Elder Law is about people and their quality of life. Elder law is fundamentally about safeguarding people’s assets and income, their autonomy and dignity, and their health–so that they can maintain an optimum life even as circumstances change or their condition declines.
Many people think that elder law consists mainly of estate planning. A common response to telling someone I’m an elder law attorney is, “Oh so you write wills?”. While it’s true that writing wills is a routine part of our practice, we elder law attorneys do much more.
Much of the elder law field involves planning and preparing strategies to cope with difficult situations before they arise. And if that didn’t take place or didn’t work as hoped, elder law lawyers can often help respond in a crisis. But being prepared ahead of time gives seniors and their families the tools to make decisions–it is less stressful than figuring out how to react in the midst of a crisis.
If a person can no longer communicate for themselves due to some condition or event (a terrible fall or accident with subsequent traumatic brain injury, a severe stroke, advanced Alzheiemer’s, for example) it is easier for everyone if advanced “substitute decision making” documents are in place. A durable power of attorney, for instance, to help with the paperwork and business affairs of life–or a designation of patient advocate or medical power of attorney to help with medical decisions, treatment planning, or even end-of-life-decision making.
These “substitute” decision making methods allow someone to speak for us and help in tough times. Not everyone gets around to such planning though. Or they planned years ago but circumstances have changed a lot. If that is the case, we still can help, but it might require a trip to the probate court to have a judge appoint a guardian or conservator. Or perhaps, more simply, a visit to the Social Security office to set up a representative payee arrangement would be appropriate.
Another part of elder law is being there for families when a crisis emerges. We can often help families as they search for the means to weather, mitigate, or avert the crisis. Since many are not fully prepared for long term care costs, especially a nursing home (which can easily run from $7,500 to $9,500 per month) we help families explore their coverage under Medicare or other insurance, and their eligibility for Medicaid or other programs. Helping families figure out to pay for long term care, when Medicare bows out, is also part of our work. With proper planning, people needing long term care might still be able to keep some important assets and still qualify for Medicaid.
At Bradley Vauter & Associates, our elder law attorneys arm clients with the tools to respond better in crisis situations both before and during the storm. We use the tools of elder law to benefit our clients both with planning and preparation and crisis management and advocacy.
In an often-complicated world that looks for cookie-cutter solutions, we still strive to care for the “whole person.”
Here is a link to a public television show, called “Ask the Lawyer-Elder Law Edition” broadcast in June of 2016, out of the public television station on the Northern Michigan University campus in Marquette, MI — Brad Vauter was one of the panelists: