Elder law covers a very wide and broad range of legal issues that impact seniors. An elder law attorney protects a senior’s rights (as well as their family’s), helps them preserve their assets, and ensures access to proper care.
Estate planning is all about making sure your assets are protected and loved ones receive them when you pass.
Needless to say, elder law and estate planning kind of go hand-in-hand.
Let’s talk about all the ways an elder law attorney can help you with your estate planning and where to find one near you.
Later in life, it’s absolutely possible that because of declining health, serious injury, or something else totally unexpected, a power of attorney may become necessary. What is a power of attorney? It’s the legal authority for one person to act for another in financial, medical, or other matters. Essentially, it preserves your wishes and ensures that your words are heard when you can no longer speak for yourself. By partnering with an elder law attorney to create this document, you’re able to lay out what you want, don’t want, and who you trust to speak on your behalf, as well as who will carry out your wishes.
According to a recent survey, 67% of adults in the US have no will. If you pass without a will, your estate is settled in accordance with state law. Each state is different, but typically, your assets would be distributed first to a spouse, then to children, then siblings, et Cetra. But, do you really want your state and people you don’t even know determining who gets what after you die? Drafting a will clarifies what should happen to your estate, who your beneficiaries are, how personal belongings should be distributed, and how any assets will be handled. You can do this yourself, thanks to technology, but if your wishes are complicated or you have a lot of assets to divvy up, then an elder law attorney is going to be your best friend for will writing.
The federal estate tax is a tax on the value of a property owned by a person at the time of their death. It’s paid only by estates that exceed the exemption amount, which in 2023 is $12.92 million. What does that mean for the average person? Good news, because, in reality, only about 2 out of every 1,000 estates are taxed like this (you know – since the average, middle-class working American isn’t usually a closet millionaire). However, if you find yourself in the less-than-1-percent, there are a few ways an elder law attorney can assist you with avoiding these taxes, like setting up a trust, gifting assets, or making charitable donations.
Your executors have a lot of responsibilities after you pass away. These include taking inventory of your estate’s assets, paying off debt, and distributing the estate to other beneficiaries. An elder law attorney can help your executors navigate even the most complicated undertakings, including the lengthy probate process.
The vast majority of estates must go through probate court when a person dies. Fees from this process can include court fees, attorney fees, filing fees, accounting fees, and more. It’s safe to say these costs usually end up in the thousands. Having a will and other strategies in place can help prevent all of your assets from having to through probate. An elder law attorney, estate planning attorney, or financial advisor can help you find the right strategies to legally avoid probate. For anything that does still have to go through the process, an attorney can assist your executors through.
An elder law attorney can be the most important member of your estate and long-term planning team. Your attorney will ensure your assets are protected and your loved ones are taken care of now and well into the future. It’s never too early to begin protecting your assets. Especially if you’re married or have children, you should at least have a will as soon as possible. Of course, many people wait until much later in life to begin any of the estate planning process. While waiting might be usual, it’s certainly not the best idea. It’s worth saying again: it’s never too early to begin protecting your assets.
If you’re looking for an elder law attorney near you, then start with our directory, here:
Looking for more help with estate planning? Then try these resources:
Originally published May 11, 2023
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