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April Showers Bring May Flowers and Elder Law Month

What Is Elder Law?

Elder law is a legal term that refers to a branch of law that focuses on issues affecting the world’s aging population. It is the only area of law practice that is defined by the client it serves. We are showing our support for senior citizens this month. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys has endorsed this proclamation, declaring May to be National Elder Law Month.

What Does Elder Law Entail?

Legal issues affecting seniors are governed by complex regulations and laws that differ from one state to the next. They are also difficult, necessitating a unique understanding of how aging affects a person’s physical, financial, and social well-being.

Elder law is concerned with various life decisions and circumstances that arise during this period of life and how these plans will be carried out after your death. When working with seniors and their family members, elder law attorneys who focus their legal practice on these issues take a holistic approach, assisting them in navigating legal matters in collaboration with a network of professionals.

Many people mistakenly believe that Elder Law only applies to people with complex life situations, such as a disability or special needs, a second marriage, a large estate, or financially irresponsible adult children. Although the field is crucial for seniors in such situations, all seniors must become acquainted with Elder Law and retain an attorney’s services when necessary to protect themselves and their assets from what may befall them in their golden years and beyond.

Elder Law Varieties

Most Elder Law attorneys are not well-versed in all areas of the law, so it is critical to find the right type of elder law attorney when you or your family members require legal assistance. Areas of elder Law include:

  • Long-term care 
  • VA Aid & Attendance
  • Estate and Trust Planning
  • Estate and Trust Administration
  • Guardianships/Conservatorships
  • Special Needs Planning

Planning for Long-Term Care

This type of elder law focuses on the services that seniors frequently rely on to live safely when they are unable to care for themselves. These include nursing homes or assisted-living facilities. Medicaid planning entails repositioning and transferring assets to be eligible for Medicaid nursing-home benefits. Veterans benefits under elder law include meeting the long-term health care needs of veterans of the United States military.

VA Aid & Attendance

In addition to other more well-known Veteran’s benefit programs, like service-connected disability payments and health care benefits, the Department of Veterans Affairs (the “VA”) administers a program. This program pays tax-free cash benefits to older wartime vets and their surviving spouses who need assistance because of the natural disabilities associated with aging. 

Estate and Trust Planning

Estate planning begins with a discussion with your attorney about your family, goals, and assets. It also addresses your concerns about transferring those assets after your death. The conversation may include discussions about possible safeguards for your loved ones, as well as how much influence or control you want to have after you’re gone. Your Elder Law attorney identifies legal strategies tailored to your needs within the estate planning process. The plan may include various techniques and a variety of documents as needed to accomplish your plan’s goals. Estate Planning provides incapacity planning, planning for health care emergencies, minimizing family disputes, and lastly, providing asset protection for you and your loved ones. 

Estate and Trust Administration

This is the methodical process of determining who will inherit your property after your death. It also specifies who will be in charge of ensuring that your final wishes are carried out. It includes disability planning and planning to avoid probate, reduce estate taxes, and protect your beneficiaries from bad decisions and outside influences.

Probate is the court-supervised process for settling the estate of a deceased person. It may or may not be required depending on how your assets were titled at the time of your death.

Guardianships/Conservatorships

Guardianships and conservatorships are fraught with emotion, confusion, and detail. The courts attempt to safeguard the child or adult’s rights while being respectful of the desires of the parents, spouse, children, or other individuals seeking the appointment. There are two primary forms of guardians in Virginia: guardians for kids and guardians for incapacitated adults.

Special Needs Planning

Supplemental Needs Trusts (SNTs) are a type of special needs trust. They are specially crafted to comply with American state and federal law. They are designed to provide benefits to protect the assets of individuals with physical, psychiatric, or intellectual disabilities. This will allow such persons to be qualified for and receive governmental support and health care benefits, including long-term ABD Medicaid benefits.

Where Can I Find an Elder Law Attorney?

The best place to find a lawyer is through the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, a non-profit association founded in 1987. These lawyers have received training and experience in the nuances of elder law. They adhere to a set of “aspirational standards” that hold them to a high standard of professional conduct.

The Legacy Elder Law Center is a member of the Virginia chapter of NAELA. We strive to help seniors remain independent for as long as possible. We protect their life savings against the high cost of long-term care. Our goal is to help our clients enjoy the peace of mind that comes with having a plan in place. Contact us today for Elder Law guidance.