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Elder Law and Estate Planning: How They Differ and Why Both Matter

Elder law is to estate planning what a sword is to a shield. The former works actively to protect you, the latter does so passively, and together they form a potent team that keeps you covered on all fronts.

Like a sword, elder law steps out in front of the need for later-life planning. Beyond what the phase implies, elder law is more than a set of legal tools to protect inheritances for your legacy planning. Rather, the goal is to use every available resource, including family, savings, public benefits and great counsel to meet the goal of self-determination as we age. To ensure that your life savings can be used to both maintain your lifestyle for as long as possible and, if or when the time comes, you need help along the continuum of care, that you are aging exactly as you had planned. In addition, elder law done correctly anticipates each transition along the continuum of care to align your wishes with your resources to make sure you are the least restrictive environment and receiving the highest quality of care.

Estate planning for when you die, on the other hand, is a shield which protects you and your loved ones after your sword arm has done all it can. Either when calamity strikes or when time simply runs its course, your estate plan intervenes to ensure your assets are protected and, ultimately, end up in the right hands with minimum death taxes, income taxes and delay.

The two processes, elder law and estate planning, work in concert and complement one another. Without a good elder law plan to protect you during your most vulnerable time, your documents may not speak to any of the issues other than those that relate to post death concerns. Estate planning documents crafted with an elder law focus are meant to make sure that not only you, but a spouse, a special needs family member, as well as your second home or business are considered. Estate planning documents, that may appear all the same are not. Document content, that may at first appear to be extensive boilerplate, reflects the attorney’s professional determination as to how to not only minimize risks but to proactively address safety nets for all things truly matter to you.

Essential Elder Law and Estate Planning Tasks

The aging process and long-term care needs are the principal focus of elder law. Accordingly, an elder law attorney assists you in attending to such tasks as planning for future healthcare hurdles through advance directives such a durable power of attorney and living wills. They also work to ensure that no matter your financial position or current state of well-being, you leverage public benefits such a Medicaid or Veterans Benefits, or long-term care insurance that can pay the incredibly expensive long-term care costs. In addition, an elder law focused estate plan also provides for carefully planned surrogate decision making. Not only should you carefully select your agents under financial power of attorney and health care power of attorney, but also ensure that the content of the legal documents supports your agent when you are facing a time of crisis.

Ironically, elder law is not meant to benefit those that are above a certain age. In fact, elder law focused estate planning benefits everyone, no matter how young, benefit from the proactive planning of elder law because we do not know when and if an illness or disability will occur.

Estate planning, in contrast to elder law, does not focus specifically on the aging process even if it exists to protect you and your loved ones when your time finally comes. An estate plan is a set of documents which act to conserve and protect your assets after your die. When designing an estate plan, you draft a will and name an executor, determine the beneficiaries of your estate, institute a trust (where necessary), and ensure your digital assets are accounted for alongside your physical assets.

Naturally, both elder law planning, and estate planning are involved processes but the burden need not rest on you. A Certified Elder Law Attorney, working with a detailed knowledge of your health, your family and financial situation, will present the planning options best-suited to your situation and ensure all your estate and long-term care planning goals are met for you and your family.

At Anderson Elder Law we attend to elder law, estate planning, special needs planning, as well as estate and trust administration and other specialized practice areas. Should you have questions about the above or wish to begin the planning process, it would our pleasure to take your call at 610-566-4700 or hear from your through the contact form on our website.