Elder Law

What is Elder law?

With longer life expectancies and increased medical costs, as today's seniors age they have legal concerns which are not typically addressed by traditional estate planning attorneys. Traditional estate planning attorneys focus on minimizing taxes and probate expenses and preventing problems with distribution of the estate. In addition to these traditional estate planning issues, an elder law attorney helps address concerns about preserving income and assets to maintain financial freedom in the face of future medical costs.

When do I need an elder law attorney?

If any of the following describes your situation, an elder law attorney can help you.

  • A loved one is considering a move to, or has moved to, an assisted living facility or nursing home
  • A loved one is diagnosed with long term illness such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or Parkinson’s disease
  • You are thinking about giving your house or money to a family member so the State won’t take it
  • You are concerned about who will make legal or medical decisions if you become incapacitated
  • You wonder what your options are in paying for medical or long term care
  • You are providing care to an aging family member and wonder if you may be able to be compensated for the care you are giving

Why Should I consult an Elder Law Attorney?

Many people are reluctant to consult attorneys because they are concerned about the cost, and think handling their legal affairs in this area themselves will save them money. While hiring an expert can sometimes seem expensive, it is important to consider how costly a planning mistake could be. Long term care is expensive (In Indiana, nursing homes generally charge $5,000 or more a month). An elder law attorney will help ensure that your long term care plan is not only smart and effective, but preserves as much of your estate as possible so you or your loved one can receive the best care possible.

Ideally, eligibility for public benefits such as Medicaid would be straightforward, and those eligible would be able to take full advantage of their entitlement without having to hire an attorney. Unfortunately, this is not the reality of the current state of Medicaid in Indiana. Additionally, just as working with an accountant who is more familiar with the tax rules than you are may result in you paying fewer taxes, an elder law attorney who knows Medicaid's rules and regulations may be able to help you preserve more of you or your loved one's income or assets than you would be able to by trying to navigate the Medicaid eligibility requirements on your own.

In many cases, nursing home staff will help you prepare a Medicaid application and will give you advice about Medicaid rules and regulations. While this advice is well-meaning, keep in mind that you may get what you pay for with this free advice. Because of the complexity of Medicaid's rules, incomplete or improper information can lead to costly mistakes, lost planning opportunities, and less than ideal asset preservation strategies. Rectifying a situation caused by poor advice may cost more in legal fees than if the family had initially sought the advice an elder law attorney.