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How an Elder Care Attorney Can Prepare Families for the Future

Rudri Patel
June 27, 2018

You watch as your father struggles with his memory and worry about how he is managing his finances and health. When you push to discuss these issues, he says he's fine and dismisses your concern. You know he’s not, though, and there are many open questions around his estate, health decisions and finances.

When a parent resists advice from his or her children, an elder care attorney can step in to help smooth the way. Ideally your senior loved one will work with you, but a senior care lawyer can help navigate these delicate situations if not. Some questions a lawyer can help with include: Who will take care of me when I can’t take care of myself? What happens when I need long-term care? How do I manage my Medicaid benefits?

Taking proactive measures with an attorney on these matters might minimize complications later. Here is a brief primer on elder care lawyers and how they are instrumental in helping your loved one navigate the future.  

Get help: Find an elderly caregiver for your loved one

What does an elder care attorney do?

The primary focus of an elder care attorney is to implement safeguards for quality of life as an individual grows older. Elder care attorneys focus on a holistic approach to aging well through challenging circumstances by addressing long-term health needs, housing and financial issues. This may include discussing the legal implications about guardianship, Medicaid, Medicare claims and appeals, disability planning, estate planning, nursing home issues, elder abuse and fraud, and retirement.

Each state has specific rules on what can and cannot be included in a trust, durable, financial or medical power of attorney, or will. Navigating this complex litigation may be tough for an individual caregiver or family caregiver. An elder care attorney anticipates issues that may come up in the future and helps to plan prior to a crisis.

Elder care lawyers can also step in when discussions about declining health and navigating finances become too heated between family members. They can help ensure that the autonomy of the senior is respected while also addressing concerns of family members.

When should you consult an elder care lawyer?

According to Harry Margolis, the founder of Boston-based law firm Margolis & Bloom and founding president of ElderLawAnswers, families should consider seeking an elder care attorney when you begin to anticipate a need for long-term care of a loved one, or if you are wondering how to qualify for government benefits. If you’re worried about a time when you can’t take care of your finances or other affairs on your own, a consultation with an elder care attorney is advised.

Jody Gastfriend, vice president of senior care at Care.com, talks about finding an elder care attorney in her book My Parent’s Keeper.

"An elder law attorney specializes in the complex legal and financial issues impacting seniors. Most can handle a wide range of issues such as Medicaid eligibility (which can vary by state), estate planning, and the delegation of healthcare decision making in the event of incompetency. There are about ten thousand lawyers in the United States who specialize in elder law, but how do you find one who is the right fit for your family? While it is best to get a referral from a trusted source, there are websites such as the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and Elder Law Answers that provide worthwhile information and a list of elder law attorneys by state.”

What questions should you ask an elder care attorney?

Finding the right elder care lawyer is important, not only for future planning, but for your pocketbook. Margolis recommends the following questions before seeking representation:

  1. How long have you practiced elder law? What is your specialty? Remember some elder care attorneys are versed in Medicaid, while others are experienced in wills, trusts or probate issues. Finding the lawyer that fits your needs is key.
  2. What segment of your practice is dedicated to elder care law? While attorneys typically practice in several different areas of law, you want a representative that is well versed in current developments.
  3. How much will it cost to retain you? Ask about fees at the initial consultation. Although some attorneys may not be able to provide a comprehensive quote without studying your particular issue, they should offer a range of fees for services. Comparison shop between different firms until you find the right fit. Also, ask if you will be charged for phone calls and emails. Some attorneys charge by the hour, while others have a flat fee for representation.
  4. Will you be part of the entire process, including drafting the legal documents and defending them (if necessary) in court? Some attorneys will not litigate in court if a potential issue arises. Discuss whether additional fees are required for appearing in court.
  5. What if I need assistance at home? Do you make house calls? How much does it cost?

Which documents do you need to provide?

If available, the following documents will prove helpful during a consultation with an elder care attorney:

  1. Financial statements, including documentation related to checking and savings accounts.
  2. A copy of last will and testament and a copy of the front and back of Social Security and Medicare cards.
  3. Any trust documents.
  4. Deeds and releases to all real estate property.
  5. Stock certificates.
  6. Life insurance policies.
  7. Divorce documents.
  8. Tax returns for the last three years.
  9. Information about closely held businesses.
  10. Retirement statements.

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Written by Allison Adachi. Updated by Rudri Patel on March 19, 2018.

Comments

This is a great overview of important points to consider, and tips for approaching the touchy topic. Learn from and lead by example though - All of us with parents that we are considering these items, we should be planning ahead for ourselves. AS @ www.alerstallings.com

Geof in New York, NY
Oct. 24, 2017

When a wealthy person dies it often pays for them to hire expensive legal professionals, such as the type of elder law attorney mentioned by elder law expert, Harry Margolis, it's worth millions to wealthy heirs…. Thousands or tens of thousands to middle class heirs – and more importantly, fair estate planning for heirs… and assuring good care giving for a decedent before he or she passes away… critical healthcare issues, long term care; power of attorney; best choice for executor or even a geriatric care manager, etc. etc. Good estate planning, possibly with an elder attorney, covers all these matters and more. And going further, even middle class heirs will go all out to escape paying taxes, or deferring them… Wealthy heirs or beneficiaries go all out to save ten cents in taxes through estate planning. From the other side of the coin, often as a reaction often to poor estate planning; after a loved one has died, during probate… I’m amazed that some heirs find the money to hire their own personal estate attorney or tax lawyer, or Accountant even. They frequently don't have the ability to hire those folks, so they frequently get inheritance money in advance during probate, from an inheritance loan or probate loan… an inheritance cash advance from one of the better known inheritance loan or inheritance advance companies. We’re talking about middle class regular people who want to get good legal counsel, even though they aren’t rich… so they look into extremely fast turnaround inheritance loans, probate loans, loans on inheritance, and inheritance loan advances or probate cash advances funds on a trust, or whatever large inheritance advance or small advance inheritance or probate loan, estate loan or inheritance advance assignment they can get approved for – as a once in a life little windfall…The inheritance advance, probate advance or inheritance loans companies they research are usually well known niche boutique probate advance companies such as www.heiradvance.com, or www.inheritanceadvance.com, or maybe www.inheritancenow.com, or other similar probate loan companies with similar inheritance cash advance services, for estate loans, estate advances, probate loans, inheritance loans, or inheritance advance assignments. So at least some of the have-nots, middle class working stiffs can get the same type of first class legal estate tax counsel that millionaires and billionaires get all the time. And end up paying a whole lot less to the govt.

Geof in New York, NY
Oct. 24, 2017

I have to say -- that even though CJ is right... CJ needs to recognize that not everyone can afford a Daily Money Manager. Especially middle class families struggling month to month to survive.

User
June 11, 2016

Thanks you for sharing article. And he his very difficult situation,from Daily Management money. as well us other daily money matters,Some may also distance for family members. And he his very big difficult situation for any parents and all people.

User
Dec. 17, 2015

My mother has a living trust and has POA for finances and POA for medical. Her physician said she can no longer handle her finances or medical making her trust irrevocable. Adult Protective Services says she can choose not to go to the doctor even if we make the appt. She can live at home even though she doen't take her medication. My siblings who are either felons, tax evaders or dope distributors are fighting to keep her at home. I feel its because they are afraid of losing their cash cow. The three sisters that have taken care of her for years, we own our own homes or have jobs. We don't need our mothers money or home. My three brothers and sister have no jobs no homes no retirement etc. Adult Protective Services doesn't care about any of this. She has dementia. Easily manipulated by my siblings. I am so frustrated. We are the POA's doesn't the law recognize this

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