What Is Elder Law? Legal Strategies for Families

What's often referred to as elder law is really the intersection of several areas of the law. Elder law attorneys handle the many needs of their clients in preparation for the handling of their finances and property as well as planning for legal and medical decisions as they age.

Estate Planning Services

Estate planning is one of the main areas of practice and planning for elder law attorneys. As individuals age, they need to consider where their property and assets go under the law and how they are handled in the event they are unable to manage their own affairs or pass away.

Medicaid Planning Services

Medicaid planning is a very important service that an elder law attorney can provide. In the event that an individual needs long-term care because they can't care for themselves, it can be a great relief to have already planned for this possibility.

Sometimes assistance with handling daily activities such as getting dressed, doing laundry, or preparing food is needed for people as they age.

Sometimes a family member can help or part-time help could assist with these necessities. But in other cases, there is the need for skilled nursing care. This type of care is often beyond the skills and affordability of most people, at least for a sustainable period of time. This can trigger the need to apply for Medicaid, which can accommodate these necessary services. Before a person can be eligible for Medicaid however, they have to be at the poverty level and cannot possess any significant assets. Money, assets, and property can all be taken by Medicaid to pay for the services until the applicant is literally at the poverty level, at which point the services continue for life. Medicaid planning, when taken care of early enough, can avoid this scenario by the time a person is in need of such care.

Since this type of planning cannot be done on short notice, you will want to contact an elder care attorney if you or a loved one experience a decline in health. Better yet, contact an elder law attorney before such a situation arises! An elder care attorney can advise on the best ways to prevent a scenario in which you have to forfeit your assets. This can involve trusts or the early transfer of assets. Your attorney can advise you on which options would work best for you.

Medical Care and End-of-Life Decisions

While you do want to plan for how to take care of your loved ones when you are unable to do so, you still need to think about you. It's not pleasant to think about what happens when you pass, but you also need to consider the possibility of serious illness or a decline in health and not being able to take care of yourself. You need to also consider how decisions would be made for you if you cannot make them for yourself.

Legal and Medical Decisions

Power of Attorney

For legal and financial decisions, a power of attorney can be chosen to make decisions and act on your behalf.

A power of attorneyneeds to be chosen carefully because this person can handle your bank accounts, retirement accounts, sign contracts on your behalf, as well as buy or sell property in your name. But a trusted power of attorney can carry out your wishes by keeping account payments current, paying your mortgage or rent, and paying for your medical care, if you are unable to do these things for yourself.

Advance Directives

While a power of attorney can designate financial and legal decisions for you, as well as handle the financial aspects of your medical affairs, actual health care decisions for you need to be designated in what is known as an advance directive. An advance directive, in the form of a living will, can specify your wishes about what kind of treatment you can get as well as what types of life-sustaining measures you would, or would not want if you are incapacitated or not otherwise in a position to make that decision. An advance directive can also be in the form of naming a proxy, or medical decision maker, to make decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself. Advance directives are often intended for situations in which an individual falls into a permanent unconscious or vegetative state, or in cases where the ability to make decisions is greatly diminished.

Greater Chattanooga Elder Law Attorney

An elder law attorney can help with all of these matters by preparing legal documents that specify the handling of your medical affairs and who can make legal and financial decisions for you. Your elder law attorney can also help you decide who would best be suited to make these decisions for you.

An elder law attorney will discuss the best option for their clients as far as what happens to their assets or property. A will can sometimes offer some certainty as to what happens to a person's assets when they pass away, but wills can be subject to probate and can't always guarantee a smooth passage of assets to one's heirs. A skilled and experienced elder law attorney can advise you on other methods such as trusts, which are not usually subject to the estate's creditors, and can pass directly to your heirs and not be subject to the probate process.

Experience and Compassion For Seniors and Families

Every person's situation is different so the personalized attention of an elder law attorney can better assure the carrying out of your wishes for you when you are not in a position to do so for yourself. The elder law attorneys of Jelks Law can help you with a plan for your estate and and strategies for dealing with the possibility of Medicaid and will work with you to create a plan that protects your family and heirs and provide peace of mind. Attorneys Amanda Jelks and Leslie Starritt

Jelks Law serves the greater Chattanooga area and surrounding communities including: Soddy Daisy, TN; Red Bank, TN; East Ridge, TN; Ooltewah, TN; Signal Mountain, TN; Cleveland, TN; Lookout Mountain, GA; Ringgold, GA