Over the course of your lifetime, you may find that you need the advice or assistance of a variety of different types of attorneys. If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, you might hire a personal injury lawyer to help you pursue compensation for your injuries. If you decide to end your marriage, you would turn to a divorce lawyer to protect your interests during the divorce and if you fall on financial hard times you might need a bankruptcy attorney to help you get out of debt and gain a fresh start. One area of the law with which you may not be familiar, however, is elder law. Because elder law is a relatively new area of the law, you may not know when to turn to an elder law attorney and how one may be able to help you.
The History of Elder Law
The population of older Americans has increased dramatically in recent decades, due in large part to members of the Baby Boomer generation reaching their retirement years. As the number of seniors swelled, the need for attorneys that focused on their legal issues became more important as well. Consequently, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, or NAELA, was formed in the late 1980s as a way to better serve the growing segment of the population made up of older Americans. Five years after the creation of NAELA, the National Elder Law Foundation was formed. The purpose of the non-profit NELF was to help improve the professional skills of attorneys who choose to focus on elder law. Toward that end, NELF then developed a national certification program for attorneys known as the Certified Elder Law Attorney, or CELA, certification program. Attorneys who wish to gain certification in the area of elder law may do so through a rigorous and selective certification program recognized by the American Bar Association and administered by NELF. CELA certification indicates that an attorney has chosen to focus on elder law issues.
How Can an Elder Law Attorney Help Me?
Seniors face many of the same legal issues that their younger counterparts do; however, they also have some unique legal concerns. An elder law attorney might be able to help you with:
- Creating or updating an estate plan. Every adult should have a comprehensive estate plan in place; however, the need for estate planning typically increases with age. By the time you reach your retirement years, your estate plan should be well grounded and all-inclusive. An elder law attorney can help you make any changes or modifications to your plan that are called for as you age.
- Preparing for the high cost of long-term care through Medicaid planning. The high cost of long-term care (LTC) often results in the need to rely on Medicaid to help pay for that care. Qualifying for Medicaid, however, can put your assets at risk if you failed to plan ahead by incorporating Medicaid planning into your estate plan. An elder law attorney can help you create a Medicaid plan or assist with last minute Medicaid planning strategies if you did fail to plan ahead.
- Executing an advance directive. If you have strong beliefs regarding end of life medical treatment, an advance directive is the best way to ensure that those beliefs will be honored. An advance directive can also allow you to appoint an Agent to make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself at some point.
- Addressing concerns that a loved one is the victim of elder abuse. As a family member or caregiver, you may come to believe an elderly loved one is the victim of elder abuse or neglect. If so, an elder law attorney can help you to understand your legal options which may include filing a civil lawsuit against the facility.
- Pursuing guardianship over a parent. If you are concerned that parent (or other elderly loved one) can no longer safely care for himself/herself and/or manage his/her finances, it may be time to consider petitioning for guardianship. An elder law attorney can help you make the difficult decision to become a guardian.
Contact a New York Elder Law Attorney
Please feel free to download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding elder law issues, contact the New York elder law attorneys at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.