Many people hear the phrase “elder law” and may not know exactly what it means. The field of elder law addresses many issues such as financial planning, estate planning, and health care decision making.
In terms of health care decision making, you should consider planning for your own incapacity and deciding what decisions you would want made and who you want to make them. Your wishes can be given effect through documents such as Health Care Proxies and Living Wills. In a Health Care Proxy, you choose someone to stand in your shoes to make decisions for you if you are not able to do so for yourself. The proxy’s role is to make health care decisions consistent with your personal beliefs. A Living Will sets forth the types of decisions you would want your health care proxy to make and can provide guidance regarding your desires and beliefs for that proxy or others providing care for you.
Payments for health care by Medicare and Medicaid are also considered in elder law planning. Medicare is a government program of health coverage for those 65 and older. Medicaid is government program of needs-based health coverage based upon strict financial criteria with income and resource limits. Attorney Elisabeth Hall can assist in the preparation of Medicaid applications and can provide advice regarding the eligibility standards for Medicaid.
Elder law planning also includes many other estate planning techniques, such as the use of Powers of Attorney, Last Wills and Testaments, and Trusts. A Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to act in your place with regard to financial matters. A Last Will and Testament is a document which allows you to decide how your property will be divided after your death. Trusts are used for many different planning purposes such as avoidance of probate, avoidance of estate tax, Medicaid eligibility, or general estate planning.
Estate planning involves discussing with an experienced attorney your wishes regarding the disposition of your assets, the handling of your financial affairs, and the making of your medical decisions. At O’Connell and Aronowitz, we have attorneys who are well versed in handling all these matters. A proper estate plan involves the drafting and execution of the appropriate estate planning documents, which can include: Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Health Care Proxies, and Living Wills. What follows is a brief overview and then additional questions and answers regarding these key estate planning documents.