Estate planning and Elder Law are related but distinct legal practice areas. In some instances, individuals and married couples will have excellent estate plans that become entirely inadequate if they need long-term care. The estate planning attorney is not to blame; his client had different objectives in mind at the time.
The current recessionary environment has exacerbated these situations. Even clients with substantial assets have been significantly affected by investment and property losses, in addition to income disruption when employment is terminated. Older individuals have less time to recover from these financial blows. These realities coupled with high estate taxes often create devastating financial scenarios for ill people and their families.
The solution is to have a careful review of any existing estate plan you may have by an Elder Law firm. Even under normal circumstances, it’s a good idea to have a periodic review of an estate plan to make any necessary revisions based on any changes in your situation or perspectives. However, when critical illness is a factor, it’s absolutely vital to your economic well-being and security to review and potentially to revise your estate plan.
Wills or trusts may have to be revised or updated. A Health Care proxy to effectuate your wishes about medical care may have to be drafted. Typically, these and other considerations need to be examined and addressed.
You can get a better sense of the interface between Elder Law and estate planning by reviewing strategy #18, #19 and #20 in Lamson and Cutner’s Special Report, 25 Strategies to Prevent Financial Ruin from Long-Term Health Care Costs. There’s also a separate section of the firms website devoted to the topic here.