In this week’s post in our ongoing series on basic estate planning questions, we are going to ask the important question of “what is elder law.” Like many areas of estate planning law, elder law is not something with which a lot of people in the Greenville, North Carolina have direct experience. Elder law and estate planning attorneys, however, can play an important role in your life if you are a senior citizen, if you have elderly family members or loved ones, or if you experience any number of elder law issues.
The help better explain what elder law is, let’s take a look at some important questions.
What is elder law?
Elder law is not a single area of the law, but a collection of areas unified by a single thread. That thread is the aging process and the issues and problems people confront as they get older. In other words, elder law is a loose definition that applies to legal questions that people most often face as a result of the aging process itself. Elder law lawyers deal with a range of issues that can affect people at any time of life, but which are most commonly experienced by senior citizens and the elderly.
Is elder law something that only the elderly have to worry about?
No. Even though the term “elder law” seems to imply that it’s illegal feel that only applies to older people, younger people can also be affected by a variety of elder law issues. For example, elder law attorneys specialize in understanding the process that arises as someone begins losing his or her ability to make decisions. Someone who can no longer make choices is known as legally incapacitated, and elder law attorneys know how to deal with incapacitation.
The vast majority of people who become incapacitated do so as a result of the aging process. Whether it’s because of the onset of a significant illness, such as Alzheimer’s disease, or because of the natural loss of capacity most people experience as they age, elder law attorneys know how to counsel people who are experiencing a loss of capacity.
However, the loss of capacity is something that anyone at any age can experience. Regardless if you are elderly or not, losing your capacity will necessarily bring up some important elder law issues.
Is elder law something I can use to make plans?
Absolutely. A good estate plan will address a number of elder law issues in a variety of ways. Sometimes you can make choices now that will affect what happens to you as you age, while other times you can make preparations for events that might, but won’t certainly, happen to you or your family.
Regardless of your age or circumstances, making a plan while you are still capable of doing so is absolutely essential. This is why, if you are worried about an elder law issue, you need to talk to an attorney right away.