In this week’s blog entry in our ongoing series on understanding estate planning, we’re going to turn our attention to elder law. Elder law is closely associated with estate planning, though the two areas of the law are not exactly the same. Further, elder law is not a specific area of the law, but more of an umbrella topic that applies to many legal issues that people face as they get older. To help explain what elder law is, let’s take a look at some common questions people have about it.
What is elder law?
Elder law is a term that attorneys use to describe common legal issues that most people only have to face when they get older. Specifically, we’re talking about legal issues that affect senior citizens and the elderly. Elder law attorneys specialize in helping their clients deal with a variety of legal issues that arise as a result of the aging process.
Is elder law only something that affects the elderly?
No. While it’s important to understand that, as we get older, the legal issues we have to confront will change, that doesn’t mean that only elderly people or senior citizens will be confronted with elder law issues.
For example, one of the most common elder law issues people have to face is the possibility of losing their ability to make choices or decisions. This is known as incapacitation. When a person becomes incapacitated, that person no longer has the legal right to make choices on his or her own behalf. Instead, someone else will have to make decisions for that person.
Though incapacitation and incapacity planning is an issue that most people face only when they get older, it’s also an issue that will affect their loved ones and family, or one that can affect younger people as well.
For example, should an elderly person become incapacitated and not have an incapacity plan, his or her family members will have to take action in order to make decisions on that person’s behalf. If there is no incapacity plan in place, those family members will likely have to go to court and ask the court to name a legal representative of the incapacitated person.
If I am elderly or a senior citizen, should I talk to an elder law attorney whenever I face any kind of legal question?
No. Elder Law lawyers specialize in the legal issues that confront people as a result of the aging process. This doesn’t mean that they are best suited to help an elderly person with any legal problem they face. For example, if you get a speeding ticket or are charged with a crime, you need to speak to a criminal defense attorney regardless of your age.
Parman & Easterday