In Florida, slightly more than 19 percent of the population is age 65 or older, the highest percentage in the nation. This compares to only 14 percent for the rest of the country and translates to an elderly population estimated at nearly 4 million people. Because seniors have unique needs in general, their legal needs are also specific and unique.
There are several legal issues that impact people who are 65 and older, which includes the first of the baby boomers, far more often than they do younger people. Therefore, it’s important to work with an attorney who has extensive knowledge and understanding of these issues and how they affect people. Common elder law issues include:
Receiving the benefits you have earned. Because you’ve spent a lifetime paying taxes and contributing to government benefit programs, you have every right to receive those benefits when you need them. Many of these benefits are specifically intended for your later years, like Medicare and, for the most part, Social Security. Other benefits, while not specific to seniors, tend to be needed more often as you reach an advanced age, including Disability and Veterans Administration benefits. In some cases, however, the government may question your right to receive benefits and it takes an experienced attorney to get the benefits you have earned and deserve.
Protecting yourself from elderly abuse and exploitation. Sadly, there are some people who prey on retirees and people over 65, especially those who live alone and may be easily intimidated. If you become physically weaker with age or incapacitated, the problem is compounded. The abuse of elders can be perpetrated by strangers, friends, neighbors and even family members.
Deciding who will make important decisions if you aren’t able to. Sometimes, as people age, they become incapacitated by illness or injury and are unable to make competent decisions about important matters. For example, if you are unconscious and aren’t married, who will make decisions about your treatment? Or, what if an important financial decision needs to be made by a certain date? You can designate who will make those decisions in advance with the help of an attorney.
Planning and managing your estate. Estate planning is not something you do once and then forget about. So many factors affect your estate, such as your assets and their value, your needs, the needs of your heirs, tax laws, and more. Reviewing your wills and trusts on an annual basis will ensure that your estate will be administered efficiently and that your family will be well taken care of.
My goal for elder law clients is to make sure all these issues are taken care of properly so that my clients have complete comfort and confidence about their affairs. By taking care of these details, they can then enjoy this time of their lives without unnecessary stress.