Elder law and estate planning are frequently confused with each other. They are, admittedly, related, but here's the essential distinction: elder law is concerned with what occurs while a senior is still alive, whereas estate planning is concerned with what happens after someone dies.
Elder law planning can include things like these:
- Planning for incapacity, including the execution of financial and healthcare powers of attorney;
- Planning for long-term care costs; Planning for government benefits eligibility;
- Creating a care plan with health professionals;
- Creating a plan for end-of-life decisions, including a living will;
- Guardianship or conservator representation;
- Elder abuse claims representation; and
- Making plans for a loved one with special needs.
Because an elder law attorney wants to create a comprehensive strategy for their client, we will typically also include estate planning in their case. This includes devising a strategy for what happens to the senior's assets when he or she dies, such as tax-avoidance tactics and asset protection for beneficiaries.
Another thing that elder law and estate preparation have in common is trust planning.
Trusts can be used for a variety of purposes, including:
- preventing assets from being counted for government benefit eligibility, such as Medicaid, Veterans pension benefits, and Social Security Administration benefits;
- allowing a Medicaid applicant to qualify for Medicaid even if their income exceeds the income cap limit;
- allowing beneficiaries to maximize the value of inherited retirement-account proceeds;
- avoiding probate proceedings; and
- achieving asset protection.
Because elder law and estate planning can go hand-in-hand, as an estate planning attorney, the additional services included in elder law are a natural fit. Our attorneys can supply much-needed assistance to our clients, as well as provide more comprehensive plans.