To secure the maximum amount in monthly Social Security retirement benefits, Americans must wait until full retirement age to start receiving their payouts. Results from a 2023 survey show that most of today's workers know about this stipulation - and yet the vast majority say they’re willing to file for their Social Security benefits early anyway.
Currently, more than 51 million Americans are 65 years or older, and that number continues to rise. Medical and technological advancements allow seniors to live longer and better lives than ever before. The expanding needs of the US aging population are burdening federal senior assistance programs, making the application process longer and more complex. Every senior will have a unique set of circumstances and personal decisions that contribute to a successful aging plan, including the need for government benefits. The best way to determine what your plan should be is to speak with an elder law attorney specializing in long-term care and Medicaid planning.
How Can an Elder Law Attorney Assist You?
An elder law attorney provides an estate plan for the financial, legal, and health care decisions that seniors face. Finding and paying for long-term care is something that many seniors and their family members fail to plan for, which can result in running out of money or not being able to secure appropriate care. Seniors or their families should seek legal assistance well before a loved one’s need for long-term care to choose their desired care and how to pay for it. While an elder law attorney can’t manage all aspects of a senior’s future, they work with other professionals like accountants, tax advisors, and care coordinators when specific expertise is required.
Specific Documents and Services
Elder law attorneys can help you establish a medical power of attorney, advance health care directives for dementia, or help you find the right long-term care facility and structure financial resources to cover medical expenses. Those resources may include applying for and maintaining eligibility for Medicaid or veterans’ benefits while protecting assets for a spouse or family legacy.
Guardianship and How to Avoid It
Elder law attorneys often assist with guardianship proceedings if a senior can no longer make responsible and informed decisions regarding their health, living, and financial affairs, and no one has been designated to help them. Guardianships are normally a last resort, as they are costly and require court involvement for the lifetime of the incapacitated person. And a stranger could be appointed to oversee their medical and financial matters. Ideally, a senior will have power or attorney documents in place to avoid guardianship, but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
A properly drafted estate plan that addresses long-term care planning can help avoid guardianship. Specific legal documents make sure there are proper agents named to handle financial and medical decisions if you or a loved one can no longer make them. A properly drafted estate or long-term care plan will also address how to pay for health care services and whether assistance with government benefits is necessary.
Identifying the Right Elder Law Attorney
Finding the right attorney is essential for a senior, their future, and their legacy. Typical questions to consider include:
- How long the attorney has practiced elder law
- If they have a particular specialty such as veteran’s benefits, Medicaid, trust administration, or probate expertise
- If they are uniquely certified to practice elder law attorney or file veterans benefits claims