Elder law covers the estate planning and future care needs of those planning for retirement or for their end-of-life care. Elder law does not only apply to those who are in poor health. It can also help those who are perfectly healthy and want to plan for their needs and those of their loved ones. However, concerns covered by elder law, such as guardianships and powers of attorney, are often more necessary if an individual is facing a developing condition or nearing the end of their life.
If you are looking into planning for long-term care, at-home care, or what to do with your estate, an elder law attorney can help. The process of managing estate planning documents can be overwhelming if you aren’t sure where to start. Our attorney can discuss your needs and wishes for your estate, your heirs, and your own care and use this information to draft the documents that handle your legal needs.
Planning for retirement comes with significant financial stressors, and making decisions for future long-term care is often even more draining. Long-term care creates uncertainty for many individuals, and the high cost of that care doesn’t help. When you are worried about the costs of care, it may seem unrealistic to hire an attorney to help with those issues.
However, it’s useful to be aware that, though legal care can be costly, it can often save significant time and money. An attorney who understands the nuances of elder law and estate planning can create a plan that addresses your financial needs and allows you to feel secure about your future.
To get the most out of this planning, you need an attorney with substantial experience in this field of law. At the Law Office of Douglas A. Oberdorfer, P.A., we have served our community around Jacksonville with dedication and care. Our firm understands that discussing plans for potential incapacitation and making estate plans for after your death is something that few people like dealing with. We strive to handle these issues with the compassion they need while helping you address your needs for the future.
Elder law is a legal practice that services the needs of elderly and aging clients. In many ways, this coincides with general estate planning, including planning for personal care and setting up an estate for beneficiaries, but there are a few topics unique to elder law. Many elder law clients are considering some type of long-term care, such as a nursing home, and need more information about qualifying for Medicaid and protecting their assets from creditors. By making these plans, clients are able to find alternate legal routes to a guardianship. Guardianships may be necessary if an individual becomes incapacitated with no powers of attorney or medical directives, and a guardianship may not follow their wishes.
When you begin working with an elder care attorney, decisions should revolve around your goals for the future. Some main goals of elder law estate and long-term care planning are:
At the Law Office of Douglas A. Oberdorfer, P.A., our attorney works with families to make sure they understand the laws that apply to their situation and the options they have available. Whether you are an individual or a family planning for your future, we want to understand your goals for planning out your life and help you achieve them.
When an individual has not been able to set up an estate plan or finances for long-term care, this issue may fall to their loved ones when they can no longer make those decisions. Often, our clients are the spouse or children of the elderly person who needs care. They come looking for ways to help their loved ones who may be facing health challenges or diminished mental capacity. Depending on the situation, we may help clients:
These cases often involve transitioning to housing that provides needed care. We can help you find the right level of care and needed benefits for this important step.
Estate planning is largely the same whether it is managed under elder law or not. The biggest difference is that your individual goals may be different if you are near retirement or have been retired for many years. If you already have an estate plan, you should keep it updated every few years so that it meets your changing goals. If you do not have an estate plan, an elder law attorney can help you plan one.
Your comprehensive estate plan can address whatever goals you have for your life and estate. Even if you are unsure what goals can be accomplished by an estate plan, there are several benefits to a comprehensive estate plan for any individual. In addition to saving your loved ones time, stress, and money, your assets and estate can remain private through the use of trusts, rather than become a matter of public record.
Incapacitation or incompetence are possible as you reach the end of your life. Medical conditions, illnesses, and age can prevent you from being able to handle your own personal, financial, medical, or estate affairs. If you reach this time in your life without properly planning for incapacitation, there is a high likelihood that the court will order a guardianship or that a loved one will petition for one.
A guardianship allows another individual to make decisions on your behalf. Guardianships can be voluntary or involuntary, and they are only allowed if you are deemed legally incapable and there are no other options. A guardian is assigned to you, and you are the ward of the guardianship. Guardians must act in their ward’s interest and act in fiduciary.
Depending on the type of guardianship, your guardian may have control over your daily life choices or over the legal and financial decisions of your estate. A guardianship may be:
A guardian should only be given authority over the decisions that a ward cannot make. The court may assign a plenary guardianship if the ward can make no personal or financial decisions. The court could also assign a limited guardianship, which may be a guardianship of the person or the estate. A limited guardianship only gives the guardian authority over the decisions that the ward cannot make for themselves.
An estate plan that lists powers of attorney and advance directives can prevent a guardianship. Under Florida statutes, a guardianship is the last resort. All alternatives that are less restrictive must be used first since a guardianship is a significant restriction of an individual’s civil rights. If your estate creates alternatives through these documents, you can avoid being assigned a guardian to manage your care.
If you are a family member who has to establish a guardianship for a relative who can no longer manage their own affairs, it can be hard to know what to do. An attorney can help you determine what legal options you have and whether a guardianship is needed to care for your loved one’s needs.
There are several options for long-term care as you near the end of your life, but nursing home care and home health care are notoriously expensive. Most people do not have long-term care insurance to cover the costs, and they fear that using their savings will leave them or their spouse with nothing in a short time. This is a stressful financial situation for many families, but there are solutions.
The federal Medicaid program will cover long-term care for those who qualify for the program. The rules and regulations regarding Medicaid are complicated and change often, making it hard to determine if you qualify for benefits. We highly recommend you consult with an attorney before you apply. An attorney knows the requirements for Medicaid and can determine if that is the right strategy for your long-term care planning. Other public assistance benefits that could help fund your long-term care include:
The Medicaid rules include limits on how much you can own in assets and still qualify. Seniors often find themselves trying to “spend down” their money in order to reach that threshold. This is not the only option to qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid protection trusts are a form of irrevocable trust that can protect assets for your loved ones and allow you to qualify for government benefits for care.
Attorney Douglas A. Oberdorfer can explain to you which assets count towards Medicaid asset limitations, how the rules apply differently if you have a spouse or are an individual, and the most appropriate and beneficial way to spend down your assets if necessary. This guidance will help you protect as many assets as you can while still qualifying for Medicaid. Your attorney can also help you structure your assets and estate to fund long-term care or determine if alternate programs to Medicaid are useful in your situation to cover the costs. Every individual’s situation is going to be unique, and you need an attorney with experience to make a plan based on your specific goals.
Estate planning must be legally enforceable for it to have an effect, and an attorney has the experience and understanding of estate law to ensure that is so. If you’re worried that a will or trust may be contested by loved ones or interested parties, your estate planning attorney can help limit the chances of contests succeeding. Establishing a guardianship in Florida requires an attorney for the guardian. An attorney also can expedite the process, represent you during hearings, and handle any guardianship litigation.
Elder law has the potential to be complex, and you may waste significant time and money doing it incorrectly. By working with an attorney, you can be confident that your wishes are met for you and your loved ones.
Elder law is a complex area of law. At Law Office Of Douglas A. Oberdorfer, P.A., we receive questions from clients, as well as the children or spouses of seniors who need help with financial management, Medicaid planning and asset protection. Below are some of the common areas of concern regarding elder law.
Mental capacity, also sometimes referred to as mental competence, is a term that has different legal meanings in different circumstances. In general, it means you have the mental ability to make your own decisions. It often has four parts:
Your ability to understand complex matters, such as whether to sell your house, may diminish before your ability to grasp a more general concept, such as wanting to give the house to your son when you die. If you are unsure whether you or a loved one has the necessary legal capacity to make a decision, speak with your treating physician.
You can establish a power of attorney while you are still mentally competent, allowing a trusted agent to make financial decisions for you after you are no longer able. If you do not have a power of attorney before you lose your mental capacity, your family will have to request that the court appoint a guardian to help you. Because guardianship is a probate court process, it is much more costly and time-consuming.
Medicaid planning takes skill and specific legal knowledge. The best way to find out if you will qualify for Medicaid is to consult with our experienced attorney, Douglas Oberdorfer. Consulting with an attorney is an allowed expense under the Medicaid rules, and he can help you determine if you are eligible or if you need to take certain actions before you apply.
If your house is your legal homestead, the law protects it under certain circumstances. Medicaid rules do allow for very limited transfers to family, but these situations are case-specific. Consult with an attorney before you transfer any property if you plan to apply for Medicaid. Medicaid rules include a five year look-back period for all uncompensated transfers that could count against you when you apply.
Whether you are trying to establish a guardianship for a family member or are hoping to plan your estate for the future, the team at the Law Office of Douglas A. Oberdorfer, P.A., can help. We understand that this is a potentially confusing situation, and we want to guide you through your legal options. A comprehensive estate plan can protect you, your future, and your estate. We take your elder law matter seriously and are here to answer your questions. Schedule a free initial consultation with our attorney, Douglas A. Oberdorfer, by calling our Jacksonville office at 904-299-6912 or sending an email today.
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