Elder Law is defined as the practice of law with a concentration in issues that affect senior citizens and their families. An Elder Law Attorney handles a range of issues that focus on the needs of the elderly, working with tools and techniques to meet specific goals and objectives. This holistic approach includes:
- Estate planning and asset preservation
- Long term care and Medicaid planning
- Accessing various benefits and programs to pay for care options
- Preparing and executing living documents that prepare for possible incapacity and allow for seniors to choose trusted alternative decisions makers
- Addressing and locating appropriate types of care services, coordinating private and public funding resources to finance the cost of care
- Advocating for clients’ rights to quality care
Medicaid & Asset Protection
It may be common knowledge that nursing home care is very expensive for individuals and their loved ones but most families are misguided in believing that they would “never qualify” to receive MassHealth benefits. Generally, Medicare does not cover the cost of nursing home care beyond a certain number of days. This can be offset by long-term care insurance which is rarely purchased as the premiums can be cost prohibitive and only increase with age. MassHealth is Medicaid in Massachusetts and for qualified individuals may cover the cost of nursing home care. It can even pay for some assisted living and care at home or in the community (also known as Community MassHealth). Despite the belief that most clients have, it may be possible to qualify for MassHealth and receive benefits
The following situations require immediate action and are an impetus to Medicaid planning and sometimes are addressed in preemptive estate planning as well.
- Family member transferred to rehab or nursing home
- Diagnosis of long term illness (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, M.S.)
- The passing of a parent/spouse
- Preemptive asset protection plan require a five year lookback
Preemptive Estate planning is executing a plan to create legal documents so that a trusted family member or friend could make legal and financial decisions on your behalf. It gives those trusted individuals the legal ability to carry out your stated goals, desires, and needs should an unexpected event occur which would render you incapacitated or otherwise unable or unavailable to make informed decisions. Proper legal documents may include:
- Health Care Proxy
- HIPAA Medical Release
- Durable Power of Attorney
- Last Will and Testament
- Deed(s) with Retained Life Estate
- Medi-Will with Testamentary Trust
Guardianship & Conservatorship
A Guardian and or Conservator are probate and family court appointments. A Guardian has the legal authority to make legal and healthcare decisions for a particular individual. A Conservator makes financial decisions for a particular individual. The necessity of these court appointments can be generally avoided with proper estate planning documents. While it may be possible to avoid these appointments, sometimes that may not be the case. In those instances, we can assist individuals in obtaining these appointments so they may assist their loved ones in a time where they are unable to help themselves.
The probate process is needed if a deceased individual's assets do not otherwise pass through a trust, joint ownership or contract (i.e. life insurance or beneficial listing on a retirement account or annuity). Having a Will only DOES NOT avoid probate (in fact usually requires a probate). Probate is in essence the court process to marshal, administer and disburse a deceased individual's assets. The probate process can be daunting and overwhelming to individuals who recently lost a loved one. We are here to provide guidance through the process as the responsible individuals administer the Estate. We can provide assistance though each step of the way, from the filing of the petition with the probate court through the administration if necessary. After acquiring the appointment from the court, we can assist you with managing trusts, setting up Estate bank accounts and administering the estate. Please be aware that the probate process can be avoided with the creation and implementation of a proper estate plan.
Special Needs Planning
Estate planning is crucial for parents who have children with special needs. While each child is unique in their circumstances and level of care and financial needs, we assist clients in custom tailoring their estate plan to reflect these needs. Parents and individuals in these circumstances are faced with very hard decisions. They must choose individuals who will care for their loved ones in a worst-case scenario. We assist clients in these situations with trusts and other estate planning documents to ensure that their special needs children are cared for.