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Elder Law

Elder Law is an area of law that addresses the needs of elderly people, including retirement benefits, probate and estate planning, health care and health management and other issues.  Some of the matters I handle include:

  • Vulnerable Adult Protection Orders (VAPO)

  • Wills

  • Health Care Directives and End of life wishes

  • Guardianship

  • Power of Attorney

  • Special Needs Trusts

  • Medicaid and Long-Term Care Planning

  • Property Agreements (second marriages)

  • Gifting (don’t get too excited adult children because I won’t help with gifting unless it clearly helps my client).

In 2008, I had recently opened my office and was building up my estate planning and elder law practice.  Almost all my first clients were challenging Elder Law matters referred from other attorneys.  There are a lot of these cases…all of us will eventually face a long-term care situation, if not our own disability, then a friend or family member. 

People tend to focus on the difficulties that come up after someone dies, but in reality, the challenges that can exist when someone has a long-term care illness (dementia, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease) can be much more complex in terms of money, time, conflicts and hard decisions.

I am grateful for the perspective I gained with my early elder law cases and to be able to leverage it for my client's benefit.  My work in the area of elder law now falls into the following three rough categories:

  1. Advanced Planning (75%): This may involve a retired couple who last updated their wills when they had minor children.  As they update their wills, I discuss with them long-term care scenarios and planning opportunities that can help reduce the challenges in a long-term care situation.  This planning can be especially helpful for blended families (where there are children from prior relationships).  Documents may involve: (1) Wills with discretionary testamentary special needs trust provisions to protect assets passing to a surviving disabled spouse; (2) Health Power of Attorney; (3) Financial Power of Attorney; (4) Health Care Directive and documentation of wishes for end of life; (5) Community Property Agreement; (6) Burial Instructions; (7) Tangible Property List; (8) Separate Property Agreement to simplify confusion over the management of assets in second marriage situations.

  2. Middle Planning (20%):  This may involve a Special Needs Trust set up by a parent for their adult disabled child receiving Medicaid.  The parent wants planning to provide for their child but does not want the inheritance to go to the disabled child outright (1) because the child may not be capable to manage the inheritance and (2) the inheritance would disqualify the child from important government benefits (such as housing, SSI, Medicaid). 

  3. Emergency Matters (5%...these can be stressful cases and I normally only help former clients with these issues, which is a good reason to work with me on your initial planning):  This may involve the protection of an elderly person through a Guardianship (last resort), power of attorney, or Vulnerable Adult Protection order.  Or one spouse may be suffering from a long-term care illness, which can easily impoverish and degrade the health of the non-disabled spouse.  Medicaid rules allow assets to be preserved in a way that provides for family members in certain situations.  Knowing the rules and taking proper actions can save a family many hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

If you are like me and like to read up on a subject (you made it this far anyway) Washington Law Help has particularly good articles on legal issues facing the elderly.