Advocating for Elder Rights: Legal Tools and Strategies

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What is Elder Law?

A rapidly growing area of law concerns some of our most vulnerable: our aging loved ones. Tools and legal strategies exist to ensure that those we love are protected as they age from multiple injustices. Another area of elder law deals with ensuring that our loved ones are informed and offered legal guidance regarding government benefits or other available programs.

One of the most crucial components of aging is planning effectively for it. Planning can be done through a myriad of estate planning tools, from trusts to wills and other legal documents, and a custom solution can be formed to fit every household’s wants and needs.

What is a Trust?

A trust is a legal document that is set up to protect and plan for assets. Trusts can help the creators stipulate how assets will be divided upon their death or should they become incapacitated. Beneficiaries that inherit certain assets can be named, allowing for some or complete avoidance of the probate process, which can be time-consuming and costly for our loved ones.

There are certain tax benefits from creating and funding a trust as well. By planning ahead with the right tools, you can ensure that your assets and legacy are distributed to those you minted rather than being unnecessarily taxed.

Another aspect to consider is whether or not your elderly loved one will need to rely on Medicaid for nursing home costs or otherwise. With appropriate estate planning, you can ensure that the assets held in an irrevocable trust are off limits to the calculations involving Medicaid benefits. Therefore, the senior may still be eligible for necessary financial assistance.

It’s important to note that the calculations for Medicaid benefits can typically look back for five years, making it imperative that planning ahead happens sooner rather than later. Consult your estate planning attorney today for an effective and comprehensive plan.

Other Legal Estate Planning Tools

Establishing a will can also ensure that your assets are handled how you see fit. Without one, your assets are left to the courts to determine how to distribute them. This process can lead to conflicts between loved ones and unnecessary questions or concerns during an already trying time while they mourn your loss.

A power of attorney is another excellent tool that helps ensure that important decisions can still be made on your behalf should you become incapacitated and no longer able to make these decisions. The agent is the person who is designated in the document to make decisions that align with your wishes and beliefs regarding financial or medical decisions.

By documenting what you wish to occur with your finances or healthcare options now, you can ensure that your wishes are followed with less room for confusion or questions during an emotional time for loved ones. What types of life-sustaining healthcare measures are acceptable to you, what financial decisions you would like to be made on your behalf and more can be included and thoroughly communicated, providing clarification and protection for you.

Protection From Abuse, Exploitation, or Neglect

Senior abuse, exploitation, and neglect are common problems, regardless of how hard that may be for most of us to conceptualize. Abuse or neglect can happen in nursing homes, hospitals, the homes of a senior, and more. If you suspect it is occurring, you have legal rights to get it to stop.

Examples of abuse or neglect can include not feeding or bathing a seniors consistently, keeping their necessary prescriptions from them, failing to provide other necessities daily, and more. Exploitation can happen almost anywhere and can include misuse of an older adult’s money or other assets or infringing on their dignity.

If you suspect any of these issues are occurring, it’s essential to document what you see and contact your attorney immediately to pursue legal action.

What is Guardianship?

As with many aging adults, some seniors tend to stop caring for themselves adequately, either through forgetfulness or willingness. Examples can include not feeding themselves enough food for nourishment, not taking prescribed medications adequately, not bathing themselves consistently, and more. These issues can lead to severe concerns for their health and safety.

Legal guardianship involves appointing one person to handle important decisions for the elderly adult or ward. Common issues that the guardian may handle are when and where the senior accesses healthcare, who will provide them with their daily needs, where the person will reside, and more.

Having a legal guardian in place can ensure that our elderly loved ones are cared for and protected, even if we can’t be there as often as we’d like. Guardianship can be split between more than one party to ensure all duties are taken seriously, and burnout or overwhelm doesn’t occur.

When Should I Consider Consulting an Elder Law or Estate Planning Attorney?

The truth is, none of us know when a tragic accident or severe health diagnosis may occur. A comprehensive plan is essential for all of us, no matter the size of our estate.

Several tools are available that provide necessary legal protections and, maybe more importantly, peace of mind for ourselves and our loved ones.

Whether you want to plan for yourself, assist an elderly loved one with their planning, or discuss legal options you may have for protecting our vulnerable seniors, our team is ready to help you.

With multiple decades of helping our clients plan for the future or the unknown, we remain compassionate and committed to treating them as we would our loved ones.

Contact our office today at (248) 997-4394 for your free case evaluation and to learn more about your options.

We look forward to serving you.

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