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What is Elder Law?

Elder law is a specialized practice that mostly deals with legal matters surrounding senior citizens and their families.  Seniors face a unique set of challenges compared to other age groups, as aging gives rise to difficulties that were largely absent during earlier stages of life. Elder law attorneys work with laws surrounding Medicare and Medicaid, estate planning, probate, wills, power of attorney, and more.

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What is Gifting?

"Gifting" is a term that refers to providing goods or services for nothing in return. The law considered it gifting when you give either money or material items away (like art, jewelry, property, and money.  Since large, expensive gifts would normally be reflected on your taxes, it makes sense they also need to be noted when devising your future plans in terms of your estate.  Surprisingly, a lot of elder law is based around proper gifting. Gifting has two major purposes:  1) To skillfully transfer wealth to successors before passing, and 2) To shift holdings, to enable the original owner access to government assistance.

Skillful gifting can help minimize taxes. And by using gifting and other techniques, good elder law attorneys can help you gain access to better Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans Affairs benefits. With gifting, it's necessary to plan ahead, because some of these strategies take years to effectively implement.

What are Wills & Trusts?

Contrary to popular belief, Wills and Trusts are different documents, and you may want to consider having both. A good elder attorney can help you decide what documents are right for particular situation, but the basics are as follows: Wills are legal documents that dictate where assets get sent after our passing. They must be validated by a probate court before taking affect. See below. Forming Trusts, on the other hand, is a lot like starting businesses. By working with a lawyer, a legal entity will be created to hold a portion of your wealth (instead of you, yourself, holding onto it). This has the disadvantage of making the assets in the Trust harder to access for personal use while you are alive, but the advantage of bypassing probate (unlike Wills). Everyone should have a Will, while Trusts are mostly for people with complex finances.

*Living Wills and Living Trusts concern our direction for medical and financial decisions, should we become incapacitated and unable to voice our own wishes, directly.

What is Probate?

"Probate" is the procedure of validating the Will. It's a legal process that may take years to fully resolve. Holdings are usually held until probate is finished, and legal fees diminish their value. The main reason to contact a lawyer over probate is to contest a will. Usually, because of previous legal obligations made by the deceased that weren't included in her Will. Former business partners, distant or estranged family members, and neighbors should consider consulting a lawyer about probate.

What is a Power of Attorney?

If you do not have proper documentation in place that privileges your family to make life and death decisions for you should you become incapacitated, then many states will appoint a guardian for you, at least temporarily. So, it's expedient upon you to act now, so that the ones you love and trust have a stronger say your well-being.  Assigning a Power or Attorney allows a person of your choice to make decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. 

Elder Abuse & Discrimination

Sadly, elder abuse is most common in situations where the senior and the caretaker have been working with each other for many years. The perpetrators are often a family members or close friends. This is due to a phenomenon called "caregiver burnout," where the caregivers feel so overwhelmed they lash out. It is best to prevent abuse before it starts. Do your best to make sure the caregivers you know are taking care of themselves, and avoid extra, unnecessary stress.

If you suspect a friend of family member of being the victim of elder abuse, it's important that you act on your suspicions. Investigate further by meeting with your loved one in private, away from the caregiver. You may have to contact the police, directly. If charges are brought up, you should meet with an attorney.

Related Articles

What is the Difference Between Financial Planning and Estate Planning 

Trusts: Who Needs Them?

Probate - Within the Dash

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