What exactly is an Elder Law Attorney?
As a practicing elder law attorney, I am often confronted with the most obvious questions; What do you do exactly? How are you any different from an Estate Planning Attorney? My response often leaves these individuals enlightened.
Elder law has become a growing specialty in this country over the past 50 years. The main reason for this trend is the increase in life expectancy of our seniors caused by advancements in medicine and healthcare. Recent statistics estimate that the average man will have a life expectancy of 83 years and the average woman will have a life expectancy of over 85 years. This is an unprecedented trend in history. In order to manage this situation, the federal government has taken on the financial burden of long term care for many Americans and enacted statutes to regulate federal assistance. The result is a labyrinth of rules and regulations that are confusing and difficult to navigate. For this reason, the practice of elder law developed to address the range of legal issues facing members of our aging society such as: housing for seniors, managing financial affairs, paying for medical care, government benefits for long term care, and tax issues related to medical care.
The practice of Elder law consists of navigating the healthcare, government benefits, tax and finance laws that affect seniors in the most efficient and effective manner. A good way of understanding the difference between elder law and estate planning is to explain the primary focus of each. Estate planning focuses on what happens to a person’s assets upon their death, while trying to minimize taxes and efficiently distribute the assets to beneficiaries. Elder law focuses on what happens when one continues to live and has increasing care needs while taking into consideration finances and individual circumstances. An elder law attorney must be well versed in estate planning because it is an important part of long term care planning; however, the converse is not true because estate planning does not typically have the same focus on healthcare and eligibility for government benefits.
It is important that you seek out the right legal professional if you are faced with a legal issue in one of the following areas: financial long term care planning, age discrimination in employment, guardianships, veterans benefit planning, Medicaid planning and applications, special needs planning, and estate planning. Don’t try to navigate this maze alone. Seek the professional advice you deserve.
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