Elder Law: What is it?

At its core, Elder Law focuses on the unique needs of older persons, individuals with special needs, and their caregivers. Elder Law is a legal specialty catering to the needs of this population. Perhaps the most fundamental question addressed by Elder Law is “how do I make decisions for someone else?” This concept, known as substituted judgment, encompasses both “how to” and “what’s right and wrong.” In other words, if your loved one can no longer manage his or her finances, how to you get authority to help, what help is needed, where do you get the information necessary to understand and evaluate the problems, and what’s the right decision. The same would apply if you need to assist someone with health care decisions. In most cases, the answer to “what should I do” or “what’s right and wrong” is to make decisions that are consistent with the values of the person you’re helping. See O.C.G.A. § 10-6B-14(a) (financial agents under POA); O.C.G.A. § 31-32-7(b)(health agents); O.C.G.A. § 29-4-22 (guardians); O.C.G.A. § 29-5-22 (conservators).

Unlike traditional estate planning, Elder Law begins by assisting you with issues associated with long-life rather than simply planning for death. It mixes legal and practical issues such as staying home if you had a chronic condition, having someone help you pay for groceries, and not becoming a victim of financial abuse in the process. In may cases, it attempts to help you solve the problem of not knowing what you don’t know.

Elder Law is the only area of law defined by the clients served rather than the areas of law in which an attorney practices. Most qualified Elder Law Attorneys deal “holistically” with clients, talking about long-term planning for health care and financial viability, family dynamics, end-of-life decisions, personal values and personal preferences. Elder Law is one of the fastest growing areas of law. With 80 million baby boomers moving into their “golden years,” and one person attaining age 50 every seven seconds, there is a great demand for information.

According to the National Elder Law Foundation, “Elder Law” is the legal practice of counseling and representing older persons and persons with special needs, their representatives and families about the legal aspects of health and long term care planning, public benefits, surrogate decision-making, older persons’ legal capacity, the conservation, disposition and administration of older persons’ estates and the implementation of their decisions concerning such matters, giving due consideration to the applicable tax consequences of the action, or the need for more sophisticated tax expertise. See Section 2.1 at https://nelf.org/page/NELFRulesandRegulations

Elder Law encompasses many different fields of law. An Elder Law attorney specializes in how to best use their knowledge to fit the needs of seniors. Some of these fields include:

Resources:

NELF Video Series (Vemeo) | NELF.org
Elder Law Professor Blog | Resources
Elder Law Articles at SSRN

At EZ Elder Law, our goal is to answer your questions about all of these issues. We’re just getting started, so give us time. In the meantime, if you have questions, send them to websupport@ezelderlaw.com.

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