The term "elderlaw" is a relatively new one. Over the past decade, the
legal profession has begun to recognize a cluster of specialized legal
areas as being particularly important to older persons. Elderlaw
encompasses traditional areas of legal practice such as estate planning
and probate, as well as public benefits such as Medicare and Social
Security, and issues such as planning for long-term care placement and
health-care decisionmaking. Some attorneys have begun to identify
themselves as elderlaw specialists. Most of these attorneys do not
specialize in all of the areas covered by the broad term elderlaw
(described below) and therefore you should ask which areas a particular
attorney handles. Many of the attorneys who specialize in the elderlaw
area are also familiar with the networks of other professionals (such as
ombudsmen, social workers, geriatric care managers, or other elder care
professionals) who can provide related services to older persons. They
may also be trained in the mental and physical effects of the normal
The broad range of legal areas covered by "elderlaw" includes:
Estate planning including the management of an estate during the
person's lifetime and planning how the estate will be divided upon the
person's death through wills, trusts, asset transfers, tax planning, and
Long-term care planning including nursing home issues such as quality of
care, admissions contracts, prevention of spousal impoverishment, and
resident's rights. It also includes life care or retirement community
issues such as evaluating the proposed plan/contract.
Retirement issues including Social Security (retirement and disability
and survivors' benefits) and other public pensions (veterans, civil
service) and benefits as well as private pension benefits.
Health care issues including Medicare, Medicaid, Medigap insurance, and
long-term care insurance.
Housing issues including home equity conversion and age discrimination.
Planning for possible incapacity through choosing in advance how health
care and financial decisions will be made if you are unable to do so
(methods include durable powers of attorney, health-care powers of
attorney, living wills, and other means of delegating the
decisionmaking). The attorney may also be able to advise on
conservatorship and guardianship proceedings in the event that the elder
has not planned for incapacity.
Age discrimination issues including bringing cases under the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act.
Excerpted from An Older Person's Guide to Finding Legal Help
from Legal Counsel for the Elderly
601 E Street, NW Washington, DC 20049
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