Do you have questions about the difference between elder law and estate planning? You are not alone. According to the Administration for Community Living (ACL), there are approximately 50 million Americans aged 65 or older. That represents approximately one out of every seven Americans.
The areas of elder law and estate planning both impact the lives of older Americans, as well as anyone considering their future after retirement. While estate planning centers on implementing your wishes regarding the distribution of assets after you pass away, elder law concerns your legal rights as you age.
Elder Law Protects the Senior Population
Elder law covers a broad sphere of legal issues surrounding the rights of the elderly. It includes protecting seniors from abuse, preserving their assets, and ensuring their access to medical care.
Eldercare often involves long-term planning for a client’s future medical needs. It is important to take steps to ensure your medical care even if you become unable to make these decisions for yourself. By working with an elder law practitioner, you could make a plan for any medical care you may need should you become incapacitated in the future.
Another central aspect of elder law is preparing to qualify for Medicaid, VA benefits, or other benefits earned during the course of your life. In some cases, programs will have strict income or asset tests. Elder law attorneys can help you make a long-term plan for qualifying for these programs without losing the assets you worked your life to build.
Elder law attorneys can also assist with issues of discrimination and abuse. These attorneys can aid a client in protecting their rights, including the right to live free from abuse.
Estate Planning Outlines a Client’s Wishes After Death
Estate planning is about the proactive steps you can take regarding the distribution of your assets after your death. If you fail to develop an estate plan during the course of your life, someone else will have to make these decisions for you. You can think of your estate plan as a roadmap for those that survive you. It will provide your loved ones—as well as the courts, in some cases—clear guidance on your final wishes.
Often, the estate planning process begins with a simple discussion between attorney and client. The client will explain how they generally want their assets distributed upon their death. It is then up to the estate planner to come up with a solution for achieving the client’s goals.
Estate Planning Tools
There are many different tools available for estate planning lawyers. The most common is the last will and testament. While a will can provide for a clear division of assets, it may not be the best option for everyone.
Estate attorneys can rely on other tools besides a will to avoid probate and enact their client’s final wishes with fewer complications or delays. One of the most common examples is through a trust. Often, wills and trusts will work together. For example, a “pour-over will” could outline the transfer of all a person’s assets directly into a trust. This is different from a standard will, which would identify the recipients of these assets directly.
Finally, an estate lawyer can do more than designate the distribution of your assets upon your passing. Your lawyer could also develop a medical power of attorney regarding your medical care at the end stages of your life. This allows you to make important decisions about your health ahead of time.
It is important to consider estate planning as an ongoing obligation, much like elder law. Even if you have developed a strong estate plan, it is worth revisiting it from time to time as your priorities change.
Discuss Your Future with an Attorney
Elder law and estate planning are not so different in some respects. Both areas of the law involve long-term planning for the future. The primary difference between them is that elder law focuses on what happens while you are living, while estate planning usually centers around what happens after you pass away.
Ultimately, the best time to discuss the difference between elder law and estate planning is during a confidential consultation with a prospective attorney. The Bratton Estate & Elder Care Attorneys are always ready to discuss your options and answer any questions you have about the future. To learn more, call (856) 292-8157 to schedule your consultation right away.