Do You or a Family Member Need to Hire an Elder Law Attorney?

How to Avoid Costly Mistakes by Hiring an Elder Law Attorney

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When considering if you or a family member needs to hire an elder law attorney, consider this - elder law issues are complex and one wrong word or move can mean the difference between a good result and a bad one. Aside from this, the three reasons listed below should be enough to convince you or your family member to go out and find and hire a qualified elder law attorney to assist with elder law matters.

Elder Law Attorneys Are Necessary Since State Laws Rule Elder Law Matters

State laws are very specific about what can and cannot be in a will, trust, advance medical directive or financial power of attorney; who can and cannot serve as a personal representative, trustee, health care surrogate or attorney in fact; who can and cannot be a witness to a will, trust, or medical or financial power of attorney; and what formalities must be observed when signing a will, trust, or medical or financial power of attorney. And even though Medicaid is a federally authorized program, states are tasked with administering Medicaid at the local level, and the laws and rules governing Medicaid vary greatly from state to state.

For example, in Florida, a personal representative must either be related to you by blood or marriage or, if not, then a resident of the state. Time and time again I see wills of Florida residents that designate a friend or attorney from out of state as the personal representative.

These non-resident, non-relatives simply can't serve, and in fact won't be allowed to serve in Florida. Working with a qualified elder law attorney will avoid this kind of simple and yet costly mistake.

Without an Elder Law Attorney, the Buyer Must Beware

The old Latin saying, “Caveat Emptor,” or “Buyer Beware,” certainly applies to elder law matters.

If you think that you will be saving a few dollars by filling out the Medicaid application yourself or using forms found on the internet or in a do-it-yourself book to prepare your estate planning documents, then your family will be in for a rude awakening when they learn that your or a family member will not qualify for Medicaid or part or all of a loved one's will, trust, or medical or financial power of attorney is not legally valid or will not work as anticipated. Thousands of dollars will then be spent working with a qualified elder law attorney after the fact to fix these unnecessary mistakes.

Elder Law Attorneys Can Help Sort Out Complex Family and Financial Situations

Take a look at your life and your assets to see if you fit into one or more of the following categories:

  • You're in a second (or later) marriage
  • You own one or more businesses
  • You own real estate in more than one state
  • You have a disabled family member
  • You have minor children
  • You have problem children
  • You don't have any children
  • You want to leave some or all of your estate to charity
  • You have substantial assets in 401(k)s and/or IRAs
  • You were recently divorced
  • You recently lost a spouse or other family member
  • You have an incapacitated spouse in need of long-term care
  • You have a taxable estate for federal and/or state estate tax purposes

If one or more of these situations apply to you, then you will need the counseling and advice of an experienced elder law attorney to assist you with your elder law needs. Otherwise, it may be the state, an elder law attorney, a probate lawyer, your state's department of revenue, and/or the IRS that will receive the largest chunk of your assets.

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