When you hear the term “elder law attorneys,” you may wonder what the field is all about. This is understandable, and when you digest the facts, you will see why it may be wise for you to consult with our elder law attorney.
There are many eventualities of aging to address, and they can be complicated from a financial planning and estate planning perspective.
This is how attorney Joanna Grama, writing on the American Bar Association website, summed up the elder law area of legal specialization:
“Elder law has become a fast-growing practice area that is focused on the needs of an increasingly diverse population. Elder law attorneys address the needs of older clients in an attempt to preserve and ensure the client’s autonomy, safety, and well-being. Few practice areas encompass the range of emotional, practical, and legal considerations that elder law attorneys often encounter.”
Let’s drill down a bit to shed light on some of these specific matters that she touched upon in her description.
Social Security and Medicare
It is very important to understand exactly what you can expect from the Social Security program when you are planning ahead for your senior years. Depending on your birth year, you will qualify for Medicaid when you are between 66 and 67 years of age under currently existing guidelines.
Many people assume that the income will be sufficient to provide a reasonable quality of life, but in fact, this is not the case for the vast majority of Americans. In 2020, the average Social Security check for an individual retired worker was just $1503 per month.
We should point out the fact that it is possible to maximize your Social Security benefit by delaying your application until you are 70 years of age. If you do this, you accumulate delayed retirement credits that will increase the amount of your benefit by 8 percent for every year that you delay the submission of your application.
When it comes to Medicare, the age of eligibility is 65 for all eligible individuals, regardless of the year of your birth. Medicare will pick up the tab for the lion’s share of your covered expenses, but there are out-of-pocket costs, including co-payments, deductibles, and monthly premiums. Plus, there is a very significant expense that you may incur that is not covered at all.
This program does not pay for long-term care, and according to the website longtermcare.gov, about 70 percent of senior citizens will need it eventually. Nursing homes and assisted living communities are very expensive all around the country. Here in the Smithtown area, the median annual cost for a private room in a nursing home was $192,355 in 2019.
Medicaid will pay for long-term care, but it is complicated to qualify if you have resources, because there are low asset and income limits. Elder law attorneys help people devise financial strategies that lead to future Medicaid eligibility.
Alzheimer’s disease is very common among elders, and it is not the only cause of incapacity. The state can be petitioned to appoint a guardian to make decisions on behalf of an incapacitated adult, but most people would prefer to choose their own representatives in advance. This can be done through the execution of legally binding documents called durable powers of attorney.
Along these lines, another device that should be included is a living will. With this type of will, you state your preferences regarding the utilization of life sustaining measures if you are incapacitated with no hope of recovery.
Elder abuse is a shocking elder law issue that is getting more attention. Physical abuse can take place, and elder financial abuse is rampant. This being stated, once study estimated annual losses at $36.5 billion.
Elder law attorneys take steps to protect clients from abusers or potential abusers.
Attend an Upcoming Webinar!
Knowledge is power, and you can learn more about important estate planning matters if you attend one of our upcoming webinars. They are being offered free of charge, and you can visit this page to reserve your seat: Smithtown, NY Estate Planning Webinars.