In 1996, David Goldfarb of Goldfarb Abrandt Salzman & Kutzin LLP saw a gap in the public knowledge base of elder law information. He started SeniorLaw.com with the goal of providing simplified information to seniors and their loved ones to help them understand what legal documents are important for protecting your assets and planning for care in your golden years.
But SeniorLaw.com doesn’t stop with information for the community; it’s also a robust resource for attorneys who aren’t well versed in elder law, a highly specialized field that requires the right expertise to adequately meet this population’s needs.
SeniorLaw.com helps families understand what documents they can prepare themselves and when it’s time to seek the help of an elder law attorney. It includes information on Medicare, Medicaid, when to use a trust to protect assets and more. The website has been featured in a number of publications, including The New York Times senior citizens section and Parade magazine. More than 20,000 people visit SeniorLaw.com each month searching for legal advice on elder law for themselves or a loved one.
Elder law: Common questions and areas of confusion
There are two key areas generally most confusing to seniors and their loved ones, in Mr. Goldfarb’s experience:
- Guardianships: What are they? Do I need one? How do they work? (In some states, they’re referred to as conservatorships.)
- Hospital discharges and skilled nursing facility (SNF) transfers: Was my loved one discharged too soon? What care should I have set up at home? The hospital discharged my loved one, and I didn’t have time to make the proper arrangements. Was this an appropriate discharge?
The most frequently asked questions are related to:
- Nursing home care and coverage
- Home care
- Medicaid eligibility
Elder law attorneys can help navigate sensitive issues
There are also some intricacies in state laws, says Goldfarb, and that’s where an elder law attorney can be most helpful. For instance, in New York State, where he practices, there’s a spousal refusal option that can be useful in protecting assets. If one spouse is sick and the other is well, under certain circumstances the well spouse can elect to not disclose their assets, enabling the sick partner to qualify for Medicaid without the need to spend down the family’s assets.
Why you need a Power of Attorney (POA)
Mr. Goldfarb says the one legal document most frequently overlooked by consumers is the Power of Attorney (POA) and healthcare proxy. He says it’s advisable for everyone to get this document in place – young or old, sick or well – because anyone can become incapacitated at any time. Many consumers assume that power of attorney will fall to their next of kin, but that’s not actually true. The lack of a legal POA document can pose significant roadblocks to your loved ones trying to advocate and make decisions regarding your care.
A POA is no longer a simple document, Goldfarb advises. While it used to be possible to purchase a boilerplate template from just about anywhere, it’s now a good idea to have an attorney prepare it for you to be sure your document will be considered legitimate should the need arise.
How to find an elder law attorney
If you think you could benefit from a consultation with an elder law attorney, the state bar association is a good place to start your search. Elder law doesn’t require a special license, but many attorneys who don’t practice in the area often aren’t aware of all the tactics that can be utilized to benefit clients.
If you’re not sure whether you need the assistance of an elder law attorney, SeniorLaw.com is a good place to begin understanding the many aspects of elder care and elder law. Beginning here will provide you with a solid understanding of the issues you could encounter as you enter your golden years and offer insight as to when you should seek expert guidance.