Elder law is considered by many legal professionals as one of the areas of law that is fast gaining traction and need. This is mainly because the baby boomers are approaching their senior years (60 years and older) and their population is huge – approximately 80 million. Add to this the threat to entitlements like Social Security and health care.
Under elder law, there are three main areas:
- Estate planning
- Medical health, disability, and long-term care
- Guardianship, which includes fiduciary administration
Some of the top concerns under the elder law are neglect, abuse, retirement, taxes, discrimination, rights, and consumer protection.
In a 2011 Senate hearing on elder law, Kathy Greenlee of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that 1 in 10 elderly Americans are either abused or neglected, and the cases are steadily increasing.
The History of the Elder Act
It was not always known as the Elder Act. The Older Americans Act, or OAA, was signed into law in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson. This was the same year Medicare was created. The OAA, which was put under the care and management of the Department of Health and Human Services, involved training, research, and implementation of the law for aging Americans.
By 1972, nutrition care was added to the OAA, and then it was amended once more to bring care to the disabled and sick whose families struggle with the stress of funding and health care needs. Many changes have been made to this act, with the most recent changes signed by President George W. Bush in 2007.
It was only in 2010 that a law was passed that included the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, nursing home crime report system, and background checks for anyone applying to work with elderly patients.
There are lawyers who specialize in elder law. Aside from helping elderly clients in the legal sense, elder law attorneys are trained to be sensitive to the emotional and physical needs of their clients.
Some of the special services an elder law attorney can provide include the following:
- Processing legal documents, such as wills, power of attorney, gift taxes, and guardianship
- Ensuring the implementation of all legal documents
- Assisting with processing of long-term care and assisted living documentation
- Providing financial and legal representation on estate planning, tax returns, and other advance directives
- Filing legal claims in cases of abuse
Protection for Seniors
Whether you are a senior citizen or you want to know more about protection for senior citizens, it is always important to understand that finding the right elder law lawyer is the first step in protection.
Since there is a growing need for legal assistance for those aged 60 and over, the lawyer should have the following criteria:
- Specialization in and devotion to elder law
- Reasonable fees
The overall objective of elder law is to allow those belonging to this group to live the rest of their lives with dignity, grace, and the gratefulness of a country that has benefitted from their years of work and contribution to society.