Elder law has a bit of an unfair reputation. On one hand, it conjures up images of being old to the point of infirmity. People in or entering retirement can, understandably, think ‘I’m not that old! I don’t need an elder law attorney!’ And on the other hand, pop culture fans may jump to scenes from Better Call Saul and think of elder law as the domain of minor league lawyers protecting nursing home residents from crooked scammers.
But elder law plays a vital role in estate planning. Elements of it include addressing workplace age discrimination and elder abuse. Elder law is a subspecialty that focuses on taking care of you through retirement, making sure you can get the benefits you need for late-in-life care and housing while still protecting the assets you want to pass down to your children and family.
So, while elder law can often deal with nursing homes and geriatric health care, it’s really about helping you live your best life in your later years, without worry that you can’t provide for yourself and your family. And just like estate planning on the whole, peace of mind is guaranteed through planning properly and in advance.
That means it’s never a good idea to wait to contact an elder law attorney until you’re 59—right before you’re allowed to make penalty-free withdrawals from your retirement accounts—it is better to set yourself up early for unplanned disaster. Elder planning can be started simultaneously with the first steps in planning your estate or done in tandem with updates to your plan after you’ve set up a living trust.
It’s never too early to start
Forward-thinking estate planning gives yourself plenty of time to set things up, allowing you to make updates to your plan as needed. That’s part of why our team at Family Estate Planning Law Group offers families ongoing client care—we know that estate planning isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it action and that elder law done right requires an ongoing relationship so you can live your best life. So, we encourage families to start planning early. Through our ongoing client care program, you know what you’re going to pay upfront. We’ve removed the stress of incurring billable hours for any questions or changes you may have through our flat price.
Since there’s so much overlap between elder law and general estate planning, why not address the basics early on? Parts of elder law that have immediate relevance to starting your estate plan include:
-Assigning the transfer of assets should your spouse survive you
-Assigning power of attorney to a spouse or trusted family member
-Drafting advance directives for your health care, including nursing home placement and life-extending care
-Guardianship of any younger children should you be unable to care for them
If you get an early start on this, you could be fine to wait on other aspects until your retirement accounts and overall assets become a bit clearer as you get closer to retiring. This may be the most important part of elder law, though: ensuring you have the funds to take care of yourself and your spouse when you’re no longer working, and creating a strategy for accessing benefits that have asset and income restrictions for eligibility. It’s worth setting up a plan with our team at Family Estate Planning Law Group now and updating it through life as your vision and goals change.
Keep in mind personal factors
Some things dictate addressing elder law concerns before you may want or expect to think about them. For example, if you have a family history of Alzheimer’s or dementia you will want to take care of most, if not all, of your estate planning ahead of time and make updates as frequently as possible so that your retirement and assets are protected should either disease affect you with a sudden onset.
Or, on the more positive side, if you’re expecting an early retirement, it will be useful to handle early on a lot of elder planning details like how your retirement funds align with your estate plan’s living trust. Also, if you have strong personal preferences on long-term care, assisted living or life-extending care, it’s worth codifying those in legal documents as soon as you’re able. You can always amend these if you change your mind.
Last, it’s always the right time to contact an elder law attorney whenever you have questions about Medicare or Medicaid. These benefits and their complex rules and requirements are squarely in the wheelhouse of elder law. Our team at Family Estate Planning Law Group can help guide you through the steps needed to ensure these benefits are available to you when you need them while avoiding penalties or ineffective coverage.
Our team at Family Estate Planning Law Group is ready to help you prepare for the unexpected through holistic and ongoing estate and elder law planning. We are experienced in complex and advanced planning. To learn more about how we can help you plan for life, visit our website, explore our blog, and schedule your complimentary consultation today!