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As we grow older, our lives change, and it’s essential to understand the legal rights and protections that come with aging. There are various issues that affect seniors, including long-term care planning, estate, and end-of-life planning, as well as protections to avoid nursing home abuse or neglect. It’s crucial to be aware of your rights and ensure you receive the necessary support and protection.

Estate Planning

Estate planning is the process of preparing for the future of your assets after you pass away. Having an estate plan to control your legacy is crucial, and it’s not just for the wealthy. This planning strategy allows you to protect your assets and ensure they’re transferred to people or causes you care about after you’re gone. 

Wills and Trusts

Estate planning involves creating a will and one or more trusts, which are crucial for managing your assets. A last will and testament lets you specify who should inherit your property. On the other hand, a trust gives you greater control over your money and property, both during your life and after your passing. 

There are various types of trusts that you can create for specific purposes. For example, you can create a trust for caring for your pet after you’re gone or to protect assets you’re leaving for someone who isn’t good at managing money. You can also establish a trust for someone with special needs to ensure they retain access to means-tested benefits, and a trustworthy person manages the funds for them.

Working with an experienced estate planning attorney is essential to understand whether creating a trust is appropriate for you. Your lawyer can also explain the fundamental rules, such as the differences between revocable and irrevocable trusts, and help you create a valid will according to the laws of your state.

Asset Protection

As you go through life, you may accumulate significant assets that you hope will support you in your old age or provide for your loved ones after you pass away. However, you may be at a higher risk of losing these assets as you age due to the high cost of nursing home care, which is not covered by Medicare or most insurance plans. 

Strategy protections are available to safeguard your wealth as you age, such as creating a Medicaid plan that will allow you to qualify for Medicaid nursing home coverage without spending down your assets. 

Moreover, an asset protection lawyer can also assist you in shielding your estate from taxes after your death. This will ensure that your loved ones inherit more money and property. While creating an estate plan is an essential part of this process, there are other measures you may need to take to safeguard and preserve your assets.

Social Security Benefits

Social Security benefits can be an essential source of income for retirees. However, navigating the program can be quite complex. You are eligible to claim benefits anytime between the ages of 62 and 70. However, claiming before your designated full retirement age can result in a reduction in benefits. In contrast, a delayed claim allows you to earn delayed retirement credits and increase your monthly income.

To help you determine the best age to receive benefits, an elder law attorney can assist you in evaluating different Social Security claiming strategies. They can also help address issues such as whether you are eligible for spousal or survivor benefits and whether you should claim them. Additionally, your attorney can advise you on how working can impact your benefits if you collect Social Security before full retirement age.

Medicare Planning

Signing up for Medicare when you turn 65 is essential to avoid paying higher premiums for medical coverage later. However, it’s not straightforward as you’ll have to choose between traditional Medicare or a Medicare Advantage Plan, which offers different coverage. It’s also worth noting that Medicare doesn’t cover all medical services, such as dental care, and there are 20% coinsurance costs for most outpatient services. To ensure you get the coverage you require, consult an elder law attorney who can guide you through your options. Since you’re only allowed to change plans during open enrollment periods once you’re signed up, it’s crucial to make the right decision the first time.

Incapacity Planning

Incapacity is a condition that can affect anyone, regardless of their age. It happens when a physical or mental illness or injury prevents an individual from managing their affairs. As the risk of incapacity increases with age, many seniors opt for an incapacity plan.

Elder law encompasses various rules that apply to incapacity planning. For instance, some laws allow individuals to assign someone durable power of attorney to control their assets or healthcare power of attorney to make healthcare decisions on their behalf if they cannot do so.

Advance directives, such as living wills, also enable individuals to specify in advance which medical treatments they wish to accept or decline. These plans provide individuals with more control over an uncertain future.

It is essential to work with an elder law attorney to put an incapacity plan in place before something goes wrong. This way, you can avoid putting your family in a tough spot where they have to make difficult decisions about medical treatment or leave life-and-death issues to chance.


If you do not create an incapacity plan (including powers of attorney and health care proxy), the court may be forced to appoint a guardian. A guardian could be a close family member or, if none is available, a professional the court appoints.

Guardians manage your assets and make healthcare decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to. In many cases, however, you should take action before you become incapacitated and name a trusted person to act for you rather than leaving this critical decision up to the court.

It can also take time for your loved ones to declare you incapacitated and for a guardian to be appointed. This process can be stressful and expensive for loved ones, especially if it needs to be clarified who should be put in charge of your affairs and if there is conflict among your loved ones on key issues such as what type of medical care you should receive. These issues can be avoided if you make an incapacity plan with help from an elder law attorney.

Long-Term Care Planning

As someone turns 65 or older, they are likely to require long-term care during their lifetime. However, picking a nursing home and covering the costs can be complex. 

Long-term care planning can help you make crucial decisions related to custodial care if you need it. You can decide when and how to move into a nursing home or if you prefer home care. You can also pre-screen nursing homes so your family doesn’t have to make rushed decisions in emergency situations. 

Most importantly, it would help if you had a plan for this care, which can cost over $100,000 annually. Your elder law attorney can discuss long-term care insurance and Medicaid planning to ensure enough funds are available to pay for essential services that can shape your quality of life as a senior.

Elder Abuse and Elder Care Laws

As we age, legal issues and problems become increasingly complex and challenging. As such, seniors often require legal assistance to protect their rights and interests. When someone is unable to take care of themselves and has to rely on others, such as in the case of nursing home care or dementia, they may become vulnerable to abuse. Fortunately, there are laws in place to protect the elderly and ensure that caregivers cannot abuse them in any way. The most common types of Elder abuse are physical, mental, emotional, sexual, or financial. 

New Jersey has strict laws in place to prevent elder abuse and financial exploitation. The primary laws addressing these issues are the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act and the Adult Protective Services Act. In addition to these laws, other criminal and civil actions can be taken against abusers, which have proven very effective.

Do You Need an Elder Law Attorney? 

As you age, it may become necessary to work with an elder law attorney to plan and address issues that are more likely to arise. For instance, you may need to make a will, set up a trust, create a healthcare advanced directive, or give someone power of attorney to manage your assets or make medical decisions for you. These issues can be complex, and mistakes can be costly and damaging, which is why it’s crucial to seek the right legal advice.

What is the purpose of an elder lawyer? 

Elder law is a specialized area of law that deals with the unique needs of seniors. Elder lawyers are well-versed in estate planning, incapacity planning, and preparing for end-of-life care. They can also assist with legal issues related to Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare programs designed to support older people.

Are you legally responsible for your elderly parents? 

Some states have “filial responsibility laws.” These laws make children responsible for their elderly parents’ care when a parent cannot cover the costs of their care and does not qualify for Medicaid or fails to utilize its benefits properly. However, these laws are only enforced in some locations and usually relate only to medical bills. Like several other states, New Jersey has filial responsibility laws on its books. 

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