In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the ‘Older American Act’ into law. From this act, the Department of Health and Human Services created a new division, the Administration on Aging (AOA), to deal with growing aging population of this country. Over the years, more services were added to the AOA to enhance the life of the elderly as well as to provide assistance to overwhelmed family members struggling to care for their elderly relatives.
A legal term was coined to cover the area of legal practice that deals with the issues that affect aging Americans – ‘Elder Law.’
Aging Americans are among society’s most vulnerable citizens and face many challenges: ageism, poverty, elder abuse, disability and poor health. As people age, they need someone to provide legal advice and services to protect their assets and assist them in dealing with the challenges presented by a long life, illness and disability. An attorney who provides legal advocacy, guidance and service to enhance the lives of the elderly is called an Elder Law attorney.
An Elder Law attorney must be knowledgeable about the following subjects: health and long-term planning, surrogate decision-making (powers of attorney and guardianship), wills, trust and probate of an estate, older persons’ legal capacity, landlord/tenant issues, tax issues, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
An Elder Law attorney should also know the issues that affect the elderly: abuse, exploitation, neglect, insurance, housing, long-term care, retirement and employment. Those attorneys who work in this specialized area of law must be sensitive to the legal issues impacting the older generation, as well.
Although Elder Law clients are predominantly seniors, the practice is not necessarily age related. Elder Law attorneys also deal with disability and incapacity planning for those individuals who cannot or should not manage finances and personal issues.
An experienced Elder Law attorney will assist you in navigating the maze of legal and financial problems that you or a loved one face as age or disability becomes an issue in life.