What is Elder Law?
Elder law is a concentration on legal issues faced by senior citizens. These issues include estate planning, planning for mental illness, incompetence, or incapacity, Medicaid and Medicare, social security benefits, planning for nursing home care, as well as other issues generally associated with aging.
Why are these issues important?
If your physical or mental health deteriorates to the point where you are unable to make financial or medical decisions for yourself, this can lead to a number of significant problems.
The most important of these are decisions regarding your person and living arrangements. As you are the only person who can authorize your own medical treatment or admission to a nursing home or other facility, your inability to provide this authorization can be problematic. If you have done no planning, we are generally required to seek the appointment of a Guardian to make these decisions for you. This is a Court process you will want to avoid if you can.
A similar problem arises in the financial world as well. If you cannot sign your name, or are unable to understand that you are signing a check or a sales order or a deed to your home, then such signatures would be invalid. If no plan is in place, a Conservator would have to be appointed. Again, this is a Court process, which is public and expensive.
Using the Health Care Proxy and the Durable Power of Attorney, two simple documents, can avoid most if not all of these problems.
Your agent under a Health Care Proxy generally would have authority to meet with medical personal (doctors and nurses), authorize treatment and make medical decisions. The Health Care Proxy can also be used to authorize admission to a nursing home or other facility, as well as to authorize end of life decision making.
The Durable Power of Attorney can be used for virtually all financial decision making, fully avoiding Probate Court involvement. The agent under a Durable Power of Attorney can sign checks to pay your monthly bills, as well as work with your investment advisers on investment decisions, and also with realtors in selling your home.
We realize that many of our elderly or aging clients may not be able to come to our office. Don’t worry – the whole process can be accomplished from the comfort of your own home, if necessary. Generally, this is a three-step process: first, we will come speak with you in person, and talk about what you need; then we will prepare everything, and mail it to you for you to review; last, we will return to your home to review everything with you in person, before signing the documents.