Elder-law attorney useful for long term

In case you missed our latest Arizona Republic article in the weekly Seniors and the Law Column, it is written below. Our column runs every Saturday in select Arizona cities.

Q: Several years ago, my husband and I met with an estate planning attorney and prepared a comprehensive estate plan.  The attorney with whom we met was not an elder law attorney; is there any reason for us to revisit our estate plan now that we are getting older?

You raise a point that is all too often overlooked.  There is quite a distinction between an estate planning attorney and an elder law attorney, and it is often the case that those who prepare an estate plan fail to consider elder law issues.  While most elder law attorneys consider estate planning issues, there tends to be fewer estate planning attorneys who fully consider elder law issues.  Sometimes this turns out to be immaterial, but there are many instances in which failing to consider elder law issues carries serious repercussions.

Estate planning attorneys primarily assist their clients with minimizing taxes and distributing wealth by making lifetime gifts and leaving inheritances.  Elder law attorneys consider these issues as well, while also making preparations for the event that their clients could require assistance with long-term care.  There is indeed some overlap between the two practice areas, but estate planning that does not include a long-term care component can prove to be very detrimental in the long-run.

To illustrate, an estate plan that includes lifetime gifting could create ineligibility for public long-term care benefits, and attorneys who are unfamiliar with the rules surrounding this issue could inadvertently disqualify their clients from assistance that later becomes necessary.  This, of course, is not to say that estate planning attorneys do not have an important role to play, only that elder law becomes increasingly relevant as you grow older.  Even if you have an estate plan in place, it might make sense to speak with an elder law attorney about long-term care issues.

Seniors and the Law is authored by the attorneys at JacksonWhite Attorneys at Law and addresses legal issues that arise for the elderly and their families.  Questions can be sent to firm@jacksonwhitelaw.com.

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