When first meeting a Baby Boomer, I ask, “Is there anyone you might have to care for, either physically or financially?” You don’t have to be a financial planner or mathematician to know that supporting elderly parents can put a big dent in a financial lifestyle plan – theirs, and/or yours. I have seen a lot of difficult situations with concerned, frustrated 50- and 60-something’s doing their best to care for parents in their 80s and 90s. In the beginning, many weren’t aware that the costs and stress would become so large, nor that they aren’t always necessary. They weren’t aware they don’t have to figure it out alone. When I ask if they have ever heard of “elder law,” more than half the time the answer is “No.”
May is National Elder Law Month. What is elder law? It’s a branch of the law assisting the elderly, and often, their adult children/caregivers. Elder law attorneys help deal with the onset of dementia, incapacity, and/or financial stress due to care expenses. In addition to being experts in estate planning and powers of attorney, they help people understand and qualify for VA Aid and Attendance benefits and Medicaid. They can help protect assets from depletion and fraudsters.
Elder law attorneys are also a resource for finding public and private assistance with aging-related issues, whether it be geriatric care managers, assisted living facilities, or home health aides. They understand the importance of threats to dignity, independence, and security in later years. They also understand not all family members agree all the time. An elder law attorney can often suggest solutions for frustrated family members that no one else considers.
Many people wait too late to call an elder law attorney. Waiting can cost a family tens, or even hundreds of thousands. If fraud is involved, it sometimes takes a long time before it’s realized. Other times, qualifying for help can take years. It’s better to call sooner rather than later.
It can’t hurt to ask for a complimentary consultation to figure out whether they can help. To find an elder law attorney near you, ask a trusted professional for a referral, or go to http://www.martindale.com, then type “elder law” and your location in the search function. I hope the next time you’re in the financial planner’s office, you can answer, “We’ve got that covered. We went to an elder law attorney.”