Most people know what an estate planning attorney does, but the term “elder law” can be a little more confusing.  The concerns between the two overlap.  But there are definitely some important distinctions.

The Similarities
No matter how old we are, life can deliver some hard knocks. Most of us hope for the best, but try and plan for the worst. We can get into accidents. Illness can strike even at a young age. Who would we like to be there for us if we can’t speak for ourselves? If we can’t pay the bills? Decide about our health care? Manage our affairs? Both elder law and estate planning attorneys help you choose people you trust to stand in your shoes when you can’t speak for yourself. As adults, we also start families and assemble worldly goods. If we’re thinking realistically, we want to make sure our families are taken care of and document who gets our property when we die. Both elder law and estate planning attorneys help you with those questions. Both kinds of attorneys also know how to protect your estate from tax burdens and to avoid the expense and delay of court proceedings.

The Differences
Elder law expertise becomes more crucial when we get older. We’re living longer, healthier lives – but nobody knows when we, or our loved ones, will get too sick to make decisions or live independently. It’s understandable, but not wise, to postpone thinking about these things. When you put off planning, it can make it more difficult or expensive – and more stressful – later.  For example, arranging affairs for your senior parent can become more troublesome, if your parent begins to lose the mental capacity to sign documents or make decisions that are in their best interest.

Delay or denial can also result in entire savings getting wiped out paying for nursing home care. Misconceptions about government benefits can forfeit eligibility for them. What quality of life can you protect for you or your parent? What housing arrangements can you make as you age and what is available? What is the wisest allocation of financial resources to protect against as many foreseeable contingencies as possible?

This is where elder law attorneys can help. We can help you face these difficult questions with your and your family’s best interests at heart. What we know can go far to spare you distress and anxiety. We know how Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security work. We know and understand retirement income benefits.  We understand health care. We can help guide you to financial arrangements that may be helpful, if you or yours need long-term nursing care or other forms of long-term care and assisted living.  We can also serve as an important resource for finding others in the senior care industry who can help you depending on the circumstances – care managers, senior placement agencies, home health care companies, etc.

These are difficult, complicated questions that require particular knowledge and experience to answer. Elder law attorneys have studied to learn how to help individuals with their planning and special needs as they age. Estate planning is important, but only part of the picture.

If you or a family member need specialized elder law help, please call me.

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