Have you been thinking about how decisions will be made for you as you age? Do you have complete confidence that your loved ones know your desires and will have the know-how to carry them out? As people age, new issues arise that can be confusing for them and their families. These include such issues as ensuring there will be enough money to pay for needed care, who will make decisions if you are unable to, and what to do when family members disagree about your care. An elder law attorney can help you navigate these issues and prepare for an unknown future.
Elder law attorneys do much more than create wills and other estate-planning documents. Their expertise includes long-term care planning, applying for Medicaid and veterans’ benefits, guardianship and/or conservatorship issues, advance planning for those with special needs, and the like.
Is it time for you to hire an elder law attorney? Here are some reasons it might be:
- You Have Health Issues That May Become Debilitating
Do you know how you want to be cared for if you become unable to care for yourself because of something like dementia? Elder law attorneys understand the options – which may include independent living, in-home care, assisted living, and skilled care – and can help you prepare for any contingency.
- You Are Concerned About Your Financial Resources
It’s natural for you to be concerned about outliving your resources. However, there are proactive steps you can take ahead of time to ensure that this won’t happen. Your elder law attorney can ensure that you receive the help you need without impoverishing yourself or your family.
- You Want to Ensure That Your Wishes Will Be Carried Out
Who will make decisions for you if you become cognitively impaired or otherwise unable to make choices? Before this happens, you need to think about a financial power of attorney and a health care agent. Sometimes, family members disagree about the best course of action. You can even appoint your attorney or another qualified person to make decisions on your behalf so that your wishes are honored.
- You Have Questions About Available Benefits
Elder law attorneys are well-versed in the current laws regarding public benefits that may help pay for long-term care and senior housing. Applying for Medicaid or veterans’ benefits, if appropriate, can be arduous and confusing. A good elder law attorney can handle the paperwork for you and make sure it is done correctly the first time.
How do you find the right elder law attorney?
- Look for someone who is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, which sets standards of professionalism and ethical behavior for its members. You also want someone who specializes in elder law and not someone who just includes this as a small part of a broader practice.
- Ask questions before engaging an elder law attorney: How many cases like yours has the attorney handled? Can the attorney provide references from the local business community? Does he or she have testimonials for current or former clients?
- Be sure to inquire about fees. Does the attorney offer an initial consultation at no charge? Will you pay a flat fee or an hourly rate? What services are included in the fee? Will you be given a proposal for costs in writing?
The issues that you and your loved ones will face as you age can be unpredictable. Your elder law attorney can help you to be proactive in planning for your future.