The Ability to Help Clients Plan Before a Crisis Happens
Elder Law attorneys care greatly for their senior clients and like to see things go smoothly for them, especially as difficult issues arise, such as finding and paying for long-term care. Clients who understand the need to plan early are more likely to find a smooth path into these transitions.
While typical estate planning includes planning for incapacity during one’s lifetime as well as distribution of one’s assets upon their passing, Elder Law attorneys have an added focus of planning with long-term care in mind. Often a traditional estate plan will have the same documents that an Elder Law attorney puts in place, like a Revocable Living Trust; a Pour-Over Will; a Durable Power of Attorney; a Health Care Power of Attorney; and a HIPAA Authorization. However, the provisions within the documents vary significantly depending on the focus of the attorney drafting them. Because one focus of the Elder Law attorney is to help clients plan for the possibility of needing long-term care while protecting the home and other assets, our planning documents often include an irrevocable trust designed specifically for this purpose. Other documents, like the Durable Power of Attorney, will include enhanced powers that allow the agent to engage in Medicaid and/or Veterans Administration (“VA”) pension planning.
Adding enhanced provisions to existing planning documents enables those trusted persons to pursue additional planning strategies if and when the time comes for the senior to utilize long-term care. When the time comes for Medicaid planning or VA pension planning, it is imperative for the trustee and/or the agent to have the authority to take specific actions on behalf of the elderly person, like the authority to establish and fund an irrevocable trust, file a Medicaid application or prepare a VA pension application. The grant of authority must be clearly stated within the documents yet these powers are not normally found in general estate-planning documents.
Having clients in our office long before they are in need of long-term care allows Elder Law attorneys to successfully and efficiently assist clients when they need it. We are all thankful when we have such a client.