The older population in the United States has increased rapidly in recent years, and is expected to continue to grow in the coming decades. As the number of seniors swells, legal issues related to the elderly and to those who care for them have taken on a heightened importance. Because the area of elder law is such a relatively new area of the law though, many people don’t even recognize that that need an elder law lawyer when they encounter one of these issues. To help remedy that, a Carmel elder law attorney at Frank & Kraft discusses reasons why you might need and elder law attorney.
The History 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 an Elder Law Attorney Be Able to Help Me?
For seniors and their caregivers, knowing when to seek the advice and guidance of an elder law attorney is imperative. To benefit from an elder law attorney’s assistance, after all, 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 family law. Instead, an elder law attorney focuses on how the various areas of the law impact the elderly and their caregivers. As such, some common reasons to consult an elder law attorney include:
- 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 at point at which you are unable to express those wishes because of Alzheimer’s or another incapacitating condition.
- Veterans benefits – if you are a veteran, or a surviving spouse of one, you may be entitled to benefits that you are unaware of, such as Veterans Aid and Attendance (VA&A). If you do qualify for VA&A, you could receive a monthly monetary benefit.
- 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 – 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 – 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. An elder law attorney can help you make the difficult decision to become a guardian.
Contact a Carmel Elder Law Attorney
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional elder law related questions, contact an experienced Carmel elder law attorney at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule an appointment.