Richmond Davis, Esquire
"Helping People Plan for the Future
in Columbia and the Baltimore-Washington region"
ELDER LAW EXPLAINED
Getting Older - What You Need to Know
There are a number of legal concerns of particular interest to older members of our community. These areas of the law are usually grouped together in a category known as "elder law". The following is a thumb-nail sketch of topics that need the attention of older people and their loved ones.
Make provisions to insure that heirs receive as much as possible. This is also known as asset protection. This can be accomplished through wills, gifts during a person's lifetime directly to the desired beneficiaries, and/or living trusts which provide for distribution of assets without going through probate. Estate planning may also result in the reduction of death taxes. Long-term care insurance can also help protect your wealth.
Financial Power of Attorney
An individual can appoint someone else to manage his financial affairs if he is unable to do so. This is a preferred and less expensive way of providing for the proper management of one's financial affairs in the event of incapacity or incompetence. If this is not done, a guardianship may be required.
Health Care Power of Attorney
An individual may be appointed to make health care decisions, such as the selection of hospitals, doctors or type of medical treatment, if the patient is unable to make those decisions for him or herself. Failure to have such a document may leave the decisions in the hands of impersonal medical institutions. If a person does not have a power of attorney for health care, a personal guardian may need to be appointed by the court at a significantly greater cost and inconvenience.
What if there is no power of attorney? An individual who needs to have his financial and/or personal affairs managed by someone else can seek the appointment of a guardian through the local court. This procedure can be expensive and emotionally draining and is to be avoided if at all possible.
Know the rights of eligible recipients. Coverage for medical expenses has been expanded to include drug expenses (Part D). But it is important to remember that it does not pay for long-term care.
There are very stringent rules for eligibility for benefits when an individual has exhausted his ability to pay for medical care.
"Stay at Home" Options
A reverse mortgage allows a "62+" homeowner to withdraw equity and receive a regular monthly payment. The lender is not paid back until the homeowners die or the property is sold. Another option is a life estate - a homeowner can deed over his house to loved ones and continue to live there until his death.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC)
Some companies offer facilities and housing for independent living, assisted living and advanced nursing care, all on one site.
Assisted Living Facilities
State regulations and contracts affect a person's admission into a facility known as "assisted living". Dining is typically available in a group setting and varying levels of services are provided to residents depending on their physical and mental capabilities.
Nursing homes are available for those who require intensive care and typically need assistance with most basic physical activities of life including severe dementia or late-stage Alzheimer's Disease. Nursing homes are heavily regulated and contracts are extensive. Dealing with them on your own can be overwhelming.
When the end nears...
Provisions can be made through documents called advance directives or living wills to halt unnecessary and unhelpful medical procedures when a person's death is "just around the corner". Delaying the inevitable can be avoided by such documents and result in the savings of money and emotional heartache for survivors.