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May 20, 2011

May is National Elder Law Month.  Elder law is a specialized area of the legal practice covering many different aspects of the law that impacts the lives of older people and their families. Elder Law covers estate planning, wills, trusts, arrangements for care, social security and retirement benefits, protection against elder abuse, housing options and health care. In light of this “holistic” approach, Elder Law Attorneys are vastly different than traditional attorneys.  Most traditional attorneys focus on one area of practice; whereas an Elder Law Attorney focuses on a specific population.  Although an Elder Law Attorney can assist in many different aspects of the law, the following are five important services an Elder Law Attorney can provide to the senior population and their families:

1. Estate planning

Creating and maintaining appropriate estate plan documents is important for people of all ages. Estate planning documents consist of Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney and Advanced Medical Directives.  Wills and Trusts ensure a person’s assets will be left to their intended beneficiaries and that their wishes will be carried out upon death. Powers of Attorney and Advanced Medical Directives allow individuals to appoint people to make financial and health care decisions on their behalf if they are no longer able to do so themselves.

2. Locating resources for care and assistance

Elder Law attorneys are familiar with the network of services and providers available to assist elders in a number of areas, such as those services provided by various state agencies and federally funded programs. .

3. Assisting with qualification and application for public benefits

There are many public benefit programs available to assist low-income and low-asset elders with the care they need. These include the different veterans’ benefit programs as well as the Medicare/Medicaid program.  Elder Law attorneys stay updated on the frequent changes to the laws and regulations that govern these benefit programs and the eligibility requirements.

4. Guardianship and Conservatorship

In circumstances where an elder is no longer able to make decisions for him or herself, an Elder Law Attorney can assist family members in obtaining authority from the court to make decisions on the elder’s behalf.

5. Educating elders and family members

One of the most important services an Elder Law Attorney provides is educating elders and their families about resources and planning strategies that are appropriate to each individual client.

For a consultation with one of our Elder Law Attorneys, please contact (732)797-1600.

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