ELDER LAW LAWYER NEAR ME: WHAT DO THEY DO?
Elder law is an increasingly common term being used by the public at large. But what is elder law exactly? What do elder law lawyers do and how do they help the elderly?
Elder law lawyer O’Fallon assist clients to create wills, living trusts, durable power of attorney, healthcare directives and other services associated with estate planning. They meet with clients, determine their needs in an estate plan and recommend the above documents which they then draft for the clients so they are legally binding.
Guardianship / Conservatorship
When elders lose their ability to manage their own affairs due to things like dementia and physical disability, an elder law attorney can assist their loved one to become their guardian (to make legal decisions on behalf of the elder) and their conservator (to manage and be responsible for their finances).
Guardianships require a court hearing and a determination that the elder is both medically and legally incapacitated. Proof of the incapacity can be provided by a doctor and attorneys after meeting with the individual.
Medicaid and Disability Planning
When an elder is either incompetent / disabled or beginning to show such signs, an elder law lawyer can meet with them to assist with Medicaid and disability planning.
Medicaid is a means tested benefit which is administered by the states using federal funds. Medicaid in Missouri is called MoHealthnet. While Medicaid also assists indigent and disabled individuals with healthcare services, for many seniors, the need for Medicaid develops when they require a stay in a skilled nursing home.
Means tested benefits like Medicaid require that the applicant have limited financial resources. As of 2019, the asset limit for an applicant in Missouri is $3,000.
Elder law lawyers, however, can assist those expected to need Medicaid in the future to plan ahead to protect their assets and still maintain eligibility for Medicaid once it is needed. This is called Medicaid Planning.
Attorneys in this area can also help people apply for Medicaid and do other type of planning such as VA Aid and Attendance planning. VA Aid and Attendance benefits are available to war time veterans and their spouses, subject to many restrictions and other eligibility requirements.
Elder lawyers Missouri can also assist with specific Medicare benefits.
Probate and Trust Administration
Although most of what elder law lawyer assist clients with happens while people are living, they also assist with administering the assets of a deceased individual in probate or advise trustees how to administer the trust of an elder who has passed away.
Missouri probate courts, as with most states, require specific filings which can only be done by an attorney in most cases. In addition to the grief of losing a loved one, the administration of their estate and/or their trust can be especially overwhelming. For this reason, hiring an experienced elder law lawyer is often an easy and wise decision.
Elder Abuse and Fraud
Elder abuse has increased in frequency over the last few decades. In response, states have toughened criminal punishment for those convicted of abusing seniors or defrauding them. An elder law lawyer can help by contacting the proper authorities and filing complaints on behalf of the elder.
Litigation over elder abuse can come in many varieties but a common one is nursing home abuse. In these types of cases, an elder in the care of the home can be abused intentionally and through neglect, causing pain and suffering and, sadly, death. Litigation against the nursing home can ensue to protect the elder and/or inflict monetary damages for the abuse.
It should be noted that many elder law lawyers are not litigators and do not offer this type of service as part of the services their firms provide. Often the best elder law litigators are civil litigators and offer no other elder law service like guardianships or estate planning.
Like many of my elder law lawyer colleagues, I find this area of practice to be extremely satisfying and I enjoy the opportunity to help elders in my community. I’ve always practiced in this area for that reason and have never had the same personal satisfaction when I was involved in other areas of the law.