What is “Elder Law?”

By Leu & Peirce Elder Law Attorneys

“Elder Law” is a relatively new area of focus within the legal community. Attorneys who practice Elder Law have committed themselves to helping seniors plan for the issues they will face as they age. In recent years, the demand for attorneys focused on this area of the law has only increased. With 10,000 people turning 65 every day and advancements in medical technology allowing people to live longer than ever before, access to long-term health care is becoming increasingly more complicated and expensive.

Attorneys who primarily work with seniors appreciate the complex financial, social, and health-related decisions their clients face. Elder Law attorneys bring to their practice a unique knowledge of their client base that allows them to provide a roadmap for the aging process, coupled with compassion for the inevitable difficulties along the journey. Moreover, Elder Law attorneys often have connections to a community of support agencies and organizations, such as geriatric care managers, psychologists, and other professionals who may be of assistance to seniors and their families.

Elder Law encompasses many different fields of law, including the following:

Estate Planning. Everyone should plan for the future, regardless of their income or asset level. Books and websites with pre-printed forms are not always up to date, and documents available from these sources may not work in your state or meet your goals. Elder Law attorneys have special training and expertise in estate and disability planning and are sensitive to the special needs of seniors and their families. A comprehensive estate plan includes several documents that work together to ensure that your wishes are followed and that trusted individuals are in place to assist you if you are no longer able to act for yourself, including the following:

  • A Will declares your intentions regarding the distribution of your property after you die. 
  • A Durable Power of Attorney appoints an agent to act on your behalf regarding financial and legal matters.
  • A Medical Power of Attorney appoints an agent to make health care decisions for you, if you are unable to do so yourself.
  • A HIPAA Release and Authorization names individuals who may access your health information. 
  • A Directive to Physicians (Living Will) provides direction to your agent under the medical power of attorney regarding your desires concerning life-sustaining treatment.
  • A Declaration of Guardian names individuals you trust to be appointed your guardian, if necessary, as well as individuals who should never be appointed.

Public Benefits (Medicaid/VA). Available healthcare choices depend on your specific situation and needs. Elder Law attorneys can help ensure the proper level of care and explore payment options and eligibility for public benefits.

Guardianship. If you become unable to make important decisions for yourself, or are subject to exploitation by unscrupulous people, it may be necessary for a court to appoint a guardian. Elder Law attorneys can help you determine if a guardianship over your loved ones is necessary or whether other alternatives are available.

Probate/Estate Administration. After the death of a loved one, the legalities involved in distributing the estate can seem overwhelming. If title to assets needs to be transferred, a probate proceeding will usually be required. The type of proceeding depends on whether a valid Will exists, the details of its terms, the existence of debts, and the value of the estate. Elder Law attorneys can help you understand and evaluate your options.

Elder Law attorneys specialize in assisting seniors and their families address the complicated legal issues related to financial and medical care. Because of their concentration in this area, attorneys whose sole focus is Elder Law are more likely to have the legal tools and techniques necessary to meet the objectives of an older client. The Elder Law attorneys at Leu & Peirce, PLLC believe that education is one of the greatest benefits we can provide our clients and their families.  Arming our clients with knowledge about options available to meet their care needs allows them to move through the aging process with confidence. If you or someone you love needs to visit with an Elder Law attorney, referrals can be found through local agencies and support programs, such as the Alzheimer’s Association, State or local Bar organizations, or the website for the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (www.naela.org).

Lori A. Leu, Erin W. Peirce, and Lauren E. Olson are Elder Law attorneys with Leu & Peirce, PLLC in Plano, Texas.  For more information, call 972-996-2540 or visit www.leulawfirm.com.