FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is Elder and Special Needs Law?
Elder and Special Needs Law are specialized areas of law that involve representing, counseling, and assisting older adults, people with disabilities and their families in connection with a variety of legal issues, from estate planning to long term care issues. Our primary emphasis is focused on promoting the highest quality of life for our clients. We address the client’s situation from a holistic viewpoint by addressing legal, medical, financial, social and family issues.
How does one become a Certified Specialist in Elder Law?
The National Elder Law Foundation has developed a rigorous procedure so that the public can trust that the certified attorney is knowledgable, competent and deserving of the public’s trust.
The National Elder Law Foundation lists the requirements for becoming a Certified Elder Law Attorney here: http://www.nelf.org/becoming-a-cela. The test for becoming a Certified Specialist in Elder Law was more difficult than the Bar exam!
What Are the Issues Addressed By Elder and Special Needs Law Attorneys?
We are focused on helping families navigate the long-term care maze. We help older adults and their families identify where they are on the elder care continuum, we empower our clients and their families to pay for care using private resources and public benefits. Those public benefits may include their health insurance, Veteran’s benefits, Medicaid, which in Tennessee may also be called “TennCare” or “CHOICES”.
We help parents of special needs children or spouses of disabled adults establish a Special Needs Trust in their estate plan, and we educate our clients about the administration of the trust. We discuss a possible need for a conservatorship for the child and advise families about available resources in our community.
What is the difference between an Elder and Special Needs Law attorney and an Estate Planning attorney or general practitioner?
Elder and Special Needs attorneys do estate planning for anyone of any age. With older adults or parents of a disabled child, we focus on how our client may provide for spouses after death, especially when the spouse is disabled, and we focus on the needs of the disabled child. Special needs trusts for disabled spouses, children or other family members are an incredibly useful tool. In contrast, Estate Planning attorneys generally focus their practice on helping the client avoid estate and inheritance taxes after death and how to structure business to save taxes, and then on succession planning.
Unlike Elder and Special Needs attorneys, most attorneys, do not have expertise in public benefits law such as Medicaid and Veteran’s benefits. Other attorneys may also be unfamiliar with the nuances of Special Needs Trusts and how administering a Special Needs Trust depends on the proposed expenditure and which benefits the trust beneficiary is receiving: Medicaid?, CHOICES?, Medicare?, Medicare Savings Plans (QMB, SLMB, QI, QIW)?, HUD funded housing?, Supplemental Security Income? (SSI)?, Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)?, Social Security Income for a Disabled Child? or Social Security Retirement benefits.
As elder law attorneys, we have spent many hours of in educational elder law courses, pored over Elder Law Treatises, and read elder and special needs law publications daily. Elder and Special Needs Law constantly evolves, and we must know how the changes effect our planning for our clients.
What EXACTLY do you do for your clients?
- Help families save the family home.
- Qualify for Medicaid faster.
- Develop Life Care Plans to guide families through the legal, financial and care issues that often result as we age.
- Assist families in planning to access public benefits such as Medicaid and Veteran’s benefits to pay for long-term care.
- Give families alternatives to “just spending down.”
- Draft legal documents such as Wills, Financial Powers of Attorney, Healthcare Advance Directives, Irrevocable Trusts, Revocable Trusts, Special Needs Trusts and Personal Care Agreements.
- Using Special Needs Trusts helps disabled people preserve a windfall but retain government benefits such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid.
- Advocate for good care whether at home, in assisted living or in a nursing home.
- Help families find relief from caregiver stress.
- Make referrals to other community resources.
- Make recommendations about preserving assets for now and later.
- Obtain a conservatorship when necessary.
- Guide families through estate administration after a loved one passes away.
- Write family agreements such as personal care agreements and behavioral agreements.
- Work with families to resolve disputes.
- Negotiate with care providers, Medicare, insurance companies and creditors.