Though you may have heard of it, you may not know exactly what “Elder Law” is. Elder law is simply those areas of the law that relate to the legal issues faced more often by seniors, but also affect younger individuals as well. An Elder Law attorney specializes in these sometimes unique legal issues. Elder law attorneys do not necessarily assist with all legal matters an elderly individual may encounter. Instead, they focus primarily on issues relating to estate planning and administration, and incapacitation. But, why is elder law important? Because it addresses many of the issues that cause the greatest worries families can face.
The Estate Planning aspect of Elder Law
Whether you have a will or not, you have an estate. Everyone does. Your estate is merely all of your worldly possessions, which can include personal property, real estate, intellectual property, cash, as well as your debts and other legal obligations. In essence, your estate is everything you own.
You may be able to manage your own estate now, but that will not always be the case. The reality is, either you may lose the ability to manage your own affairs, or you may not be around to do so. The purpose of estate planning is to anticipate what will happen to your property after you pass away, and to plan for that eventuality. Estate planning also addresses legal issues such as tax implications, inheritance and funeral planning.
Estate Administration in Elder Law
Estate administration goes a step beyond planning for the future. Estate administration is the process of managing an estate. These issues include serving as a personal representative of an estate, and all of the legal obligations that service brings with it. Estate administration involved many steps, which may differ depending on whether there is a will or not. A personal representative will ultimately be responsible for distributing estate property, after paying all debts. There are also administrative steps that must be taken in the event an adult becomes incapacitated.
Planning for and Dealing with Incapacitation
A very important part of Elder Law is planning for the possibility of incapacitation. Incapacitation happens to the young and old. Furthermore, the young are often the ones required to care for loved ones who have become incapacitated. Providing this necessary care has a very significant impact on the life of the caregiver, as well.
Elder law attorneys regularly assist clients in creating an effective incapacity plan, to help protect them, and their families, against the difficulties this loss can cause. People often think of dementia when they consider the need for incapacity planning. But there are many unexpected events that can result in the need for an incapacity plan. For instance, if you are involved in a serious accident and end up in a coma for a period of time. If you have a plan in place, your family will be able to make the important decisions that need to be made on your behalf, without needing to go through a lengthy court proceeding. Peace of mind can be an amazing thing.
If you have questions regarding elder law, or any estate or incapacity planning issues, please contact Sexton, Bailey Attorneys, PA online or by calling us at (470) 443-0062.