“A man may be so much of everything that he is nothing of anything.” – Samuel Johnson, The Life of Johnson, Vol 4
At Jones Elder Law our primary focus is Elder Law and the protection of our client’s assets. We have seen firsthand the effects on a family and their life savings as someone’s health starts to decline. The travesty is that with proper planning these families do not have to go through that. It is possible to ensure that your loved one receives quality care and the assets you have spent a lifetime accumulating are not decimated. If you or your loved one is faced with increasing care needs and mounting cost, Elder Law is the practice that can allow you to regain control of your situation. Sadly, many people are not even aware that Elder Law exists.
Elder law is like estate planning on steroids. Many of the same types of legal documents are used but they are significantly modified and enhanced to help the clients protect their assets against the devastatingly high costs of long-term health care. The Elder Law attorney works with their clients and their loved ones to develop a plan that will both protect their assets and distribute the client’s assets upon their eventual demise, with a minimum of taxes and other problems. The goal of the Elder law attorneys at Jones Elder Law is to allow our clients to maintain their dignity, independence, and standard of living throughout their entire life. We address long-term care and estate planning needs of each individual based upon his or her unique situation.
How are Elder Law documents different? Traditionally a power of attorney is used in the estate planning process to make sure that someone has the ability to make changes to your finances including paying your bills when you are no longer able to do so. It is a critical document that everyone over the age of 18 should have to avoid the need for a guardianship or a conservatorship action. For Elder Lawyers the power of attorney takes on an even greater role. Elder Lawyers use numerous techniques such as half a loaf gifting, promissory notes, caregiver agreements, transferring property to different names or entities. In many cases the client’s health has declined to the point that they are no longer able to carry out business and financial transaction on their own. That means in order to protect their assets the Agent under the power of attorney will need to carry out the plan. Whether or not the Agent will have the power to protect their loved one is the key. The Agent can only undertake strategies and transactions for which they have a specific grant of authority under the power of attorney. If the power of attorney does not allow them to undertake a half a loaf strategy, then the assets cannot be protected. Accordingly, the power of attorney used by an Elder Lawyer is considerably longer than the traditional power of attorney for estate planning. That is because the elder law power of attorney enumerates countless methods that can be undertaken by the agent to protect their loved one. The proper power of attorney is the lynch pin that allows an Elder Law attorney to help families. Without it, if the client no longer has the capacity to sign legal documents, the only option would be to seek a guardianship or conservatorship and then attempt to gain court approval employing an asset protection plan. While not impossible, it adds additional complexity, time and cost to the process than can be avoided by simply making sure the power of attorney provides all the powers needed.
One of the things we find most frustrating at Jones Elder Law is the misinformation that families receive before they find us. If you look in the phone book nearly every attorney is identifying himself or herself as someone that handles elder law and the legal issues of those growing older. When it comes to protecting your assets from long-term health care costs that simply is not true. While there may be thousands of attorneys in your area, it is likely that only a handful truly practice elder law and are capable of helping you protect your assets. It is sad when we meet with a family that has tried their best to get the help they so desperately need, only to lose thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars because they did not get the information that could help them. Make sure you are getting your guidance from someone that really practices Elder Law. Here are some questions you may want to ask to determine if you are meeting with the right people:
- Do they practice elder law exclusively or do they practice in multiple areas of law?
- How many Medicaid applications did they file this month? Last month? Six months ago?
- How many Medicaid appeals have they handled? Have they won or lost those appeals?
- Are they members of groups like National Academy of Elder Lawyers? Have they served in any sort of leadership role with that group?
- Have they done any training of other attorneys surrounding elder law?
- Are they accredited with the Veterans Administration to obtain the Aid and Attendance benefit?
- How many applications have they filed for the Veterans Administration Service Pension?
- Do they file Service Connected Disability claims for Veterans that have been exposed to Agent Orange?
- Ask them to explain some of the protections techniques they use like half a loaf gifting, promissory notes, Medicaid compliant annuities, caregiver agreements etc.
If the person you are speaking to handles divorce on Monday, bankruptcy on Wednesday and traffic on Thursday then they are not likely going to have the focus necessary to assist you in protecting your assets. It is also not uncommon to find an attorney that is truly only focused on estate planning. This can be the most confusing because they will reference many of the same documents. However, the documents such as the Power of Attorney used by an Elder Lawyer is vastly different than that used by an estate planning attorney. Getting incorrect information can often be more harmful to that family than not getting any information at all.
If you want to make sure you are actually being counseled by an Elder Lawyer contact us now about coming in for a complimentary Vision Meeting.
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500 Chesterfield Center | Suite 355
Chesterfield, Missouri 63017
(636) 812 - 2575
Fax: (888) 838 - 1793
2085 Bluestone Drive
Saint Charles, Missouri 63303
Fax: (888) 838 - 1793
3005 Godfrey Road | Suite B
Godfrey, Illinois 62035
(618) 466 - 8466
Fax: (888) 838 - 1793