By Lori Leu, Erin Peirce, and Lauren Olson
During the holiday season, we are reminded that the gifts we cherish the most don’t come wrapped in a box. Rather, it is the time we spend with loved ones that makes the greatest present of all. As you celebrate the holidays with friends and family, sit down with the seniors in your life to discuss their plans for the future. There is more to planning for the future than just an estate plan, and informing your loved ones about Elder Law topics will put them in control and give them peace of mind. After all, Elder Law is first and foremost about empowering seniors.
Elder Law is not a new type of law, but it is a relatively new way to bring several areas of law together to benefit a particular group of people––older adults. Elder Law services enable you to make your own choices and decisions about managing life as you age. Everyone wants to have some control over the future, and Elder Law helps you do just that. The main areas of Elder Law include planning for your living arrangements, financial well-being, healthcare options, and ultimate disposition of assets. Helping seniors learn about these Elder Law issues may be the most valuable gift you give this year.
Opening a conversation about aging and care can be overwhelming. Consider starting with these important topics:
Housing – No one knows exactly what the future holds, but the key to feeling secure is to keep all of your options open. There are a wide range of living arrangements for seniors, from retirement communities to assisted living facilities to skilled nursing facilities. Some people want to stay in their own homes as long as possible and bring in outside help to make that possible. Others want the freedom from home maintenance that a senior residence community offers. Elder Law services can help you weigh all the options and make sure you have the right plans in place for the future.
Finances – Money matters can be especially complex for seniors. It’s important to plan carefully and preserve your assets for when you need them most. Will your Social Security, pension, or other retirement fund be enough to pay all of your expenses? Will you be eligible for public benefits such as Medicaid or Veterans benefits? Have you designated individuals to act on your behalf in financial and legal matters through a proper Durable Power of Attorney so your finances can be protected if you cannot act for yourself? Elder Law encompasses all of these decisions within the context of planning for long-term care.
Health – Healthcare in the United States has become one of the most confusing and uncertain issues we face. If you have private insurance that covers medical expenses or long-term care, you need to be sure that changing laws and regulations won’t affect your coverage. If you rely on Medicare and a Medicare supplement or, alternatively, a Medicare advantage plan to pay your healthcare costs, do you know what your benefits will cover when you need them? Elder Law includes these issues, and can help you outline your wishes for health decisions through a Medical Power of Attorney and Advance Directives.
Disposition of Assets – Elder Law includes estate planning issues such as wills, trusts, special needs trusts, and property transfers. As time passes and circumstances change, it is often necessary to make changes to your plans to control the disposition of your assets during your lifetime and after you pass. Further, depending upon the government benefits for which you may be eligible, changes may be needed to ensure your long-term desires are met. Elder Law considers the importance of planning to preserve assets and maintain eligibility for public benefits.
As this holiday season approaches, consider having a heart-to-heart with your loved ones about these important Elder Law issues. The peace of mind for your family will be the gift that keeps giving for years to come.
Lori A. Leu, Erin W. Peirce, and Lauren Olson are Elder Law attorneys with Leu & Peirce, PLLC in Plano, Texas. They help clients sort through these issues every day and can be reached at 972-996-2540.