Today I want to give you a brief lesson on what you need to know when selecting an elder law attorney. Remember that an elder law attorney’s practice focuses on the areas of estate and longevity planning, Medicaid, special needs trusts, and VA benefits for those over the age of 65.
Unfortunately, you will see general practitioners who also identify themselves as elder law attorneys. The fact of the matter is, drafting simple wills and trusts DOES NOT make an attorney an elder law attorney. Sure, wills and trusts are certainly part of the elder law process at times, but elder law consists of so much more than that.
What is not often communicated to the public is that wills really only control what happens after you die. Therefore, today’s seniors really need both an estate and longevity plan. A longevity plan will allow for seniors’ families to know what their wishes are in the event that they become incapacitated before they die.
A traditional estate plan (a.k.a. death plan) is designed to do three things:
- Minimize estate taxes
- Avoid probate court
- Distribute assets from the deceased person to his or her heirs
Elder law, on the other hand, is death planning plus long-term disability and care planning. I call all of this together “longevity planning.”
In order to help yourself identify an elder law attorney, ask the following questions:
- How many Medicaid applications does the firm do in a year?
- How many veterans does the firm assist with VA aid and attendance benefits per year?
- How many Elder Law oriented estate plans has the firm done this year?
- Are your powers of attorney documents tailored to senior issues?
The bottom line is, because the issues are so complex, you deserve to work with somebody who is experienced in elder law, not just estate planning.
-Anthony B. Ferraro