Aging Options

Should you hire an elder law attorney?

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It’s been at least 10 years since every news agency in the nation began proclaiming the approaching Boomer retirement wave.  So by now you are not surprised that the fastest growing segment of Americans is the elderly.  What that means to those of us who are prone to cynicism is that there are a lot of people looking to aging individuals for their paychecks. 

Some of those people, and I would suggest that it’s most of those people, are legitimate businesses recognizing a need and wanting to provide a service.  Still, it’s tough to not wonder what is chaff and what is wheat.  My grandfather for instance never hired an elder law attorney so the question you might ask is what about today’s environment would suggest that his daughter should hire one?  So I thought we would examine how we got to the point that we have this relatively new law specialty called elder law and provide a few reasons for seeking counsel from an elder law attorney.

What does elder law entail?

Elder law focuses on parts of the law pertaining to seniors but what does that mean exactly.  Why, for instance, can’t you hire any lawyer to create your will and draw up your estate plan?  And the answer is that you can.  However, and this is a big however, someone who isn’t versed in things like Medicare and Medicaid can actually cause unintended affects that can harm your estate.

Medicaid has complex rules and provisions that are ill-understood by the majority of lawyers so that something as run of the mill as a trust requires specific language to undergo and withstand a Medicaid examination.  Why should anyone care about Medicaid?  You probably don’t if you have several million dollars in assets but if you are like most of us, the specter of long term care is hovering over your shoulder.  An uncovered span of time in a nursing home can cost upwards of $100,000 a year or more.  With so many people living 20, 30 or more years after retirement, having one spouse impoverishing the remaining spouse after a long term stay in a nursing home isn’t news anymore, it’s often sadly reality.  Planning the transfer of assets to preserve them without undercutting Medicaid benefits for the remaining spouse requires in-depth knowledge of the process.

No one used to spend any time at all looking at Social Security benefits.  You came of age to claim and then poof like magic you claimed.  But suddenly making an ill-timed decision on when to claim benefits or whose benefits to claim can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars.  When most of Americans admit that their Social Security is a big part of their retirement financial planning, making the right decision about Social Security benefits can mean the difference between living hand to mouth and living in relative ease.

Long term care insurance costs insurance companies and policy holders a great deal of money and aren’t always a great deal for either one so having someone knowledgeable about reading long term policies and making recommendations isn’t just useful, it’s a priority.

Americans are living longer than ever.  Unfortunately, we aren’t living better than ever.  We often spend 10 years or more with disabilities before we die.  Nursing home policies can reduce patient’s rights but often get signed when patients or their family members are under great duress from sudden health issues.  And planning for a time when a disability may become a part of your life can provide the sense of well-being necessary to enjoy life now.

What is an elder law attorney?

Elder law attorneys approach the business of elder law holistically usually incorporating aspects of planning from several professions beyond the legal field including housing, financial, quality of life, long term care and health.  One significant difference between an elder law attorney and an estate planning is that an elder law attorneys seek to preserve your assets for your benefit while you are still alive.  He or she is not trying to make sure that your children get the biggest inheritance you can muster nor is he or she focused exclusively on planning to minimize your estate’s taxes after you die to the detriment of other planning, say long term care planning.

When do you need an elder law attorney? 

Hiring a lawyer of any sort can be a major project in and of itself.  It is even more so with Elder Law Attorneys because many people wait until they are in an emotional crisis situation before looking for professional assistance.  The biggest and most useful suggestion for when to hire an elder law attorney is now.  Before your health is questionable, before you are worried about what’s going to happen if…

How do you hire an elder law attorney?

If you are looking to hire an elder law attorney, ask your friends if they have hired one and get referrals.  Contact the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and once you get a few names, speak with the lawyer directly to find out how long he or she has been practicing, whether or not elder law is the attorney’s specialty and whether there is a consultation fee.  You can also go online and find the attorney’s website and find out what review sites such as and have to say about them.  Do your research before you hire.

Need assistance planning for your successful retirement? Give us a call! 1.877.762.4464

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