Like many professions, lawyers tend to concentrate their practices on certain areas. There are lawyers who practice in almost every imaginable topic. One popular lawyer website lists over 235 areas of the law in which lawyers concentrate their practice. This is in contrast to a general legal practitioner who does a little bit of everything. As the old adage says, a general practitioner is a "jack of all trades but master of none."
Elder law is one such area of concentration the lawyer focuses on the needs and challenges facing elders and their caretakers. Baby Boomers-those born between 1946 and 1964-are projected to increase dramatically from 46 million today to over 70 million by 2030. This will mean that the legal issues impacting the lives of Baby Boomers has come to the forefront.
Elder law attorneys typically deal with certain primary areas faced by those in the 65+ age group. Although there's no precise definition of elder law, it includes matters such as:
- Planning for incapacity using instruments such as a Durable Power of Attorney;
- Planning for health crises using advanced directives including a Healthcare Power of Attorney (also called a Designation of Healthcare Surrogate);
- Planning for end-of-life decisions using a Declaration of Living Will;
- Planning for long-term care, including "aging in place," assisted living, and nursing home placement;
- Preserving assets, including qualification for governmental benefits such as the Medicaid ICP program and the Veteran's Administration's Aid and Attendance;
- Planning for the transfer of assets to loved ones at death-using a Wills, Trusts and beneficiary or pay-on-death designations.
While many of the documents referenced above are also used for younger persons, they often come into play under more difficult circumstances for those in the 65+ age group. In implementing these documents for elderly persons, it is often not just the document that is important; it is the advice that goes along with the documents that counts. An elder law attorney can advise on the issues involving an elder person and can do so in a way that will most favorably benefit them and their families.