trustee, health care surrogate or attorney in fact; who can and cannot be a witness to a will, trust, or medical or financial power of attorney; and what formalities must be observed when signing a will, trust, or medical or financial power of attorney.

And even though Medicaid is a federally authorized program, states are tasked with administering Medicaid at the local level, and the laws and rules governing Medicaid vary greatly from state to state.

Myrna L. Fawcett is a member of the District of Columbia, Mary­land, New Jersey, and New York bars, and of the National Academy of Elder Lawyers.