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Elder Law is a practice area which addresses the legal issues faced by the elderly. As a person ages, they become increasingly entangled with government programs, and legal and financial issues. Those needs can range from property management, planning for incapacity through use of advance directives, Medicaid planning, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income and estate planning. Allen Law, P.A. focuses a majority of its practice on Elder Law and is ready to help the elderly client, or their families, navigate those needs.
Nursing home care can be extremely expensive and can quickly deplete the assets that one has worked hard for years to accumulate, leaving nothing to pass down to one's heirs. Contrary to a widely held belief, that Medicare will help pay for nursing home care, the only help available beyond savings or long-term care insurance is Medicaid. Medicaid, however, requires that an individual spend down assets before they can become eligible. Most individuals or their families will begin to transfer or selling for less than fair market value the individual's assets believing that this will exclude them from being counted as assets for Medicaid eligibility purposes; however, it is important that the individual or the individual's family seek legal assistance before transferring any assets that could disqualify the client for Medicaid due to the look-back period imposed by the government. This look-back period could inadvertently disqualify an individual from receiving Medicaid benefits.
Medicaid qualification rules can be confusing, especially if only one spouse needs nursing home care (the "institutionalized spouse") and the other spouse continues to live independently (the "community spouse"). The community spouse is entitled to maintain certain assets and may even be entitled to a portion of the institutionalized spouses income so the community spouse may maintain his or her standard of living. Through use of Medicaid Planning, Allen Law, P.A. can help the elderly client preserve his or her assets for a community spouse or for his or her family and establish eligibility for Medicaid.
Special needs trusts can play an important role for families striving to meet current and future financial and medical needs of a disabled loved one, and are quickly becoming a very useful estate planning tool to "mitigate the inadequacies of government benefit programs for people with disabilities." These trusts are also used to preserve personal injury judgments for individuals who have been severely injured and disabled due to an accident. It is important that this trust is set up in advance of receiving a judgment. A special needs trust can serve several interrelated functions:
If you believe that you or a family member can benefit from a special needs trust, please call Allen Law, P.A. today for a free* initial consultation to determine whether a special needs trust will meet your needs.
Guardianship over a person and/or the person's property sometimes becomes necessary due to a person's age, disability, or incapacity. Florida recognizes the least restrictive means method of Guardianship, which means that proper advanced planning by execution of a durable power of attorney, health care directive and/or living will may help avoid costly guardianship altogether. But not all situations lend themselves to advanced planning, and in those situations where none of these documents exist, a person will have to Petition for Incapacity and seek guardianship over the person and/or property. A person for whom a guardian has been appointed is called a "ward" and during the course of the appointment of the guardian over the ward, the court provides careful oversight of the guardian's acts on behalf of the ward by requiring court permission for certain acts, and filing of annual reports and accountings.
Seeking guardianship can be a very emotional, but necessary, undertaking. It is important to choose an attorney who not only understands guardianship laws and procedures to help ensure that all the court's requirements of the guardian are being met during the course of the appointment, but who can guide you through the process with compassion and understanding. Allen Law, P.A. understands and can help.
A Durable Power of Attorney is an agreement between an individual (called the "Principal") and designated agent to act on behalf of that Principal. The Durable Power of Attorney can be effective on execution or can be springing, only coming into effect upon the Principal's incapacity. Although standard forms are available, this is a powerful document that should be drafted carefully to help meet the individual client's needs. A poorly drafted Durable Power of Attorney may not provide the designated agent with the powers needed to fully act on behalf of the principal, leaving the agent and/or family in a position to seek guardianship. Further, a poorly drafted durable power of attorney can also cause unintended tax consequences for the designated agent. It is highly recommended that you seek an attorney who understands the impact of these documents and can draft a Durable Power of Attorney that will meet your needs and avoid unintended consequences.
With advances in medical technology, open and frank discussions with family members regarding end-of-life preferences have become increasingly important, but these discussions do not always take place. A Living Will, however, ensures that a person's attitudes toward life-prolonging technology are known to family, friends, and attending or treating physicians should that person become incapacitated and have a terminal condition, end-stage condition, or is in a persistent vegetative state. A Living Will can remove any disagreements between family members about what decisions should be made at a time when emotions are already in crisis.
A Health Care Surrogate can be an important document, not only for the elderly, but for any adult. This document allows an individual to designate a person who may act on that individual’s behalf should they become temporarily or permanently incapacitated and are unable to make medical decisions for themselves. Although standard forms are available, an Elder Law attorney can help draft a Health Care Surrogate Designation that encompasses a client’s wishes and helps the decision-making process easier for the designee in case of the client’s incapacity.