Sometimes it’s obvious when you need a lawyer. Like if you get a traffic ticket, or your preschooler accidentally shoplifts that value pack of chewing gum. It’s not as universally known when to call an elder law attorney, however. But there are clear moments when you’ll want one of us on the phone and at your side.
Before a healthcare crisis occurs
Feuding family members and concern over the competency of a loved one are occurrences we see regularly. Although you can’t foresee the future, you can predict where trouble may bubble up.
An elder law attorney can be an intermediary to help resolve any potential disputes, and even long-standing family arguments about how to care for a loved one or divvy up an estate. The use of powers of attorney can exclude those troublesome family members from making a difficult time even more so. Seeing that a valid and enforceable will or a trust is in place can turn those grievances into nothings. Uncle Nutso won’t have a leg to stand on, despite his yelling.
Your elder law attorney can also work with you to care for a loved one who is unable to take care of themselves because of a disability or diminished mental capacity, such as dementia. Getting powers of attorney or a court-ordered guardianship in place ensures that the right decisions are being made in their best interests. Whether it’s an issue of financial responsibility, or providing and receiving care, your attorney has a thorough understanding of the necessary strategies required to avoid or minimize a care crisis.
During a crisis
It’s hard to define what a crisis is until you’re actually in one. Having your elder law attorney already involved in your family’s future planning, though, is the best way to minimize the hardships a crisis like a catastrophic illness or an overextended caregiver can cause.
Should some health-related event strike you by surprise, your attorney can explain how to direct medical personnel to administer healthcare decisions through powers of attorney during hospitalizations or to involve other professionals who can advocate for you in hospitals and nursing homes. We are able to help you navigate and understand the different sources of payments for long-term care, such as Medicare, Medicaid and insurance. It’s your attorney’s job to keep a cool head in these situations, which makes us ideal for helping that stressed caregiver see the bigger picture and determine which activities take priority – like taking care of themselves – and which ones are of less importance – like cooking a perfect sit-down family dinner every night. Furthermore, your attorney can assist in obtaining professional help when needed and guide you through the payment process.
If a will and/or a trust and powers of attorney were already in place, the process of mourning your loss and getting used to the new normal is often more bearable. Your elder law attorney is still an important player at this stage, however. There is the matter of estate administration – paying off debts and distributing any property or valuables to the decedent’s beneficiaries. If any of the deceased’s care was paid through Medicaid, there is the risk of the state coming after the estate for reimbursement. If not planned for ahead of time, this can become a sticky situation, but your elder law attorney can assist with Medicaid estate recovery so that your loved one’s property and assets remain exactly where they had intended, to the extent that the law and advanced planning allows.
As with most things in life, it’s better to get a jump-start on preparing for the future before things get too harried. By making planning a priority, you’ll be more in control and less stressed, whatever stage you’re in.