Many elderly persons rely entirely on their children, family members or other trusted individuals to help them. This dependence makes an older person more vulnerable to abuse and financial exploitation. Legal arrangements and protective actions by family may be necessary to shield loved ones from making bad decisions or from being taken advantage of.
Most children wouldn’t take advantage of their parents, but there is no way to know what someone will do who is desperate for money or who fees entitled to an inheritance. For example:
David’s parents’ health was failing and living alone in their home was becoming a concern. His sister, Jill, suggested assisted living, but David immediately became upset at Jill for wanting to spend their money. He brought his parents to his home. Being single and working, he was not available to them during the day, but left food and water on the table for them until he returned home. Jill lived over 300 miles away and when she visited, she found her parents’ care was not acceptable. They couldn’t remember if they took their medications, or if they had eaten a meal that day. David was draining their savings account, and when confronted, became angry and complained he needed their money to pay expenses. Jill felt her brother’s care was abusive, but David’s defense was he provided a home for them. This family needs a professional advisor to help them understand and clarify issues concerning their parents’ care.
Making legal decisions about property, finances, power of attorney, and final wishes are important tasks to complete for the final years of life. Having legal documentation for a will, for medical treatment and for the person designated to be responsible for parents’ welfare can avoid family disputes and financial abuse, and help to conserve assets that are needed for care.
Elder law attorneys specialize in legal issues affecting the elderly. They work with the elderly in assisting them and their families with all aspects of estate planning and obtain in home or nursing home care. A partial list of what an elder law attorney might do is:
- Preservation or transfer of assets to avoid spousal impoverishment when a spouse enters a nursing home
- Medicaid qualification, and application and Medicaid planning strategies
- Home care paid by Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders
- Veterans Benefits
- Disability planning, with durable powers of attorney, living trusts and living wills
- Administration and management of trusts and estates
- Long term care placements in nursing homes and assisted living
Most elder law attorneys do not specialize in all the areas listed above. When considering an attorney you will want to find one who has experience in the area you need help.
According to The Nation Academy of Elder law Attorneys – http://www.naela.org/
“Ask lots of questions before selecting an elder law attorney. You don’t want to end up in the office of an attorney who can’t help you. Start with the initial phone call. It is not, unusual to speak only to a secretary, receptionist or office manage during an initial call or before actually meeting with the attorney. If so, ask this person your questions.
- How long has the attorney been in practice?
- Does his/her practice emphasize a particular area of law?
- How long has he/she been in this field?
- What percentage of his/her practice is devoted to elder law?
- Is there a fee for the first consultation and if so, how much is it?
- Given the nature of your problem, what information should you bring with you to the initial consultation?”
The best way to choose an attorney is by referral from friends, family, social workers, clergy, or other associations.
A key indicator is whether the attorney listens to what you say, and returns your phone calls. If not, find another attorney. Most Elder law Attorneys sincerely want to help make your parent’s elder years be a well planned for, peaceful experience for all involved.
The National Care Planning Council lists elder law attorneys throughout the United States. To find someone in your area go to http://www.longtermcarelink.net/a2cfindattorney.htm.