Elder law attorneys have the opportunity to practice in many areas of the field. While they all deal with issues related to the elderly, elder law attorneys most often find themselves addressing one or more of the top issues below.
Estate Planning and Probate
Most elder law attorneys practice in the traditional areas of estate planning and drafting Wills and Trusts to distribute the client’s assets after their death. The attorney will also typically be involved in the probating of the will, or in cases where clients do not have a will, the intestate estate.
Planning for Incapacity / Guardianship
Many elder law attorneys assist clients in planning for the possibility of diminishing capacity through the drafting of documents such as a Designation of Health Care Surrogates (commonly known as a Health Care Power of Attorney outside of Florida), and a Durable Power of Attorney. For those individuals who don’t plan for incapacity, the elder law attorney may need to assist in the Guardianship Process through the probate or family law court (the court that handles Guardianship matters vary by state). The proposed Guardian, the alleged incapacitated individual, and the Guardian, if appointed, will all need attorneys throughout the Guardianship process, and elder law attorneys fill that need.
Public Benefits Law
A large number of elder law attorneys assist clients with disabilities and other special needs obtain the public benefits they need to lead a comfortable, secure, and successful life. This may include applying for specific public benefits such as Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicare and Medicaid, and Veterans benefits, as well as assisting clients with disabilities to protect their assets through the drafting of a Special Needs Trust. Additionally, many elder law attorneys help younger clients obtain the education they are entitled to under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Finally, many elder law attorneys are involved in ensuring that the rights of the disabled are not infringed upon through civil enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Health Care and Long Term Care Planning
In a modern society where people are living longer than ever before in human history, the odds are that the majority of people will need long term care at some point in their life. Unfortunately, the cost of long term care can be extreme, and Medicare and many other health insurances do not cover long term care. Elder law attorneys help clients prepare for this eventuality in a number of ways including: suggesting steps clients can take now to ensure they are able to remain in their homes for as long as possible, assisting clients in the procurement of long term care insurance or investment into a Continuing Care Retirement Center (CCRC), and increasing the odds that clients will qualify for Medicaid, which does cover long term care, through proper Medicaid planning.
Elder Abuse and Elder Consumer Protection
Some Elder Law Attorneys serve as assistant state attorneys and work closely with Adult Protective Services (APS) to prosecute perpetrators of Elder Abuse and Elder Exploitation. Many more Elder Law Attorneys combat Elder Abuse by assisting clients in the procurement of restraining orders, filing civil suit for Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation, and taking other necessary protective actions, including educating clients about how to protect themselves from abuse, neglect and exploitation.