Legal Services for the Elderly: Where and When to Start

Older adults will eventually encounter age-specific issues which can require legal services. But at what point should you seek legal advice, and for which situations? Is it to make end-of-life decisions or for income-related advice and support? Perhaps it is due to hardships related to consumer-related problems because unfortunately, many seniors fall prey to scams such as fraud, identity theft and other crimes. Seniors are faced with important and often vital end-of-life decisions that require the expertise of a professional.

When is it time?

Older people occasionally, sometimes more often, have to rely on others for things related to their daily activities. This can make the elderly more susceptible to things such as elder abuse, which can be in the form of physical abuse, neglect, or even telephone scams designed to take advantage of vulnerable older adults. Fortunately, there are laws that protect the elderly from such abuse, and if you or a loved one ends up in a situation like this, it’s time to call a lawyer.

Maybe its time to think about end-of-life arrangements such as an advanced directive, a living will, power of attorney, funeral planning, or estate planning. Whether it’s a living will, which specifies what healthcare-related actions you want taken if you’re unable to make decisions due to  temporary or permanent incapacitation, or whether you want to plan for the future financially, an attorney who specializes in elder law should be contacted.

Living wills and advance planning for the elderly

It’s wise to protect your property and assets by having a will even if you don’t have a large estate or a lot of money. The main reason is to ensure that your property and valuables go to the person or persons that you choose. If a will has not been drafted, the property can be distributed according to their state’s laws.

Preplanning for a funeral can take a huge burden off of family members; it offers emotional and financial security for seniors and their loved ones. Since 2000, The National Funeral Directors Association now follow a Bill of Rights for funeral contracts, which serves as a resource to understand what to expect from preplanning your funeral. However, before signing any funeral arrangement contracts it is important to have a legal professional look over the documents.

Where do I Look for Legal Advice?

Where are the experts that can help a senior with end-of life-concerns? In the early 2000’s the specialty of Elder Law surfaced, which is devoted to the issues that seniors face. Elder law encompasses all aspects of planning for aging, illness and incapacity such as:

  • Health and personal care planning, which includes powers of attorney and living wills, lifetime planning and family issues.
  • Fiduciary (financial) representation, financial planning, housing opportunities and financing, income, estate, and gift tax matters.
  • Planning for a well spouse when the other spouse requires long term care, asset protection, public benefits such as Medicaid and insurance, and Veterans’ benefits.
  • Capacity, guardianship and guardianship avoidance.
  • Resident rights in long-term care facilities and nursing home claims.
  • Employment and retirement matters, age or disability discrimination and grandparents’ rights.
  • Will and trust planning, planning for minor or adult special needs children.

There are a number of situations in which you may find yourself in need of an elder law attorney. In general, however, the sooner the better is the rule when it comes to making plans for the future. It’s wise to sit down with an attorney even in mid-life or sooner to discuss things such as advance directives and wills in case of unforeseen events. The better prepared you are now, the more you can enjoy your golden years knowing all your end-of-life decisions will be carried out.

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