“Aging is a privilege denied to many.” This saying rings so true, and we should treasure our time on this earth as we grow older. But there are also certain complications, such as elder estate planning, that come into play as we (or our loved ones) accrue more birthdays.
Elder Law and estate planning can help you and your loved ones protect yourselves and your assets. However, “elder law” and “estate planning” don’t mean the same thing, and “elder estate planning” or “elder law estate planning” are related terms that encompass aspects of both. Confused? Don’t worry; this article is focused on explaining the difference between elder law and estate planning and will show you how to leverage elder estate planning to protect yourself or those you love.
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What Is Elder Law?
In the United States, the law has many branches. While some of these branches are popular, some are streamlined to serve a certain part of the population. Branches of the law like tax law, family law, and elder law are examples of the streamlined branches of the law.
Elder law, as you might have guessed, caters to the legal issues and events that have to do with the elderly. It covers long-term care, the cost of a nursing home or nursing facility, and assets. Furthermore, elder law attorneys fight for the protection of the assets of senior citizens when they are still alive and unable to care for themselves.
Elder law also sees too many issues associated with living arrangements and nursing homes. This includes the prevention of abuse in nursing homes; protection of the assets of a senior disabled person from the cost of a nursing home; housing arrangements when they are disabled; and financial arrangements to keep them afloat.
The following aspects of the law are prominent in elder law:
- Financial issues like retirement income benefits, government benefits, estate planning and settlement, and long term care planning
- Care-based issues like guardianship and conservatorship, Power of Attorney, and elder abuse
- Medical issues like nursing care and a Medicaid asset protection trust
What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is a prominent part of estate law. Before we tackle it, let’s discuss the term “estate.” An estate can be defined as everything that an individual owns, including cars and other automobiles, real estate or properties, investments, bank accounts, and other personal possession.
A proper estate plan protects and preserves an individual’s estate from tax burdens and estate taxes as well as external manipulation. An estate plan ensures adequate management and distribution of assets to chosen heirs and beneficiaries. It preserves the deceased’s wishes so they can be acted upon in the event of death or incapacitation. An estate plan can be carried out by an executor or, in the case of very large or complex estates, with the help of an experienced estate planner in collaboration with an estate attorney.
As stated above, proper estate planning doesn’t have to do with planning for death alone. You can plan your estate for the future and make living estate plans for the event of disability to ensure your peace of mind. Estate planning, simply put, is acting in advance.
The Relationship Between Elder Law and Estate Planning
You can probably see the relationship between elder law and estate planning by now. Estate planning answers the question of what happens to our property when we die. Elder law caters to what happens to our properties when we’re alive but are unable to care for ourselves.
Elder law and estate planning go hand in hand. It is safe to say that a good estate plan with elder law considerations can increase the value of the assets eventually passed on to heirs. You can protect yourself now and make sure you’re provided for as you get older while also providing a considerable estate for your heirs.
Elder law estate planning combines these two areas of law. It makes provisions for your medical care in the vulnerable stage of your later life while ensuring your assets are administered appropriately when you pass away.
What About a Living Will?
Many people confuse elder law and estate planning. Perhaps this is because estate planning and elder law are somehow interrelated. After all, they both have to do with the protection of assets from depletion, as explained in the above section. However, things get even more complex when you add in the concepts of living wills and trusts.
Any elder law attorney can tell you that an estate plan can help with arrangements for you while you’re still alive. A living will is one way to do this. A living will include requests about Powers of Attorney, what should happen to you if you’re on life support or are below a certain quality of life threshold, and other related aspects of end-of-life care. You can probably see that this intersects with some aspects of elder law.
However, a living will is just one example of elder law at work. Elder law encompasses much more. For example, it provides specific protection in the event of elder abuse. It also delves deeper into financial planning for retirement, government benefits, and other assets you can use while you’re still around and kicking. So think of a living will as one component of elder law.
Elder Law Estate Planning
Judging by all we have said about elder law and estate plans above, you should have an idea of what elder law estate planning is. In this section, we’ll get into the details.
Elder law estate planning simply refers to the planning of an estate with due consideration given to elder law. This specialized area of the law combines the features of elder law and estate plan to create a niche that caters to the protection of elder citizens in the most vulnerable stage of their lives.
Practical Application of Elder Law Estate Planning
As protective as wills and revocable living trusts are, they don’t cater to the most vulnerable part of a senior’s life. This is the stage when the seniors are unable to take care of themselves. That stage is when elder law comes in: the gap between that stage and death where the quality of life can take a nosedive and medical power becomes paramount.
Take, for instance, an adult in his eighties. Let’s call him Jeff. Jeff’s health is waning, but he has made estate plans in not just wills, but adequate trusts. He watched a friend’s family get buried under an avalanche of medical debt, and he decided he didn’t want that to happen to his family. He had long-term care insurance, life insurance, living trusts, and even a special needs trust. He expects his assets and wealth to go down to his children and grandchildren when he passes.
However, Jeff gets sick and needs to be put in nursing home care. Elder law ensures that Jeff, who listed his daughter as his guardian, gets what he wants. His medical directive gives explicit instructions, and his insurance ensures that Jeff’s estate is tapped appropriately for disability and long-term care costs.
From a health care proxy to a revocable living trust, Jeff is prepared. He receives excellent customized care before passing away and leaving a considerable estate to his heirs. What would have happened if he hadn’t been so fastidious? We’re sure you can guess.
Estate Planning or Elder Estate Planning: What Do I Need?
So, you’re ready to start doing some elder estate planning. Do you need estate planning lawyers or elder law lawyers to help you? This is one of the more difficult questions about estate planning for many would-be planners.
If you have assets that are valuable enough to comfortably take care of long-term health care without running out of funds or depleting the estate, then it is recommended that you look into conventional estate planning methods. You may also want to hire an estate lawyer if your estate is quite substantial.
However, If the value of your estate couldn’t cover the annual cost of nursing homes (up to $200,000 per year and much more in the case of married couples), then it is recommended that you lean towards elder law estate planning. This will be able to protect your estate from depletion due to the cost of long-term nursing home and health care expenditures.
Get Help with Your Elder Estate Planning
You now know the relationship and differences between elder law and estate plans as well as elder estate planning. We know you may have questions, and we are ready to hear them and provide answers to them! Should you have any questions regarding this topic, feel free to go through related posts from us about elder law and estate planning.
You can also reach out to us directly. At A People’s Choice, we are dedicated to providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date legal documents for any legal activity you are looking to partake in. This can save you hundreds and thousands of dollars in the cost of elder law attorneys or estate planning attorneys. Reach out to us today for help with your elder estate planning!
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