After decades of hard work and caring for your family, as a senior you may find yourself needing legal counsel to help you look after your interests. From nursing home abuse to securing rightful Medicare and Medicaid benefits to understanding insurance laws and policies, seniors are a target for being taken advantage of. An experienced legal team looking out for your interests can prevent such acts.
The elder law attorneys at Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria have over 40 years of experience dealing with elder law and estate planning. Our team has a full understanding of the nuances of elder law and can help you navigate the complex processes and applications you may face while offering the compassionate guidance you need as you make these difficult decisions. To learn more about specific elder law topics and what they may mean for you, please click on the bolded questions below or contact our elder law attorneys.
Elder Law FAQ
Below is a list of frequently asked questions about elder law. Click on the question to view its answer.
What is a Last Will and Testament?
A Last Will and Testament, or a “Will,” is a written document that allows you to express your preferences about how your assets should be administered and to whom they should be distributed after your death. You appoint an Executor to carry out your wishes as specified in the Will. Upon your death, your Executor will seek to have your Will recognized by the appropriate Surrogate’s Court and become formally appointed to administer your assets. The Will document itself and the signing of a Will must meet certain requirements of New York State law to be considered valid. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you seek the advice and supervision of an attorney.
What happens to my assets if I do not have a Will?
If no Will exists, your assets will be distributed according to New York State law. Distribution varies from family to family depending on what relatives survive you. This may result in some relatives receiving benefits that you never intended for them, while others may receive less than what you wanted. If no relatives are found within a certain degree, your estate is distributed to New York State. It may be beneficial for you to speak with an attorney in order to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.
What is a trust?
A trust is a legal document that allows you or another to manage your assets. A trust can be created while you are alive or after your death by your Will. Trusts can be revocable at will or irrevocable depending upon your needs and the purpose of the trust. Your assets are transferred into the trust and managed further by your appointed Trustee. Depending on the type of trust, the Trustee can be you or another person. The Trustee will manage the property for the benefit of you or another person. There are a variety of reasons that a trust may be a good idea for an individual. One goal is to avoid proceedings in Surrogate’s Court, particularly if you are looking for more privacy regarding distribution of your assets upon your death. Another reason is for Medicaid planning purposes. However, a trust is not a good idea for every individual so it may be best to contact an attorney for further guidance.
What is a Power of Attorney?
A Power of Attorney is a legal document wherein you grant another person, your “agent”, the authority to act on your behalf if you are unable to make certain decisions yourself. You may grant a number of powers to your agent, including:
Paying bills, taxes, and medical expenses
Managing real estate assets
Accessing and managing financial accounts
Investing on your behalf
Collecting your retirement benefits
Transferring and selling your assets
Buying insurance for you
Operating your business
Hiring someone to represent you
A Power of Attorney is usually durable, meaning that it remains in effect if you become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions on your own. A non-durable Power of Attorney is effective only when you are capable of making your own decisions. Upon your death, your Power of Attorney is automatically extinguished. This means that your agent can only act utilizing the Power of Attorney while you are alive.
What is a Health Care Proxy?
By appointing another as your health care proxy, you are granting that person the authority to make health care decisions for you. Your proxy may only act in the event that you are incapacitated and cannot verbalize your specifications as to the treatment you wish to receive. A Health Care Proxy will typically cover the following responsibilities, including:
Offering or denying consent for medical treatments as long as they don't interfere with your Living Will
Deciding which medical facilities you go to
Deciding which doctors and medical professionals you should see
Going to court over whether you should receive treatment
Deciding how your body will be handled after death, including organ donation
If you have strong feelings about any of these subjects, it may be beneficial for you to state your preferences in a Living Will.
What is a Living Will?
A Living Will allows you to express your preferences for medical treatment in the event that you are unable to personally communicate your desires and in a medical condition where there is no hope for recovery. Living wills can direct health care providers to withhold treatment, ask for all available treatment options, or be specific about which options to choose and which to reject.
What is Medicaid?
Medicaid is a program funded by the government that allows many low-income individuals, including those aged 65 or older, the disabled, and the blind, to receive care at home or in a nursing home. It is most often used by those who have no other means by which to pay for their care.
How do I apply for Medicaid?
In order to be eligible to apply for Medicaid, your assets and monthly income must fall below certain threshold levels. All Medicaid applications require extensive personal documentation and proof of assets, including five years’ worth of all financial statements. Certain asset transfers within the five years prior to your application may subject you to a period during which you are eligible for Medicaid but your benefits are not paid. This means that you are individually responsible for payment to the nursing home until that period of time is over.
The Medicaid eligibility rules and application process can be very complex and difficult to navigate. Consultation with an experienced attorney who has a comprehensive knowledge of Medicaid’s various benefits, eligibility rules, and application process is highly advised. Each individual applicant’s asset and income situation is different. An attorney can assist you with the appropriate planning required to become eligible for Medicaid, including the potential to save assets for your intended beneficiaries.