I am frequently asked to explain what I do as an elder law attorney and how that is different from estate planning. People have heard the term, but they are not exactly sure what it means. My response is always, “all elder law attorneys do estate planning, but not all estate planning attorneys do elder law.” What do I mean by that?
An estate planning attorney, among other things, prepares documents for clients which include Last Will and Testaments, Durable Powers of Attorney, Living Wills and Health care surrogate designations. These documents deal with how you want your assets to be transferred after you die, and who will help take care of your finances and health care decisions should you become incapacitated. An estate planning attorney’s job is to give peace of mind to their clients and to make sure their clients have all their planning in order. However, not all estate planning attorneys work with senior citizens and are experienced with the issues that senior citizens face.
For instance, one of the jobs of an elder law attorney is to advise a client on how to protect their assets from being spent down on nursing home care. Additionally, not only do Elder law attorneys prepare the estate planning documents that estate planning attorneys prepare, but they also make sure that the documents are written to help an elderly client prepare for asset protection planning in the event the client has to go into a nursing home. Although Elder law attorneys work with clients of all ages, they specialize in helping those who are over the age of 65 to plan for how to pay for long term care in the future (or in a crisis situation). Elder law attorneys are also familiar with other issues the seniors face including dealing with Medicare issues, resident rights issues (if they are in a nursing home or assisted living), exploitation issues, and filing for benefits to help pay for nursing home care (such as Medicaid or VA benefits).
Let’s be honest, no one wants to think about having to go into a nursing home, or having their elderly loved one be financially exploited, and many times, people are faced with a crisis situation where they need help at the last minute. In most cases, their estate planning attorney may not have the knowledge to advise them and that is one of the ways that an elder law attorney can help.
If you have questions and would like guidance about what is the difference between estate planning and elder law, please contact the law office of Board Certified Elder Law Attorney Laurie E. Ohall, PA.