The area of the law known as “elder law” is a relatively new area of the law, having evolved over the last several decades as a response to the needs of the rapidly growing segment of the population over the age of 65. Seniors face many of the same legal problems that their younger counterparts face; however, they also encounter unique legal problems as well as frequently requiring a different approach to the common legal problems they face. In addition, the family members and loved ones who care for the elderly also encounter legal problems that are directly related to the age of their loved ones. If you are a senior, or you are the caregiver for one, there is a good chance that you will need the assistance of an elder law lawyer at some point. It helps, therefore, to have a basic understanding of what types of legal matters an elder law lawyer handles and how to know when you need an elder law lawyer.
What Types of Legal Matters Does an Elder Law Attorney Handle?
Unlike other areas of the law, an elder law attorney does not focus on a single legal topic. Instead, an elder law attorney focus on how various areas of the law impact the elderly. For example, an elder law attorney would not focus his/her practice entirely on personal injury law; however, he/she would focus on types of personal injury that often impact the elderly, such as nursing home abuse or neglect. Because seniors, and those who care for them, face specific legal issues related to age, it is best to work with an attorney who is aware of those issues and who devotes a good portion of his/her practice to elder law pursuits because you gain the benefit of experience and understanding. Although an elder law attorney might handle any type of legal issues that impact the elderly, there are some types of cases that are common, such as:
- Guardianship petitions — making the decision to petition for guardianship over a parent (or other loved one) is rarely easy. It often feels as though you are taking away your parent’s freedom and independence. The question to ask yourself though is whether your parent is at risk of physical injury and/or victimization by unsavory characters who prey on the elderly? If the answer is “yes,” or you even hesitate to answer, it may be time to consider becoming your parent’s Guardian.
- Nursing home abuse and neglect – sadly, as the older population grow, so do instances of nursing home abuse and neglect. If you suspect abuse, confronting the administration with your suspicions may, or may not, be helpful. If you believe the abuse constitutes a criminal offense, which is frequently the case, you may wish to contact the appropriate law enforcement agency to file a complaint and push for an investigation. In addition, you may also have the basis for a civil lawsuit against the facility.
- Estate planning — an existing estate plan should be updated as soon as you reach retirement age to account for changes in income and assets. In addition, you should make sure you have included Medicaid planning, advanced directives, and funeral and burial planning in your comprehensive plan.
- Denial of benefits (SS, VA, etc.) – seniors are typically entitled to a number of federal benefits, including social security retirement, Medicare, and often VA benefits such as Veterans Aid and Attendance. If you are having problems getting benefits approved, an elder law attorney may be able to help.
There are a variety of other legal issues that an elder law attorney handles. If it involves the elderly, it likely falls under the elder law umbrella.
Contact a North Dakota Elder Law Lawyer
If you have additional questions or concerns about elder law legal issues, contact an experienced North Dakota elder law lawyer at German Law Group by calling 701-738-0060 to schedule an appointment.