Elder law may not be on your radar yet. However, if you live long enough, it will be. May is designated as National Elder Law Month and is sponsored by The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) specifically to draw attention to legal issues related to seniors and their families. As you or your aging parents encounter an increased need for legal and financial assistance, you will find elder law attorneys can help with a wide range of legal topics, including healthcare directives, financial powers of attorney, long-term care planning, Medicaid planning, guardianships, special needs planning, and similar matters.
You or your parents may not feel the urgency for legal guidance in any of these areas today, but with the passing of time, it will become more relevant. There is significant risk involved by waiting to develop a long-term care plan. If you wait until the point when you realize an elderly parent can no longer manage his or her money, or their health has declined so much that immediate intervention is necessary, then the pressure is suddenly on to act quickly to prevent significant losses, which often results in higher costs and more difficulty in the planning process. Rarely are optimal decisions made in high-pressure situations. Advanced planning provides you the peace of mind that in the event of something unforeseen, you have a plan in place that will immediately meet the needs of the senior. It also is especially important for adult children who live at a distance from their elderly parent and cannot respond immediately in a crisis.
What are the key questions you should ask yourself or your aging parent when considering estate planning and long-term care planning?
• Will there be sufficient funds at retirement to support a physically and financially healthy lifestyle? (Do you know the anticipated expenses associated with retirement, assisted living, and/or nursing home care in your area? What resources are available in your area?)
• Is there an estate plan prepared, including planning for the management of the estate during lifetime and its disposition after death through the use of trusts, wills, powers of attorney, and other planning documents?
• If an estate plan exists, has it been reviewed and/or updated within the last 5 years to take advantage of new legislation or tax laws?
• Is there a plan to preserve and/or transfer assets, while avoiding spousal impoverishment when a spouse enters a nursing home?
• Does a disability plan exist, including use of durable powers of attorney, living trusts, and/or “living wills” for financial and health care decision-making in case of incapacity?
You should seek the advice of an elder law attorney if you, a spouse, or a parent:
• is expected to need long-term care;
• is no longer competent to handle their own finances or medical care (i.e., may have been diagnosed with a memory disorder); or
• if you believe you may outlive your funds and require assistance through the Medicaid program.
An elder law attorney can explain the options available to you and help you prepare a plan that meets your goals and your budget.
For more information on long-term care or Medicaid planning, contact Davis & McCann, P. A., Dodge City, KS. We are members of Wealth Counsel, a national consortium of Estate Planning Attorneys and NAELA. We focus our practice on providing clients with the best legal advice on estate planning, Medicaid and Long-term Care Planning, Family Business/Small Business Succession Planning, Probate, Trust Administration, Real Estate Transactions, and related matters.
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