5 questions an elder law attorney can help you answer
It’s a simple fact of life: Death is inevitable. That’s why many people make a will or living trust with instructions for what to do with their possessions after they die. But even if death may be a long way off, we get older every day and the aging process presents challenges for us while we’re still living. That’s where an elder law attorney can help.
While estate planning addresses what happens after you die, elder law deals with what happens in the later years of your life. For example, many people experience health problems as they get older. Even if you feel great now, you may need some level of ongoing medical attention in the years to come.
Where you will receive that care? Who will provide it? How will you pay for it?
These are all questions an elder law attorney can help you answer. Here are a few more questions to ask an elder law attorney:
• Where am I going to live? Many people hope to live at home as long as possible. But if that’s not an option, there are living communities where you can age in place – from independent living to assisted living to nursing care. An elder law attorney can help you explore living options in advance and plan for managing the costs.
• How am I going to pay for long-term care? Nursing care can cost thousands of dollars a month, and Medicare will only cover short-term stays. An elder law attorney can help you plan for meeting the cost of long-term care for yourself or a spouse without going broke, and help you qualify for government programs that reduce your out-of-pocket expenses for nursing care.
• Should I buy long-term care insurance? Although you don’t have to be poor for Medicaid to pay your nursing care bills, it still might be wise to buy long-term care insurance. For a steady monthly premium, you can have coverage that pays for care when you need it. An elder law attorney can help you decide when to get insurance, based on your unique personal financial and health situation.
• How will I care for my child with special needs? In the event you pass away and are no longer able to care for a child with developmental disabilities, you should plan for where your child will live and who will supervise his care. An elder law attorney can help you draft a letter of intent that includes caregiving details unique to your child. It’s also important to establish a special needs trust, which lets you designate money or life insurance proceeds for expenses that go beyond daily living necessities. With a special needs trust, you can fund your child’s comfort and lifestyle without affecting his eligibility for government benefits.
• What if I become incapacitated? If you are ever unable to make decisions about your own health or finances, then it will be much easier on your family if your wishes are already spelled out. An elder law attorney can help you draft advanced directives like a durable power of attorney that will detail what you want to happen. You may have seen the news earlier this year that world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking passed away. As a young man, Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, and given just a couple years to live. That was more than a half-century ago. Everybody dies at some point, but it’s amazing how medical care these days can improve the lives of people living with any number of health conditions. Who knows how long you’ll live?
Whatever the answer ends up being for you, an elder law attorney can help you work through your questions about the later years of your life: Will you go broke if your spouse goes into a nursing home? Should you wait until “full retirement” age to draw Social Security? What veterans’ benefits might you be entitled to? Why might it be a good idea to appoint a legal guardian or conservator? If you’d like an elder law attorney referral, please let us know.