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September 26, 2020


What Is the Difference between Elder Law and Estate Planning?

Most people use the terms “estate planning” and “elder law” interchangeably. If you find yourself curious whether they are the same or not, you are not alone. Estate planning deals mostly with helping plan for disability, death, and taxes. The purpose of estate planning is to make sure loved ones receive their inheritance and are taken care of after one’s death.

Elder law, on the other hand, involves some of the same issues as estate planning but also touches on others outside of it. Elder law helps those who are aging take care of their legal and health needs. One difference between elder law and estate planning is that elder law can help with long term care. For example, you may need to plan for nursing home care later in life, and an elder law attorney can help you do so.

While elder law can overlap some of the same tasks as estate planning, estate planning does not go into long term care planning or assisting someone with Medicare. An attorney, however, may offer both estate planning and elder law services.

Digging Deeper into the Definition of Each and How to Tell Which Service You Need

Here, we will go over each type of planning process so that you can determine which one is right for your current situation.

What Is Estate Planning?

Estate planning is a long-term, proactive planning procedure that addresses what you would like to happen after your death. Some of the items you plan for in your estate plan can still help you while living, including creating a trust or having a health directive.

Most importantly, when you are doing estate planning, you are preparing for post-death situations. Your estate plan establishes several rules and guidelines for loved ones, including who inherits what from your estate, how you would like to be buried, and any special instructions you wish to leave behind for loved ones.

When you meet with an estate planning attorney, you will let your attorney know any concerns or wishes you may have about how you would like your property distributed after death. Your attorney will then consider your estate size, current laws, and any unique factors to create an estate plan that addresses all of those concerns and wishes. Some items you may take care of during this process include:

If you do not have an estate plan, the court will decide how to distribute your assets. The court follows the current law, and your estate’s assets may go to parties that you would not have given your assets to initially. Therefore, it is important that anyone with assets creates an estate plan to make sure that the right parties receive an inheritance. An estate plan essentially tells the court where you would like your money to go, who will care for any minor children you have, what you would like to happen if you become disabled, and may help you avoid probate court if you establish a trust for your assets.

Most importantly, estate planning is ongoing. As your family changes or you acquire new assets, you will update your will accordingly. Most attorneys advise their clients to update or at least review their existing plans once a year or once every other year. You should also revise your plan immediately after any significant life change. An example of a substantial life change would be remarrying, having another child, or purchasing property.

What Is Elder Law?

While your estate plan creates a guideline for surviving family members to carry out your wishes, elder law addresses issues that will occur during your life. You may need to save assets so that you can use them for care later. You might also need assistance in creating instructions in case you become incapacitated or disabled later on.

Planning for long term care is very complicated. Most people hire attorneys because they do not understand the nuances of state aid programs and how their assets affect eligibility. Qualifying for these types of benefits can be confusing, and all it takes is a minor error on your initial application to set back the receipt of benefits. Your attorney can advise you on how to protect those assets. They will explore options for transferring your assets and advise you on which assets you can still keep so that you qualify for insurance benefits without losing all of the retirement funds you have saved up for.

Your attorney can also help you complete the necessary applications for Medicare and Medicaid. When you have an attorney complete these applications for you, you are more likely to be accepted than if you attempt to do them yourself.

Hire an Experienced Attorney for Both Estate Planning and Elder Law

It does not matter where you are in your life; you should meet with an estate planning attorney in your area to explore your options. An attorney will review your current estate and help you decide which parts of estate and elder law planning apply to you. Most importantly, you need to create an estate plan now. Even if you do not have many assets or no extended family members, having no estate plan means that the court will decide how to distribute the assets you do have.

You can protect loved ones, dictate who receives what from your estate, and provide for family – all by starting with an estate plan.

Get started by scheduling a free consultation with attorney Andrew M. Lamkin today. This is a no-obligation meeting, and we can review your existing estate plan for changes needed, create a new estate plan, and address any elder law planning needs you may have. Call my office directly to schedule a consultation appointment or request more information online.