What is an Elder Law attorney?

This is a great question that a lot of people newer to estate planning, nursing home care, and Medicare/Medicaid, find themselves asking. Elder law as a field of law encompasses many different parts. So, to answer this question, it is best to describe the general goals and reasons people may seek out an elder law attorney.

First off, you don’t have to be elderly to go to an elder law attorney. Our expertise touches so many different areas of the law, that we are useful for things like developing wills, trusts, estate plans, and other documents and mechanisms for people of any age. Therefore, if you are in your 30s or 40s and wanted to protect your family, you would come see one of the attorneys at our firm for assistance.

So, what differentiates an elder law attorney from a typical trusts and estates attorney? As an elder law attorney, I am trained to help people accomplish more complex issues, such as nursing home care, Medicaid eligibility, Veterans Administration Benefits, protecting assets in special needs trusts, Miller trusts, tax issues, long-term care insurance, life insurance coverage, living wills, durable power of attorneys, and of course Medicare services. It is that suite of services that differentiates an elder law attorney from someone that just does wills or from someone who just does complex trusts.

Our clients tend to be divided into two categories: those seeking emergency assistance and those seeking estate and life planning advice. What is emergency assistance? Typically, clients require emergency assistance from an elder law attorney if they find that their loved one needs immediate or near-immediate intervention to place them into a nursing facility or a specialized nursing facility. That sounds strange at first, because shouldn’t the family know the needs of their loved ones? In a perfect world, yes. But, what if you only see your senior family members on holidays? It may come as a shock to you that they are eating expired food or misreading a food label or taking the wrong medications. Those are symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease which frequently take families by surprise.

In such instances, family members would seek out our services to assess, plan, and re-organize the loved one’s assets and income to make them Medicaid eligible for a nursing home as soon as reasonably possible. Iowa follows very strict guidelines. The application is typically between 63 and 170 pages and is complex—touching all aspects of the person’s life. A traditional Trusts and Estates attorney would not do such work. The attorneys at our firm work consider the many aspects of a person’s life to empower the family to make the best decisions for their loved ones.

Those that seek an elder law attorney on a non-emergency basis are instead trying to plan for the future. It goes without saying, you are never too young to plan. We will help to assess your needs and advice on how to protect your spiritual, financial, moral, and health needs. We do this through legal documents such as living wills, advanced directives, durable powers of attorney, etc.

Elder attorneys do so much and that was just the tip of the iceberg! Call us for a free consultation today!