Just as you would undoubtedly not consult with a pediatrician if you needed surgery to remove a brain tumor, you should not consult with a criminal defense attorney if you need your Last Will and Testament updated. Knowing which type of attorney you need, however, can be confusing given that the average person only interacts with an attorney a few times in their entire lifetime. In fact, it can be very difficult to know when the need for an elder law attorney arises given the fact that elder law is a relatively new area of the law.
The Rise of the Older Americans and the Birth of Elder Law
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 the legal issues faced by older individuals increased as well. In answer to the growing need, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, or NAELA, was formed in the late 1980s 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.
How Might an Elder Law Attorney Help Me?
Having never needed an elder law attorney before, it can be difficult to recognize when you do need one or when you could benefit from the advice one can provide. Although by no means an exhaustive list, the following are some common ways in which an elder law attorney can help.
- Estate planning – every adult should have a comprehensive estate plan in place; however, the need for estate planning typically increases with age. By the time you reach your retirement years, your estate plan should be well grounded and all-inclusive. An elder law attorney can help you make any changes or modifications to your plan that are called for as you age.
- 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.
- Long-term care/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 or neglect – as a family member or caregiver, you may come to believe an elderly loved one is the victim of elder abuse or neglect. If so, 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.
Contact Indiana Elder Law Attorneys
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have specific questions about any of the above-mentioned ways in which an elder law attorney might be able to help you, 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.