Estate planning considerations that come with aging have been a priority of our firm. Our firm has focused on elder law and the tax planning plus practical considerations that need to be addressed for numerous years to provide legal counsel to our clients. When preparing an estate plan, it is important to ensure that assets are not needlessly depleted, that tax exposure is minimized and that the interests of family members are protected.
Our attorneys stay on top of the changing landscape of Social Security options and planning, Medicare, Medicaid, retirement plan distribution requirements and options, gifting and essential estate planning documents needed as you age, and your family matures. Reviewing health and personal care planning, nursing home issues, and income tax concerns will help you ensure that your estate is in order.
From Powers of Attorney to Dynasty Trusts to Portability, Herr Potts and Potts and can provide the information and solutions to your legal needs. To schedule a confidential legal consultation at our Wayne or West Chester Pennsylvania law office, call (610) 254-0114.
Who is the Client in Elder Law?
Elder law is an area of legal practice which includes estate planning, trusts, social security, retirement benefits, and many other things. Determining who is the client in an elder law case is an important discussion. Many adult children bring their elderly parents to a law firm to discuss representation, often they may have differing interests. Issues may become even more complicated if the parent possesses physical or mental disabilities limiting their capacity to make decisions.
When facing conflict of interest issues, a lawyer must make it clear that they can only represent one party in the dispute. This requires a lawyer to put into writing:
- The client the lawyer is representing
- The scope of the representation
- The fees associated with the representation
Agreements like this are known as a fee agreement. Fee agreements make it clear to the lawyer and the client everything to expect in the relationship. If a child is paying for the legal representation of a parent, it does not entitle them to also make decisions for the parent. If an elderly parent possesses a sound mind and can make decisions regarding their own interests, an individual paying for their representation cannot insert their own interests.
Lawyers can also make determinations on whether they reasonably believe a client can act in their own self-interest. If a lawyer feels a client cannot do so, the lawyer can seek a guardian or enforce other protective measures.
Guardianships for Disabled Senior Citizens
Physical or mental disabilities may limit the ability of an elderly citizen to fend for themselves. Unfortunately, some people or family members may seek to take advantage of this situation for their own benefit. They may push a disabled or ill person into making important decisions too hastily or manipulate their property for their own means. To prevent arrangements where a senior citizen is preyed upon, Pennsylvania law allows for the appointment of a guardian to deal with custodial or financial matters, sometimes both.
To qualify for guardian representation, a person must be found impaired to the point they are partially or totally unable to manage their finances or are incapable of meeting vital requirements for physical health and safety. An incapacitated party is entitled to retain counsel for this process to ensure their best interests are advocated for. A guardian’s authority to make decisions on behalf of the incapacitated party expire upon their death.
Federal Benefits for Senior Citizens
Senior citizens are eligible for a variety of federal programs once reaching a certain age or meeting other requirements. The kinds of federal programs available to the elderly include:
- Social Security – The largest income-management program in the United States. The program provides monthly benefits to the elderly and other categories of citizens to replace, in part, the income lost from retirement, disability, or death.
- Medicare – A program invented by the federal government to aid senior citizens with their medical expenses. Senior citizens become eligible for benefits on the first day of the month they turn 65.
- Medicaid – Medicaid assists elderly citizens with medical and custodial care costs. However, the citizen receiving these benefits must contribute their monthly income.
Most of federal benefits kick in when a citizen reaches the age of 65 or unfortunately becomes disabled at an earlier age.
Estate Planning for the Elderly in Pennsylvania
Estate planning is a large part of elder law. Estate planning is not just for wealthy individuals, but for any person who holds property they may want to pass on to family or friends. Our firm has represented clients who were in various estate planning stages, such as:
- Establishing an asset protection plan for a client whose assets were dwindling and needed to enter a nursing home.
- Establishing Powers of Attorney for a new client so that we could avoid a costly Guardianship matter.
- Filing a Federal Estate Tax Return and utilizing portability so that the surviving spouse could take advantage of their spouse’s federal estate tax exemption.
- Establishing a Living Trust for a client so that a family member was not able to keep taking money from them.
These are only some of the cases our firm has handled for clients, to discuss representation for your other estate planning or elder law needs you should contact us as soon as possible.
Schedule a Consultation with Our Elder Law Attorneys
If you or your loved one require assistance navigating through the many facets of elder law, you should speak with an attorney today. The Southeastern Pennsylvania elder law attorneys of Herr Potts and Potts have served clients for over 80 years and would be proud to represent you. To schedule your confidential consultation, contact us at (610) 254-0114 today.
Recent Elder Law Matters Our Attorneys Have Represented:
- Established an asset protection plan for a client whose assets were dwindling and needed to enter a nursing home.
- Ensured that Powers of Attorney were established for a new client so that we could avoid a costly Guardianship matter.
- Filed a Federal Estate Tax Return and utilized portability so that the surviving spouse could take advantage of their spouse’s federal estate tax exemption.
- Established a Living Trust for a client so that a family member was not able to keep taking money from them.