Elder Law 101

elder law 101

Elder Law 101

What is Elder Law? And more important, who needs to think about it? This growing field becomes important to more and more people as our population ages. More people are facing issues like end-of-life care and estate planning. Meanwhile, more middle-aged people find themselves caring for older relatives. People of all ages can benefit from learning a few things about Elder Law.



What Falls Under Elder Law?

Simply put, Elder Law comprises all issues unique to the later portions of our lives. For most people, these include estate planning, trust administration and probate, powers of attorney, and health care. Depending on your situation, you may also face issues like long-term care or incapacity, nursing homes, elder abuse, or Veteran’s benefits. Some individuals are getting divorced and/or remarried later in life. These events bring still more legal issues into the picture.

As you age, you want to make sure you can live comfortably. Consider financial, living, healthcare, and all other needs, along with the needs of your family.



Why Quality Legal Help Matters

Elder Law is complex and varies by state. Even at the federal level, things change. The Older Americans Act has been revised fourteen times since President Johnson first signed it in 1965! An attorney must devote significant time to the field of Elder Law in order to keep abreast of changes, especially as the health care system evolves.

If you and your family members live in different states, you may need even more advice. Your respective states of residence may affect the terms of–for example–execution of wills and trusts.

Issues of aging and declining health bring up strong emotions. So in a crisis situation, you and your family may not be able to make the most informed, clear-headed decisions. Work with an attorney to plan ahead. Plan for future illness or disability and changes to living arrangements. (Read more on why the time for estate planning is now.) 

An attorney with experience in Elder Law is likely to be more understanding of the special needs of older clients. In addition, he or she should understand the emotional needs of loved ones. Look for an attorney with significant experience in this area. Before hiring a lawyer, ask whether they are certified through the National Elder Law Foundation.



Considering a Career in Elder Law?

If you are working toward a law career, this area is hot. Chicago Lawyer magazine identified this area as a “growing niche” in the profession.

The American Bar Association suggests taking an Elder Law clinic in law school. They say, “Elderly clients present a unique set of vulnerabilities that can manifest as problems with communication, ambulation, diminished mental capacity, and potential abuse. These specific vulnerabilities demand a combination of patience, sensitivity, zeal and ingenuity, creating a stimulating and rewarding experience for students.” If you are already practicing, seek out certificate programs and membership in dedicated professional organizations.


PHOTO: Steve Buissinne / CC0 Public Domain

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