As the older population in the United States has increased in recent years, legal issues related to the elderly and to those who care for them have taken on heightened importance. Given that elder law is such a relatively new area of the law though, you may not even recognize that you need an elder law attorney when you have a legal issue. To help you understand when you might need one, a Vero Beach elder law attorney at Kulas & Crawford discusses how an elder law attorney might be able to help you.
The Need for Elder Law
As the population of older Americans began to increase dramatically during the latter half of the 20th century, the need for attorneys that focused on the legal issues faced by older individuals increased as well. In answer to the growing need, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, or NAELA, was formed in the late 1980s to better serve the growing segment of the population made up of older Americans. Five years after the creation of NAELA, the National Elder Law Foundation was formed. The purpose of the non-profit NELF was to help improve the professional skills of attorneys who choose to focus on elder law. Toward that end, NELF then developed a national certification program for attorneys known as the Certified Elder Law Attorney, or CELA, certification program. Attorneys who wish to gain certification in the area of elder law may do so through a rigorous and selective certification program recognized by the American Bar Association and administered by NELF. CELA certification indicates that an attorney has chosen to focus on elder law issues.
What Would I Need an Elder Law Attorney?
The reason it can be difficult to recognize when you need an elder law attorney is because, unlike most other types of attorneys, an elder law attorney does not strive to become an expert on one narrow area of the law. Instead, an elder law attorney works at understanding how numerous areas of the law impact the elderly and those who care for them. Consequently, there is a wide variety of legal matters that might call for the assistance of an elder law attorney, such as:
- Estate planning – every adult should have a comprehensive estate plan in place; however, the need for estate planning typically increases with age. By the time you reach your retirement years, your estate plan should be well-grounded and all-inclusive. An elder law attorney can help you make any changes or modifications to your plan that are called for as you age.
- Long-term care/Medicaid planning – the high cost of long-term care (LTC) often results in the need to rely on Medicaid to help pay for that care. Qualifying for Medicaid can put your assets at risk if you fail to plan ahead by incorporating Medicaid planning into your estate plan. An elder law attorney can help you create a Medicaid plan or assist with last-minute Medicaid planning strategies if you did fail to plan ahead.
- Nursing home abuse or neglect – as a family member or caregiver, you may come to believe an elderly loved one is the victim of elder abuse or neglect. If so, an elder law attorney can help you to understand your legal options which may include filing a civil lawsuit against the facility.
- Guardianship/conservatorship – if you are concerned that an elderly loved one can no longer safely care for himself/herself and/or manage his/her finances, it may be time to consider petitioning for guardianship/conservatorship. An elder law attorney can help you make the difficult decision to become a guardian/conservator.
- Incapacity planning – as a senior, you should incorporate an incapacity planning component into your estate plan to ensure that your wishes will be honored if you reach a point at which you are unable to express those wishes because of Alzheimer’s or another incapacitating condition.
Contact a Port St. Lucie and Vero Beach Elder Law Attorney
To learn more, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions about elder law, or you believe you may need an elder law attorney, please contact an experienced Port St. Lucie and Vero Beach elder law attorney at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule a consultation.