What is Elder Law?

Elder law is more about the clients we serve than the type of legal services we provide. It’s not just wills and trusts, and it isn’t just for folks we would traditionally consider “elderly.” Our planning solutions apply long before most people would consider themselves elderly. Elder law often overlaps with estate planning and special needs planning, but it also includes long-term care planning (Medicaid planning), guardianship and conservatorship, and estate administration.

Estate Planning

What will happen to your property and finances after you die? Who will make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated? Estate planning involves answering these questions and signing legal documents that reflect your wishes. A basic estate planning package typically includes a will, power of attorney, and health care directive. Some people also need a trust depending on their assets and goals.

Special Needs Planning

Although not traditionally “elder law,” many elder law attorneys are also special needs planning attorneys. Individuals with disabilities rely on valuable public benefits to help meet their everyday needs, medical needs, and social needs. Special needs planning involves protecting eligibility for these benefits, for example, when the individual receives a personal injury settlement or an unplanned inheritance. It also includes advising parents of a child with a disability and possibly setting up a trust to receive that child’s inheritance.

Long-Term Care Planning

Long-term care planning means planning for the possibility that you or a family member will someday need long-term care at home, in a nursing home, or in a residential care facility (assisted living). Because of the high cost of care, many families need to apply for Medicaid (MaineCare) to help pay for this care. There are more planning opportunities when this planning is done before long-term care is needed.

Guardianship and Conservatorship

It may be necessary to seek guardianship, conservatorship, or another form of protective arrangement if a loved one becomes incapacitated and can no longer make decisions for themselves. This can usually be avoided if the individual signed estate planning documents expressing their wishes before losing capacity. Seeking guardianship and conservatorship is a court process and involves filing a petition with the Probate Court and attending a hearing.

Estate Administration

After someone passes away, this is the process of implementing the plans that the individual expressed through their estate planning documents. When there are probate assets, paperwork needs to be filed with the Probate Court. There could also be creditor claims, real estate issues, or trusts that must be reviewed and administered. Special rules apply when an individual dies without a will.