Do I Need to Hire an Elder Law Attorney?
Every family is unique and may experience its own set of changes and challenges. However, most families eventually find themselves confronting the question of how best to care for and protect its elderly members. Discussions about elder care facilities or dedicated caregivers are not easy, but they are essential. When these conversations do happen, they often lead to estate planning questions. Sometimes, disputes may arise concerning a loved one’s healthcare or assets. When this happens, you may feel overwhelmed with confusion over what is truly best. An elder law attorney can help you with these issues and can advise you on your legal options to protect your aging loved one.
An elder law attorney focuses on handling the specialized needs of older adults. These lawyers can handle matters of finance and estate planning, which can pose unique challenges for seniors.
What Does an Elder Law Attorney Do?
As an elder law attorney, Brandon L. Campbell can advise you on a variety of issues related to the well-being of your senior relatives. These include:
When you or a family member is in declining health, you will want to begin planning for the future. We can perform the type of specialized estate planning needed by older adults. You want your assets to go to your beneficiaries efficiently. Among other things, our firm can help you move your assets into trust, minimizing legal fees and tax liability. We can also advise you on gift and estate tax matters.
Power of Attorney
We assist seniors and families with powers of attorney, which determine who has the legal right to make certain decisions for an elderly person. We help you establish a person to be the authority in handling your or a loved one’s finances. We can also identify if someone has been abusing this authority.
End-of-life care is more important as people continue to live longer. We can help you select someone to communicate your decisions for you, or can interpret your loved one’s wishes as established in an estate plan.
Long-term Care and MassHealth (Medicaid)
We help older adults protect assets from long-term care costs. If you or someone you love requires long term care or becomes disabled, medical costs can quickly stack up. In some cases, these costs can consume your estate’s assets, leaving nothing for your beneficiaries. We can advise you on your options for affording medical care for yourself or a loved one. If a loved one requires long-term care in a skilled nursing facility, we can help you apply for MassHealth benefits to help pay for it.
Guardianship and Conservatorship
If a loved one has become incapacitated, we can petition the court to appoint a trusted person to make healthcare (guardianship) and financial (conservatorship) decisions on their behalf.
Elder Law FAQs
Elder law is an umbrella term that encompasses nearly any legal issue that aging individuals regularly face. In the elder law arena, our office primarily engages in planning to preserve assets from the nursing home, as well as filing and litigating applications to obtain MassHealth nursing home benefits. We also litigate guardianship and conservatorship petitions.
In a nutshell, guardians are appointed by the court to make healthcare related decisions for an incompetent person. Conservators are similar except they are only empowered to make financial decisions for the person. In an appropriate situation the court may appoint someone to fill both roles.
It depends on the circumstances and the degree to which the spouse is mentally impaired. If your spouse executed a properly crafted durable power of attorney and health care proxy giving you the authority to make financial and healthcare decisions you may be able to delay, and possibly completely avoid, seeking court intervention. Note that a failing spouse cannot execute a durable power of attorney or health care proxy if he or she is legally incompetent, in which case court intervention will be required. Also note that simply because someone has been diagnosed with dementia does not mean that they are legally incompetent.
Long-term care can be provided not only in a skilled nursing facility (nursing home) but in many other settings. Home health care is increasingly popular, allowing seniors to remain independent as long as possible. Assisted living facilities offer an intermediate alternative between home health care and nursing homes and provide some monitoring and medical care in a home-like environment. Continuing care retirement communities and retirement communities with memory care units may work well for seniors with fluctuating needs or dementia, as they can move among sections of the community as their health condition changes.
Depending on your age and health, a long-term care policy that covers home health care, assisted living, and nursing home care can be a good option, as these care costs are quite expensive and can quickly deplete a lifetime of hard-earned assets. However, long-term care insurance also tends to be expensive and difficult to obtain and thus is not the right option for everyone.