As we grow older, we will be faced with a variety of healthcare and financial issues that will require decisions. If we want to make our own decisions prior to an emergent situation, we need to plan ahead. If we don’t plan, someone else will make these decisions for us.
Planning ahead can help to avoid a tangle of legal and emotional issues that can happen to us and our families. However, to plan, we need to understand the issues of later life. We need to be educated. We need an eldercare attorney to help us.
Elder law is a specialized legal area comprised of the laws, statutes, regulations and decisions that deal with the needs and issues specific to older adults. The Federal government defines a senior citizen as a person who is 60 years of age and older. Some states follow this age guideline and others use the age of 65.
Decisions may involve myriad issues – planning for retirement, making a will, estate planning, establishing a trust, long-term care planning and consumer protection issues.
In addition, you may need help understanding Social Security benefits, Medicare and Medicaid coverage and the impact on home health care, nursing-home care, and in-home care.
Unexpected situations may require having a durable power of attorney (DPOA) and Advance Directive. In some cases we may be faced with issues of guardianship and conservatorship.
Sound overwhelming? It can be, without understanding the legal requirements and an elder law attorney to guide us through the legal system.
Elder law attorneys can walk you through the bureaucratic maze you may encounter. They specialize in legal areas that impact elderly persons, caregivers and their families. The field of elder law has grown significantly over the past 30 years and will continue to grow as the “baby boomers” become older and face these later in life issues.
We live in a busy world and most of us don’t have the time to research the legal issues and options that are available to us. Lawyers that are trained in elder law can help us understand how these situations work and what we can do, what our choices are. They can do the leg work and help us establish a plan that is aligned with the requirements of the legal system.
It is wisest to pre-plan before you and your family has an emergent situation. Estate planning is important regardless of the value of your estate. It allows your family to avoid unnecessary emotional and financial confusion.
And yes, there are fees for the attorney’s service so it is best to view this situation an unavoidable and necessary protection. In other words, you can “pay it forward” and have a plan in place, or pay later to the Probate Court.
For example, without estate planning that includes a will and a durable power of attorney, at your death, it will be necessary to file and reconcile financial assets with the Probate court. Various costs for administration, taxes and even disagreements between your heirs can impact the situation quite negatively.
In other words, if you haven’t made your own decisions, they will be made for you.
Elder law attorneys can help also us when we are in a crisis. Perhaps Mom, Dad, or our spouse needs immediate care in a nursing home after a hospitalization, and we don’t know what to do and how to negotiate the system. When these unexpected family situations occur, we need help.
Another good reason to consider pre-planning is the rising incidence of dementia. As we get older, illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, can wreak havoc in a family that is not prepared for this possibility. Unfortunately, it is difficult to predict those family members who will be diagnosed with a dementia. This makes it even more important for us to handle our business and plan ahead.
Planning can soften the emotional and financial toll on you and yours. Planning will also give you peace of mind.
The following elder law practices are listed in the Farmington Hills area:
- Arthur L. Malisow and Sanford J. Mall
Mall, Malisow & Cooney, PC
theeldercarelawfirm.com, 30445 Northwestern Highway, Suite 250, Farmington Hills, 248-538-1800
- P. Mark Accettura and Samuel Hurwitz
Accettura & Hurwitz, PCelderlawmi.com, 35055 W, 12 Mile Rd., Suite 132, Farmington Hills, 248-848-9409
- John D. Mobley and David L. Smith
Smith and Mobley PLC
smith-mabley.com, 31313 Northwestern Highway, Suite 215, Farmington Hills, 248-737-4550
Also, you can find general information on the internet that explains issues related to seniors and elder law at elderlawofmi.org. Their legal hotline is free, 800-347-5297.
We have another valuable, educational resource in Oakland County that is free. On the internet, go to oakgov.com/probate and click on “Citizens Alliance for the Oakland County Probate and Circuit Courts.” Go to “Sponsored Projects.” You will find upcoming a list of 2011 trainings and dates for understanding the Probate Court, Guardianship and Conservatorship.
These trainings are a good place to learn the basics of the legal system, and will help you determine whether you need an elder law attorney.
As an example, trainings will be offered this month and next on “Removing the Mysteries of the Probate Court," at these times and locations:
March 17, 2011, 1-3:30 p.m.
Troy Community Center, 3179 Livernois, Troy – 248-524-3484
March 28, 2011, 1-3:30 p.m.
Novi Senior Center, 25075 Meadowbrook Road, Novi – 248-347-0414
April 7, 2011, 1-3:30 p.m.
Southfield Senior Center, 24350 Civic Center Drive, Southfield – 248-796-4650