In the legal realm, there is a myriad of lawyers that focus on numerous specialties, see the table below. Here we will provide attention to those that address matters related to Seniors. This subset of specialties is known as Elder Law. Elder Law Attorneys work primarily with people as they age. These attorneys usually coordinate with others in various fields to provide their clients with a wide variety of services. Below you will find summary material for highlighted specialties.
Please Note: We do not attempt to provide legal guidance, only to acquaint you with the terms and scope of elder law. Such advice should come from an appropriate attorney certified in the law as it pertains to your location.
Main Focus Areas of Elder Law:
Conservatorship is where a guardian (called the “conservator”) is appointed by a judge to manage the financial affairs and other matters of another individual (called the “conservatee”) because of physical/mental limitations. There are various types of conservatorships depending on the needs of the conservatee, General Conservatorships, or Limited Conservatorships and the more stringent Lanterman-Petris-Short (LPS) Conservatorships. It may be possible to avoid a conservatorship if the person who needs help:
Some alternatives to a conservatorship for Medical and Personal Care Decisions:
For Financial Decisions:
Elder Abuse refers to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Laws and definitions of terms vary considerably from one state to another, but broadly defined, abuse may be: Physical Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Neglect, Exploitation, Emotional Abuse, Abandonment, Self-neglect.
While one sign does not necessarily indicate abuse, some tell-tale signs that there could be a problem are:
If you suspect abuse, you should only to alert others so appropriate action may be taken.
Whenever a person dies, their estate needs to be collected and managed. Estate administration involves gathering the assets of the estate, paying the decedent's debts, and distributing the remaining assets. An "executor" is entrusted with these extensive responsibilities of making sure a person's last wishes are granted with regards to the disposition of their property and possessions. A solid understanding and experience with the administration process assures the smooth handling of all matters. Hence choosing the right executor and understanding their duties is a significant undertaking.
The Executors duties include:
Estate Planning is the process by which an individual or family arranges the transfer of assets in anticipation of death. Such planning ensures that your family and financial goals are met after you die.
Estate plans attempt to maximize the amount of the estate's wealth that may go to the intended beneficiaries while maintaining flexibility for the individual prior to death. A major focus of estate plans is federal and state tax law. Estate planning distributes the real and personal property to an individual's heirs.
Wills and trusts are common ways in which individuals dispose of their wealth. Trusts, unlike wills, have the benefit of avoiding probate, a lengthy and costly legal process that oversees the transfer of assets. Sometimes, though, it will be useful to make inter vivos gifts (gifts made while the donor is alive) in order to minimize taxes.
A will defines where assets distributed when you die. It's also can name guardians for your children if needed. Dying without a will -- also known as dying "intestate" -- can be costly to your heirs and leaves you no say over who gets your assets.
Trusts are legal mechanisms that let you put conditions on how and when your assets will be distributed. They also allow you to reduce your estate and gift taxes and to distribute assets to your heirs without the cost, delay, and publicity of probate court, which administers wills. Some also offer greater protection of your assets from creditors and lawsuits. Even if you have a trust, you still need a will to take care of any holdings outside of that trust.
Fiduciary Administration involves holding assets in trust for another party and includes administrative functions such as portfolio/fund accounting, compliance, and regulatory reporting, and shareholder servicing.
As fiduciaries, we have considerable experience administering the assets held in these estates and trusts, including the management of securities and other investments, utilizing the advice of premier independent investment advisors. Firm attorneys acting as trustees directly manage investment assets with an aggregate value exceeding $700 million and share fiduciary responsibility for very substantial additional amounts.
When a fiduciary duty is imposed, a stricter, standard of behavior than the comparable standard professional conduct. Most notably, the fiduciary should not be in a situation where personal interests and other fiduciary duties may conflict. A fiduciary may not profit from the fiduciary position. This includes any benefits which, although unrelated to the fiduciary position, came about because of an opportunity that the fiduciary position afforded. If the fiduciary does make a profit, then the fiduciary must report the profit to the principal.
Guardianship is when a court orders someone other than the child's parent to have custody of the child; and/or manage the child's property (called "estate). A probate guardianship of the person is set up because a child is living with an adult who is not the child's parent, and the adult needs a court order to make decisions on behalf of the child. If a guardianship of the estate is needed, it is best to use a lawyer to set it up, and to represent the guardian of the estate.
A guardianship is not the same as an adoption. Here are some differences:
In a Guardianship:
In an Adoption:
There are 2 types of probate guardianship:
Guardianship of the person:
The Guardian has the same responsibilities to care for the child as a parent would. That means the Guardian has full legal and physical custody of the child and can make all the decisions about the physical care of the child that a parent would make. The Guardian is responsible for the full scope of the child's care. The Guardian is also responsible for the supervision of the child and may be liable for any intentional damage the child may cause. A guardianship of the person is sometimes needed when, no matter how much parents love their child, they are not able to parent. Courts may establish a non-parent guardianship if it is in the best interest of the child. This may be due to parental absence, disability, or abuse.
Guardianship of the estate:
The Guardian is set up to prudently manage a child's income, money, or other property until the child turns 18. A child may need a guardian of the estate if they inherit money or assets. In most cases, the court appoints the surviving parent to be the Guardian of the child's estate. In some cases, the same person can be the Guardian of the person and the estate. In other cases, the court will appoint two different people. A guardianship of the estate is not needed when a child only owns inexpensive assets or social security benefits.
Landlord Tenant Law
Landlord Tenant Law Whether the tenant is renting a room, an apartment, a house, or a duplex, the landlord-tenant relationship is governed by federal, state, and local laws. Tenants and landlords should discuss their expectations and responsibilities before they enter into a rental agreement. If a problem occurs, the tenant and landlord should try to resolve the issue by open communication and discussion. An honest review of the problem may show each party that they are not entirely in the right and that a fair compromise is in order.
If the parties cannot reach a solution on their own, they may be able to resolve the problem through mediation or arbitration. Mediation implies deliberation that results in solutions that may or may not be accepted by the contending parties. Arbitration involves a more formal deliberation; being understood that the results will be binding on the contending parties. In some situations, court action may provide the only solution. Consultation with a lawyer can assist in choosing the best approach to remedy the situation at hand.
Medicaid lawyers focus their practice on helping seniors and their families with legal and financial planning for the transition to nursing home care. They work with families needing guidance for asset protection and Medicaid qualification. Medicaid laws can be very complicated, and help may be required determining what one's rights are in terms of eligibility and planning for the future. A Medicaid lawyer may be helpful in planning for long-term care for oneself or a family member.
Often families need particular legal documents drafted. Each case is unique and different services are required depending on the applicant's income and asset levels and specific state's qualification laws and Medicaid Lawyers may provide the following services and legal documents for their clients:
Retirement Planning Individuals continue to live longer and don't want to run out of money. Retirement planning solutions are designed to provide steady, secure, and consistent income so that one can sleep soundly at night, knowing that retirement is secure. Planning focuses on insurance vehicles, fixed indexed annuities, hybrid annuities, and market-based approaches. See our Finance area to learn more about retirement planning and tools.
Social Security Disability
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a type of government benefit administered by the Social Security Administration. SSDI benefits are paid monthly to provide relief to people whose ability to work has been significantly impaired by a physical or mental disability.
SSDI is a benefit that is paid to people who have worked and paid taxes into the Social Security system as income replacement. To be eligible for benefits, an individual must have worked and paid into the system for a sufficient period of time. To qualify for benefits, you must have a physical impairment or mental impairment (or a combination of the two) that significantly impairs your ability to work. Children and spouses who have lost a loved one may also be eligible for benefits.
A qualifying impairment may arise as a result of a disabling accident, heart condition, disease, mental disability, brain damage, dementia, or other disabling condition. Common conditions include back, neck or spine impairment, leg or knee impairment, hand and arm impairment, cancer, heart problems, vision or hearing loss, chronic pain and fatigue, organ damage, carpal tunnel syndrome, traumatic brain injury, depression, and anxiety.
As a general rule, your disability must be severe enough to significantly impair your ability to work for at least a year or result in death. However, you should not wait a year before contacting an attorney. If you have a condition that may impair your ability to work for a significant period of time, contact an attorney immediately to initiate your claims process early.
Lawyer Selection There are a wide variety of lawyers to select from to handle any given situation. The first step is to try to define, at least in a limited way, the specific issue with which you need help. This can be done through research at a library or online or also by consulting friends and professionals. With this information in hand, the following approaches may be used to find a lawyer. The following are several lawyer selection approaches.
Lawyer Selection Approaches:
Lawyer Selection Checklist
Once you've narrowed the list down to several names, use the following checklist to screen them: