The phrase "Elder Law" is a relatively new area of legal practice that essentially encompasses estate planning for senior citizens. Thus, the typical matters covered by Elder Law includes such things as Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Health Care Directives; but will also include such matters as "Medicaid Planning", "Revocable Living Trusts", and Guardianship.
Medicaid planning becomes an issue when there is a possibility that a senior faces issues of incapacity that will require long term care needs (such as in a nursing home); this type planning becomes especially critical when the "incapacitated" person has significant assets and a spouse in good health. This is important because Medicare does not provide nursing home coverage, and most seniors who have a need for long-term care will have to pay for it out of their own pocket. This can be disastrous for a married couple; and, recognizing this, the State and Federal laws have provided relatively generous exemptions whereby the "incapacitated" spouse can transfer some and in many cases all of their share of their property to their spouse, thus qualifying for government paid nursing home care (Medicaid). If both spouses are living, it is very difficult for the single spouse to transfer assets to children, and should not be attempted unless you have specific direction from an experienced Elder Law attorney on this matter. In any event, the laws in this area are very complicated and it is necessary to see an experienced elder law attorney to make sure it gets done right.
Revocable Living Trusts are a probate avoidance device that may be appropriate for seniors in certain situations. They are significantly more expensive than Wills; but there are times when it is wise to do this, thereby saving the much higher costs that would come with a probate. Generally, Living Trusts are a good idea in the following situations: senior has real estate in more than one State, the assets are very complex, you want to make things easier for your children, there are potential disputes among heirs, yours is a second marriage and you want to provide for children fron a prior marriage.
Jon A. Clark is a member of the Elder Law Section of the Washington State Bar, and is very experienced in this area of the law. He offers a free 45 minute consultation to clients; and if the client is a member of the AARP, there is a 20% discount off fees. Call the Law Office of Jon A. Clark today for your free consultation.