People might hear the phrase “elder law” or “elder lawyer” without fully understanding the range of services legal professionals who handle elder law matters provide.
As New Jersey residents age, their legal needs change. An elder lawyer focuses on the needs of people who have retired or who are close to retirement age. They continue serving this group until their final illnesses and deaths.
In a nutshell, the legal goals of senior citizens usually involve taking care of their own medical and personal needs and passing down as much of their wealth as they can to their loved ones.
Many of these needs can be met with effective estate planning, which is one of the services an attorney familiar with elder law provides. For example, someone approaching retirement will at a minimum want both to execute a simple will and to take other basic steps. They may consider a trust or other more complicated estate plan in certain circumstances.
Naming an attorney-in-fact is a key part of a good estate plan
Properly naming the right people to serve as one’s attorney-in-fact for financial decisions or as a healthcare representative is an important part of a good estate plan. People can nominate individuals for these important roles through documents sometimes called advance directives.
These nominees, who are usually trusted relatives or friends, will make critical and sometimes even life-and-death decisions that the person who nominated them is not able to make for herself.
It is important that these people are prepared for and have the character necessary to fulfill these roles.
Sometimes, litigation will be needed to protect the elderly
No matter how carefully one plans, there is always a possibility that a senior citizen, or the family, will face litigation. Elder lawyers are available to assist in these situations.
Sometimes, for example, a family will need to create a guardianship for an incapacitated senior citizen in order to have the legal authority they need to help him or her.
In other cases, legal action may be needed to remove irresponsible guardians or attorney-in-fact. A family may also have to sue to recover assets improper spent or even stolen from an elderly person. There also can be issues with poor nursing home care or insurance disputes.