Negosentro | The very term elder law is relatively new and is increasingly discussed as the country’s population ages. Elder laws pertain to protecting older residents and their families cover a range of topics. Although there are others, three of the major topics routinely addressed with an elder law attorney are estate planning, guardianship, and elder abuse.
Because each state has unique laws in place to protect elderly citizens as well as their families, it’s important to work closely with an attorney well versed in your state’s laws and is always updating his or her knowledge as those laws evolve.
Hiring an Elder Care Attorney
Finding an experienced elder law practitioner will always be important. Whether you’re aging and need advice or are a family member exploring ways to help an aging parent or relative, take the time to review an attorney’s experience dealing with elder law before hiring one. There are a few questions to ask when interviewing elder care attorneys, including:
- What type of experience do you have dealing with elder care issues?
- Do you belong to any elder law organizations?
- How do you determine your fees for elder care law services?
- Are you prepared to deal with the specific types of services needed?
Those are general questions, and it’s entirely possible you will have specific issues and questions to discuss with a potential elder care attorney. Once you’ve located an attorney who meets your needs, it’s time to address specific problems.
Estate Planning and Administration
Estate planning has been around for a long time, but the nuances of modern planning are far more critical than in the past. The primary objective of estate planning is to protect your assets and ensure they’re distributed properly upon your death.
When an elder law attorney discusses estate planning with a client, he or she will ask specific questions designed to define what assets are involved, how they should be dispersed, and to whom they should be given. Of course, the process can quickly become complicated if substantial assets are included and unique circumstances exist.
It’s also important that clients understand estate planning is important for everyone. Even when significant assets are not in play, having a comprehensive estate plan in place makes it possible to settle an estate quickly and avoid disputes among family members.
Understanding the Importance of Guardianship and Having a Power of Attorney in Place
Far too frequently, unplanned events create issues for elderly family members. If an elderly family member can’t speak for themselves or deal with everyday issues, it’s difficult to deal with healthcare and financial issues. That’s why elder care attorneys strongly recommend having a power of attorney document in place so there is no doubt how to proceed should an elderly person no longer be able to make decisions themselves.
Having the proper documentation in place means an elderly person can be assured their affairs will be properly dealt with should something happen. If no power of attorney or guardianship provisions is in place, the courts will assign an individual to act as guardian. That means the elderly person won’t have any say in who is appointed to deal with their affairs.
When significant assets are involved, the need to have a power of attorney document in place is exacerbated. Since there is a potential for a person’s assets to be applied in a way the owner wouldn’t approve of if the courts appoint a guardian, it’s crucial the asset owner takes steps to protect those assets while they’re able. An elder law attorney will recommend solutions to resolve your specific needs.
Elder Abuse is All Too Common
According to the National Council on Aging, elder abuse now affects at least one in ten Americans 60 years old or older. However, it’s entirely possible that number is low, as many cases are not reported. The National Center of Elder Abuse estimates only one in fourteen cases of elder abuse is reported, and other sources suggest even that figure is far too low.
There are numerous types of elder abuse, and attorneys encourage family members to look for any signs an elderly family member is facing abuse at any level. Some types of abuse elder care attorneys recommend family members look for include:
- Physical abuse. This type of abuse is defined as any caregiver or other individuals using a level of force on an elderly person that’s likely to lead to pain or injuries. That’s a broad definition, so it pays for family members to be alert for signs of abuse like broken bones, unexplained lacerations, marks from restraint devices, and sprains or dislocations. However, any unusual injuries should be explored to determine how they occurred.
- Emotional abuse is defined as pain, anguish, or verbal assaults that inflict emotional damage. Again, the broad definition can include a range of actions, including insults, threats, or intimidation. This issue can be difficult to detect, as many elderly people feel threatened and won’t tell anyone about incidents.
- Financial abuse involves illegally taking or using an elderly person’s assets. Common types of financial abuse include forging their signature, using an ATM card without authorization, stealing personal belongings, and altering legal documents. Again, family members often fail to notice this type of abuse before significant harm is caused.
Neglect, abandonment, sexual abuse, and other issues are also regarded as elder abuse and may require family members to obtain help from an attorney. Elder abuse attorneys are increasingly familiar with the tricks used to victimize elderly individuals and suggest strategies to recover funds and ensure the care issues are dealt with.
Are You Ready to Get Legal Help?
Older individuals are strongly encouraged to protect their assets and prepare for medical care issues now rather than waiting. Family members who suspect an elderly family member is being abused in any way should also consult an elder care law expert for advice. Now is the time to act to ensure an elderly person is not victimized.