The Top 10 Things to Know About Elder Law

March 15, 2024

Elder Law is an area of legal practice providing guidance, counsel and representation to older adults, particularly in the areas of health care, long-term planning, public benefits including Medicaid, surrogate decision-making, and estate planning and estate administration. A Long Island elder law attorney can help you or your loved ones with these and other important life decisions.

There are many critical things to know about elder law, but here are the top 10 things you should be aware of: 

Elder Law is a Specific and Unique Area of Practice

Elder law has specific aspects to it so it’s important to hire a lawyer who has expertise in this area rather than engaging a general legal practitioner because the laws are unique and always changing. Whether it’s protecting your hard-earned assets within an estate plan, representing you in a disputed surrogacy hearing, or seeking creative ways to get you the maximum amount of government benefits, a Long Island elder law attorney will have the knowledge to provide you with the highest level of quality legal services.

Don’t Wait to Hire an Elder Law Attorney

The earlier you hire an elder law attorney, the better! There are many examples of why this is the most prudent course of action. One major reason is that time is money. The earlier you put a plan in place that involves your financial assets, the longer your money will be protected. Another reason is that the future is uncertain and planning for the unexpected is always preferred versus reacting to a crisis. A perfect example is planning for Medicaid. If you need to take action to protect your assets for Medicaid purposes – such as placing your home into a trust – you must do it five years before a healthcare crisis. This is because Medicaid has a “five-year lookback period”  to determine if you have made any disallowable gifts, transfers for less than fair market value, or uncompensated transfers.  No one knows when a crisis may occur, so early planning is key. 

An Elder Law Attorney Will Help You Plan for Your Future

An Elder Law attorney will help you figure out the complexities of long-term care, a very expensive proposition. In the state of New York, you can expect to pay from $5,000 to $20,000 per month for a home health aide, assisted living facility, or room in a nursing home. Without proper planning, your assets can be exhausted in a very short period of time. 

If your parents did not do any planning and now they need care in a nursing home, there are some legal techniques that we can implement so that you will not have to spend all of your parents’ assets on their care. When there is no planning in place, a Long Island elder law attorney can still help to protect approximately one-half of their assets.

You Get What You Pay For

When your objective is to protect your assets and plan for a comfortable future, don’t be pennywise and pound foolish. It’s important to hire an experienced elder law attorney who understands the vast array of legal issues that arise for older adults. Spending money now to ensure your future needs are met and assets will be protected will certainly be worth it later.

What’s the Difference Between Medicare and Medicaid?

People are often confused by the difference between Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare is the health insurance program for Americans age 65 and older, regardless of their financial or health situation. Medicaid is a government insurance program for people who are required to qualify financially, and covers doctors, hospital visits, some rehabilitation programs and nursing homes.

It’s Important to Have Your Paperwork in Order

It is vital for everyone but especially for older people to have their paperwork in order. This includes a Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, and Living Will. Known as Advance Directives, these documents allow you to have control of key health care and financial decisions. You may change your Advance Directives anytime that your needs or wishes change. 

Your Will Should be Up-to-Date

A will sets out your wishes regarding who will be the beneficiaries of your property upon your death. It can include specific instructions regarding when assets will be distributed. Your will can also name a guardian for minor children. Wills also enable you to make charitable gifts and protect assets for disabled beneficiaries with a Special Needs Trust

Long-Term Care Insurance Has Pros and Cons

Long-term care insurance is a valuable planning tool that can help cover the costs of in-home care, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. It is important to understand, however, that many insurers fight to limit or avoid paying out perfectly viable claims and the premiums can be very expensive.  We can help you evaluate whether long-term health insurance should be part of your planning. 

When to See an Elder Law Attorney 

There are numerous instances when the services of an elder law attorney should be obtained immediately. Most of these circumstances have to do with failing health or an unexpected medical occurrence which requires care at home or in a facility.  Crisis situations will not allow as much financial protection and care options versus if the planning were done beforehand.

DDSS Has Unparalleled Experience in Elder Law

Our firm only practices in the areas of Elder Law, Special Needs and Estate Planning. In addition to our elder law attorneys, we have a Director of Elder Law Services experienced in assessing clients’ needs and obtaining the appropriate level of care either in the home or arranging for placement in a facility. We have paralegals on staff who focus on Medicaid Eligibility and the application process. Among other things, this team can guide you through the complex public benefits procedure and present long-term care options.

Contact Davidow, Davidow, Siegel and Stern, LLP 

DDSS offers an exceptional array of legal services that allow us to offer creative, cutting-edge solutions to your elder care challenges. Through our legal practice, education, leadership and advocacy, we are known as consummate professionals in the Long Island elder law community. Contact us today at 631-234-3030.