Elder Law Defined

Elder Law recognizes that older people have a special set of issues to be addressed through the legal system.

Among these are public benefits, retirement, guardianship, insurance including long-term care insurance, estate planning for life and protection from neglect and exploitation.

Some argue that Elder Law started with the passage of the Social Security Act in 1935, but without a doubt, the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 created the public benefits planning side of Elder Law.

The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys was formed in 1987 and Elder Law as a specialized field of law was fully established.

Estate Planning traditionally involved passage of ownership on death and emphasized avoidance of estate taxes. While ownership transfer and taxation remain an important issue, in terms of the number of people affected, public benefits including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid impact far more people.

Of the roughly 2.7 million people who die in a year, there will be only 11,000 estate tax returns filed of which 5,500 will be taxable.  At the same time roughly 61 million people collect Social Security benefits each month, 44 million receive Medicare, and 70 million are covered by Medicaid and CHIP.

Elder Law takes estate planning and refocuses it from planning for death to planning for life. Paying for retirement, long-term health care, and qualifying for public benefits all reside within Elder Law.

Guardianship and planning to avoid guardianship also fall within the scope of Elder Law.

Guardianship is intended to protect persons with incapacity, including persons suffering from dementia or other impairments that endanger their health and finances.  It is a legal proceeding where a person’s decision-making rights are limited and given to a court-supervised guardian.

Elder lawyers represent all parties to a guardianship, the applicant, the ward, other family members. Elder lawyers also prepare powers of attorney, trusts and other legal documents to avoid the need for a guardianship.

If you are a Senior Citizen or are interested in the welfare of a senior citizen, seek the counsel of an Elder Law attorney.

Remember planning works better if you don’t wait for an emergency.