It can be uncomfortable to think about, but aging is an inevitable part of life. An elder law attorney can provide peace of mind by helping ensure that your loved one is well-prepared to meet the challenges of growing older.
Understanding the Difference Between Elder Law and Estate Planning
Many people mistakenly think that all a senior citizen needs to be prepared for the future is an estate plan. However, elder law is a distinctly different area of legal expertise.
An estate plan provides guidelines for distributing a person’s assets while taking steps to minimize the impact of gift and estate taxes. It also includes healthcare and financial power of attorney documents that give another person the authority to make decisions if a senior is unable to speak for themselves due to illness, injury, or other incapacity.
All adults need an estate plan, regardless of their age, income, or marital status—but this is just one piece of the equation. An estate plan doesn’t address the need for increasing care as a person ages, which is where elder law can help.
Elder law takes a more holistic look at what it means to age with dignity. An elder law attorney works with seniors and their families to create a personalized plan that protects assets while allowing access to the care they need to live comfortably no matter what the future may hold. The three main areas of elder law are life care planning, Medicaid planning, and long-term care planning.
Life Care Planning
Life care planning helps seniors understand their choices as they face the physical and cognitive impairments associated with aging. This might involve selling a home to move closer to a family member who can provide care or purchasing a smaller property that will allow a senior to continue living independently. It often involves looking at assistance programs that are available to provide in-home care or other necessary medical services.
Unfortunately, you can’t count on Medicare to pick up the tab for a nursing home stay. Because 24/7 care in a nursing home is very expensive, the vast majority of seniors in the United States rely on Medicaid benefits to access the care they need. Medicaid has strict income and asset requirements, but careful planning can help a senior preserve as many assts as possible while still qualifying for help with care costs. Medicaid planning is vitally important when a spouse will remain at home, but it can also be beneficial when a senior wishes to leave a legacy for their children and grandchildren.
Long-Term Care Planning
Long-term care planning focuses on the steps a senior can take to make their care more affordable. This includes estimating the costs of different long-term care options, learning about eligibility for programs such as Aid & Attendance benefits from the VA, purchasing long-term care insurance, and using investments to self-fund the cost of care. It may also include steps to protect the financial well-being of a spouse or an adult child who has left the workforce or scaled back their hours to provide care. Long-term planning overlaps with Medicaid planning, so it is important to work with an attorney who is equally skilled in both areas.
It’s Never Too Late to Make a Plan
Under ideal circumstances, a senior would visit an elder law attorney to create a plan well before extensive care is needed. However, an elder law attorney can still help if you are in the middle of a crisis situation due to a sudden health challenge. Although a senior’s planning options are more limited if they wait until they have an immediate care need, there are still steps that can be taken to protect assets and access the appropriate assistance programs. We encourage you to contact Alperin Law today to discuss your options in greater detail.
Do You Need to Speak With an Elder Law Attorney?
If you need to speak with an experienced elder law attorney, please contact us online, or call our Virginia Beach office to schedule your free consultation. We have offices throughout Virginia, including Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk, and Suffolk.