What is Elder Law?
"Elder law" is the legal practice that involves representing and counseling older adults, their families, and representatives about the legal details of estate planning and making sure that documents are up-to-date and comprehensive. Elder law attorneys are able to guide family members through critical decisions that affect their elder loved-one.
Estate planning can be described as the process of creating a plan in advance to determine who will inherit your assets and how they will be distributed to heirs and beneficiaries or disposed of upon your death or sudden incapacitation. Estate planning is important because it allows you to:
- Specify end-of-life decisions and prepare for life's uncertainties
- Protect your assets, property, and investment
- Make sufficient provisions for your surviving family members
- Choose a trusted person as your personal representative
- Protect your assets from creditors and lawsuits
- Protect your minor children and ensure that they are cared for
- Have a say in what happens to your estate or who receives your assets
- Guard against family conflicts, challenges, and disputes over asset distribution
- Avoid the expensive and time-consume process involved in probate
- Help heirs avoid or reduce gift and estate taxes
- Ensure that you don't die intestate (without a will)
Without a detailed estate plan, your surviving family members are likely to endure an expensive and lengthy probate process. By creating an estate plan, you can make sure that your true wishes are respected, your family's future is secure, and your affairs are in order.
Updating Your Estate Plan
While having an estate plan is essential, updating it every three to five years is crucial. Unfortunately, failing to update an estate plan is one of the most common mistakes that people make. What may have been true many years ago, is outdated and could render your planning ineffective. For example, your assets and liabilities may have changed or your assigned trustee or executor may no longer be an appropriate choice.
Not only do circumstances change, but requirements may also be altered. For example, many years ago married couples commonly created an A-B trust in order to minimize estate taxes but this strategy is no longer required with portability between spouses.
Making sure that your estate plan is current can help avoid unintended ambiguity that can cause your final wishes to be unfulfilled.
Ensuring Your Plan is Comprehensive
It's important to ensure that your estate plan includes essential elements that may have not been relevant to you in the past. Twenty years ago, it might not have seemed important to have an advance directive or power of attorney. However, as one ages, these tools become more necessary and crucial to your estate plan.
Likewise, new developments in laws and procedures can necessitate the need for additional documentation. For example, in most cases, the personal representative of your estate will need access to your medical records to make informed healthcare decisions. Therefore, your healthcare power of attorney must also include a HIPAA privacy release authorization.
Ensuring that your estate plan includes all the essential tools to address any situations that may arise, especially as you reach maturity, can give you peace of mind that you have properly documented important legal decisions.
Work with a Knowledgeable Attorney
Trying to navigate issues that arise due to aging can involve a lot of complexities. Creating a strategic estate plan is a crucial step to protect your assets and ensuring that you and your loved ones are properly cared for should you become seriously ill and unable to communicate your wishes. A knowledgeable California elder law attorney can offer proper guidance and help decide the right senior care options that best suit your needs.
Attorney Rodney Gould has devoted his career to offering experienced legal services, comprehensive guidance, and assistance to older adults and their family members in all matters of estate planning and elder law. As your legal counsel, he can:
- Evaluate your unique situation and help explore your available options
- Provide detailed guidance and help you make informed decisions
- Help draft important estate planning documents, including living trusts and wills, advance directives, and powers of attorney
- Help update your existing will or trust
- Help with probate and estate administration
Rodney Gould will work diligently and compassionately to address your needs and concerns, including those of your family members and dependents.