If you are elderly or you have an elderly loved one, you must understand elder law and how the laws and regulations affect you or your loved one. Elder law is an approach that is multidisciplinary and focuses specifically on the legal issues of older and disabled people. Elder law concentrates on the concept that the parts are interconnected and this particular type of law is very comprehensive.
Elder law includes many different issues including:
- Making decisions related to health care and using advance directives
- Preparing for a disability
- Estate planning and using durable powers of attorney, wills and living trusts
- Planning for Social Security retirement
- Building strategies for Medicaid (MassHealth), benefits for veterans and other public assistance programs
- Options for housing and alternatives to nursing home facilities
- Strategies to avoid probate
- Financial planning and long-term care
- Buying a long-term insurance policy
- Strategizing to protect assets, such as the family home as well as other important assets
Which documents should be included in my plan?
There are several documents that are an important part of your estate plan although some are more essential than others. Before you finish building your estate plan, you should carefully weigh which documents are important for you to include in your estate plan in your particular situation.
Some of the possibly essential documents for your estate plan are health care proxies and advance directives, durable powers of attorney, wills, deeds to real estate, revocable and irrevocable trusts, and plans for gifting and plans to protect your assets.
Please understand that even if you created the documents for your estate plan originally, they probably need to be updated periodically because circumstances often change in life over time. Also, the elder laws that may apply to your circumstances also change periodically, which is another reason why you should update your documents from time to time.
What does probate mean?
Probate is the process in court that may be needed when someone passes on. In that case, the assets are transferred from the person who passed to the beneficiaries or heirs who are named in the will. Probate becomes necessary if it is unclear about who will inherit.
Probate issues don’t always necessarily ending up in court. There are many things that you can do without having to actually appear in court, depending on the circumstances. The judge will have to sign off on the final papers but the process will most likely not be complicated.
If you are dealing with an estate planning issue, it is probably a good idea to consult an elder law attorney, who can guide you about the process and who can hopefully help your case to go smoothly and without incident. It is important to have a plan in place so that you are prepared for whatever may happen. That way, the outcome will hopefully be the easiest that it can be.