Understanding the Rights of Seniors: A Guide to Elder Law in Michigan

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What is Elder Law?

Many of the issues that the elderly population faces are hard to imagine. However, with the growth in problems dealing with our senior citizens, it’s essential to understand what options are available should your loved one face problems.

Elder law covers legal issues for people over the age of 65 and their caretakers and loved ones. Some common problems that arise or are discussed with elder law are estate planning, elder adult abuse, guardianship or healthcare decisions, financial planning, and more.

Having an experienced estate planning and elder law attorney in your corner can ensure that all aspects are considered and your loved one is adequately protected.

Estate Planning

One of the most important things to consider with elder law is estate planning. Many of us must rely on government benefits when approaching an older age, whether for medical issues or nursing home care.

By sufficiently planning for your estate needs, you can transfer money or assets to areas that are safe from the look-back period in your state, which in Michigan is five years. This timeline means that if you or your loved one anticipate needing Medicaid, These assets are in your name now and are subject to your total estate or income calculations for the previous five years before your application.

By planning ahead and transferring these assets to a resource such as a trust or other options, you can ensure that those assets are safe from this calculation.

Protection for Our Vulnerable Elderly Poplulation

Our senior citizens can be faced with many things that are hard for us to comprehend, such as abuse or neglect. Elder law is in place to protect anyone subjected to abuse within a nursing home or otherwise, neglect, or other behavior that we wouldn’t wish them to have to endure.

Elder abuse and neglect may be more prevalent than you think. If you suspect this is happening to a loved one, begin documenting your suspicions, and don’t hesitate to reach out to an elder law attorney.

We understand that these topics are emotionally taxing, and we will help you navigate any questions or concerns you may have and stay on top of your suspicions.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

One of the most powerful documents you can utilize when your loved one faces health issues is the Healthcare Power of Attorney. This legal document designates a person to have authority over necessary decisions should your loved one become incapacitated.

Important decisions can include questions regarding healthcare, mental health treatment, living arrangements, and more. The designated person is allowed to discuss their concerns with medical staff, determine the best route, and then ensure that it occurs.

This authority allows you to choose someone trustworthy and understand your needs and wishes in advance, rather than the courts having to appoint someone if there isn’t a designation made or proper legal paperwork in place.

A durable power of attorney is another aspect to consider and can also help to alleviate questions about care for our elderly loved ones in the future. Expectations can be set in advance to allow for less confusion or conflict between siblings or other family members when the time comes.

One of the most appealing characteristics of the power of attorney process is that your loved one can choose who they appoint to ensure their wishes and needs are met, rather than having the courts appoint someone on their behalf. This decision allows the elderly adult to remain in control of their future, which can help to ease their minds.

Guardianship for an Elderly Loved One

In many cases, the elderly population will slow down or stop adequately caring for themselves. This progression can be evident in not preparing nutritious meals, not adequately taking their prescribed medications, not managing their hygiene needs, and more.

If you start to see this in your elderly loved ones, guardianship may be an option to consider. Guardianship involves appointing one person, the guardian, to make decisions for the ward or the elderly adult.

The guardian may also wish to be appointed as the conservator, which allows them to ensure that financial decisions are made that best serve the elderly loved one.

These duties can be split between two parties, or one person can assume both roles through legal documentation.

Though this process can seem daunting with parents who may not feel ready for someone to take over their decisions or with siblings who may disagree with what needs to be done, the process doesn’t have to be overwhelming. An experienced elder law attorney will be well-versed in how to assist you.

Protecting Our Vulnerable

Though it may not be at the top of our priority lists to consider our distant futures, having these conversations with our loved ones is essential. We want to remain proactive rather than reactive when caring for our elderly.

With so many options out there, there are several ways in which you can ensure that your loved one is protected and planned for appropriately. Maybe it’s reviewing the estate plan that is in place to determine if it’s sufficient or if other resources can help. Perhaps it’s reviewing a case of wondering if your loved one is receiving the care they need at a nursing home. Maybe it’s settling a dispute between relatives about who should have the power of attorney.

Regardless of where you are in your planning, our team is here to assist you. Call our office today at (248) 997-4394 to set up your case evaluation.

We look forward to serving you and your loved ones.

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