Elder Law

There are approximately 40 million Americans who are 65 years of age and older, and 10,000 Americans who turn 65 every day. People are growing older, living longer, and have fewer resources. The Elder Law attorneys at Houston Harbaugh are here to help you plan for your future.

What is Elder Law?

Elder Law isn’t just about senior citizens. It’s about them, the people who care for them, their children. It’s about people with disabilities and their families. In short, it could be about you.

What do you think of when you hear the term “Elder Law Attorney?” Many people think of attorneys who deal with Medicaid planning and other crisis situations when in reality, the scope of the elder law field is much broader. Of all areas of law, Elder Law may be one of the most difficult about which to formulate a concrete definition. Many attorneys agree that the best way to define Elder Law may be by the demographics that the Elder Law attorney serves – generally the elderly and the disabled and related issues. Any and every issue that these two demographics could conceivably face fall under the umbrella known as Elder Law.

Some common practice areas that fall under the umbrella of Elder Law include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Medicaid planning
  • Veterans pension planning
  • Special needs planning
  • Guardianship
  • General estate planning
  • Assistance in finding caregivers/care-giving facilities
  • Resources for non-legal needs of the elderly and the disabled
  • Elder abuse
  • Nursing home negligence
  • Social Security disability
  • Medicare appeals and Medicaid litigation

It is worth noting that not all Elder Law attorneys address all aspects of Elder Law in their practice. To that end, it is worthwhile when you have an issue that falls under the Elder Law umbrella to ask the attorney if he or she includes the particular type of issue that needs to be addressed in his or her practice.

Talking to the wrong person, attorney, family or friend can result in no advice or bad advice. Common well-intentioned advice may include things like, “Just put the kids’ names on your bank account or your house,” or “I’m sorry, but nothing can be done.” You might end up with a Power of Attorney that does not address long-term care issues or the wrong type of special needs trust, or you might find out after the fact that Veterans benefits might have been available had you been told about them. All of these things can have unanticipated disastrous results.

While it may seem a long way away, because of the desire to protect assets and leave something behind for their heirs, it is imperative that people begin thinking about eldercare as early as 20 – 30 years before they may ever need it. This preparation includes:

  • Having all your estate planning documents in place – such as Wills, Living Wills, and Powers of Attorney.
  • Understanding that neither Medicare nor Medicaid will cover assisted living expenses. Medicare will not cover long-term care expenses in a skilled nursing facility. Medicaid is not earned – it is the Welfare system for those who do not have the financial means to provide for their care and is only available to those persons who medically qualify for skilled nursing services in a facility, and in some cases in their home.
  • Looking at your financial situation and assessing whether you will have enough to take care of yourself and still protect your assets.

Ultimately, if we wait until someone is sick and in a crisis, an Elder Law attorney may still be able to help; but the options available become limited. The best chances for the most options in all areas of Elder Law planning are available to those persons who proactively plan. Everyone hopes to live a long and healthy life. Planning with an Elder Law attorney can give you and your family peace of mind in the event that life takes an unanticipated turn for you or for a loved one.