Over the past several decades, the older population in the United States has grown at a historic rate. In fact, experts predict that by the year 2050, the older population (age 65 and older) in the U.S. will outnumber their younger counterparts (age 21 and younger) for the first time in history. Seniors encounter many of the same legal issues as their younger counterparts; however, they also face some unique legal problems. The legal needs of older Americans created a corresponding need for attorneys willing to focus on them. The result has been the evolution of a new area of the law known as “elder law.” Given that it is a fairly new area of the law, it can be difficult to recognize when you need an elder care attorney as well as what types of problems an elder law attorney can help resolve. To help ensure that you get the advice and guidance you need, an elder law attorney at Frank & Kraft elder law attorney at Frank & Kraft explains four common situations in which you should consult with an elder law attorney.
The Evolution of Elder Law
While seniors face many of the same legal issues as their younger counterparts, they also encounter unique legal issues related to their age. As the population of older Americans began to increase dramatically during the latter half of the 20th century, the need for attorneys that focused on their legal issues increased as well. Consequently, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, or NAELA, was formed in the late 1980s as a way to better serve the growing segment of the population made up of older Americans. Five years after the creation of NAELA, the National Elder Law Foundation was formed. The purpose of the non-profit NELF was to help improve the professional skills of attorneys who choose to focus on elder law. Toward that end, NELF then developed a national certification program for attorneys known as the Certified Elder Law Attorney, or CELA, certification program. Attorneys who wish to gain certification in the area of elder law may do so through a rigorous and selective certification program recognized by the American Bar Association and administered by NELF. CELA certification indicates that an attorney has chosen to focus on elder law issues.
When Might I Need an Elder Law Attorney?
Knowing that there are attorneys that focus on elder law issues is certainly comforting for the older population and those who care for them; however, for an elder law attorney to be of assistance you must recognize the need for that assistance. Unlike other areas of legal specialty, elder law attorneys do not gain expertise in one narrow area of the law, such as criminal or personal injury law. Instead, and elder law attorney focuses on how the various areas of the law impact the elderly and their caregivers. As such, four common reasons to consult an elder law attorney include:
- Medicaid planning – the high cost of long-term care (LTC) often results in the need to rely on Medicaid to help pay for that care. Qualifying for Medicaid, however, can put your assets at risk if you failed to plan ahead by incorporating Medicaid planning into your estate plan. An elder law attorney can help you create a Medicaid plan or assist with last minute Medicaid planning strategies if you did fail to plan ahead.
- Nursing home abuse – if you believe an elderly loved one is the victim of elder abuse or neglect, an elder law attorney can help you to understand your legal options which may include filing a civil lawsuit against the facility.
- Guardianship/conservatorship – if you are concerned that an elderly loved one can no longer safely care for himself/herself and/or manage his/her finances, it may be time to consider petitioning for guardianship/conservatorship. An elder law attorney can help you make the difficult decision to become a guardian/conservator.
- Incapacity planning – as a senior, you should incorporate an incapacity planning component into your estate plan to ensure that your wishes will be honored if you reach a point at which you are unable to express those wishes because of Alzheimer’s or another incapacitating condition.
Contact an Indiana Elder Law Attorney
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions about an elder law issue, contact the experienced Indiana elder law attorneys at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule an appointment.
Mr. Kraft assists clients primarily in the areas of estate planning and administration, Medicaid planning, federal and state taxation, real estate and corporate law, bringing the added perspective of an accounting background to his work.