The Difference Between Elder Law and Estate Planning

Elder law and estate planning serve two different–but equally vital–functions. The main difference is that elder law is focused on preserving your assets during your lifetime, while estate planning concentrates on what happens to your assets after you die. 

Elder law planning is concerned with ensuring that seniors live long, healthy, and financially secure lives. It usually involves anticipating future medical needs, including long-term care. Elder law attorneys can help you develop a plan to pay for future care while preserving some of your assets.  Elder law attorneys  also assist you with qualifying for Medicaid or other benefits to pay for long-term care. In addition, elder law planning can ensure that you are protected from elder abuse or exploitation when you get older or become incapacitated. Finally, elder law covers assistance with guardianship and conservatorship, if needed. 

While elder law is focused on older adults, estate planning is for everyone of all ages. Estate planning attorneys help you plan what will happen happen to your assets when death, disability or incapacity occurs.  Estate planners use wills and trusts to make sure your wishes are carried out both during your life and after you are gone. Your estate plan can also include naming a guardian for your young children or provisions for pets. In addition, estate planners can help you avoid probate and family conflict. For business owners, estate planning can  include creating customized plans to transfer your buisness while reducing or eliminating taxes.

Estate plans can change as your circumstances change, so it is important to keep revisiting your estate plan over the years. For example, marriages, divorces, births, and deaths, as well as changes in finances and in the law, can all call for updates to your estate plan. 

To get started on your estate plan or elder law planning, contact our office. We enjoy helping clients successfully plan for the transition of their assets. We also provide many elder law services, including helping clients plan for the cost of long term care and applying for Medicaid. Call our office to schedule an Estate Planning Consultation or a Long Term Care Planning Consultation.

According to a recent national study, nearly a quarter of Americans aged 50 and older say they – or a loved one – needed long-term care in 2022. The findings further suggest that seniors and their caregivers could benefit from more consumer-friendly information and guidance about long-term care services, a need researchers say will grow exponentially in the future.

Finding Long-Term Care Causes Wide-Ranging Emotions

Results showed that people looking for long-term care experienced a range of emotional responses in searching for a provider:

  • 53 percent of respondents reported feeling anxious about the process 

  • 52 percent described feeling frustration

  • 23 percent said they were confident during the process of long-term care for themselves or their loved one

  • 23 percent of respondents felt “at peace” about the choice they made for long-term care

  • Only 14 percent of respondents reported feeling happy

Respondents Want to Feel Prepared When Deciding on Long-Term Care

Researchers found that respondents want advice for seeking long-term care when it comes to the following:

  • 92 percent wanted to know what types of long-term care services are available
  • 90 percent wanted more information about paying for long-term care
  • 90 percent said advice and support on long-term care would have been helpful to them
  • 88 percent needed help understanding whether their personal or health care needs require long-term care
  • 88 percent of those surveyed also said they needed help choosing a long-term care provider
  • 86 percent said having someone to listen to them when seeking long-term care services would have been important to them
  • 84 percent of respondents wanted help deciding whether to pursue in-home care or community-based services (i.e., nursing home care)

Paying for Long-Term Care

A large number of respondents reported needing more information about how to pay for long-term care.

Of the people who were surveyed, 63 percent said it was extremely important to have additional details about the various types of care options available. Meanwhile, 69 percent said it was extremely important to have further details about the cost of care and their payment options.

To learn more about long-term care services and options, it is often helpful to work with an elder law attorney in the community who can help you assess the benefits and services available to you and create a plan for how to pay for long-term care. At Wenzel Bennett & Harris, P.C., we offer a consultation called a “Long-Term Care Consultation” in which we meet with clients to help create a plan for long-term care. If the client has a need for care in a nursing home or skilled care at home, we will work with the client and their family to explain how the Medicaid program works , review the clients’ assets and income, and assist the client in obtaining Medicaid benefits, where applicable. Many families are surprised to learn that they may qualify for benefits they weren’t aware were available to them. In addition, we help clients to make sure they have a good plan in place should it become necessary for them to have long-term care in the future. This often includes having Powers of Attorney for both financial and health care needs, so that appropriate agents are granted the authority and have the information needed to obtain benefits in the future, should that become necessary. If you or a family member would like to schedule a Long-Term Care Planning Consult, please contact our office at 989-356-6128.

If you have specific questions about your situation or would like to learn more, reach out to the team at WBH here.

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