Recently, at two different MCLE (continuing legal education) presentations, I spoke on the “Elder Law Essentials.” The goal of the presentation was to distinguish the solutions of elder law vs. the solutions underlying traditional estate planning.
I was originally trained as a tax attorney, and my principal estate planning solutions were motivated by the client’s desires to:
Minimize or avoid estate & gift tax costs; and
Minimize or avoid probate expenses; and
Minimize problems at the time of ultimate distribution to heirs/beneficiaries.
As an elder law attorney, however, the usual client motivation is the diagnosis of a long term illness. This is illustrated by the life-changing call I received at my office almost ten years ago. A family friend called me and she asked, “Rick, what are we going to do? Bob has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Am I going to lose my home? Are we going to lose EVERYTHING?” There was panic in her voice.
In those days, I was not prepared to give appropriate answers. I was a traditional estate planner—and she was not asking for a traditional solution. She was asking me for answers to these questions:
How are we going to maintain sufficient income?
How are we going to pay for Bob’s health care needs?
Will I ( the healthy spouse) be forced move out of my home by health care expenses?
When someone asks these type of questions, elder law has the answers. Our goal is to work with our clients to try to assist them to protect their income, obtain quality health care, and protect the marital residence for the healthy spouse.
If a traditional estate plan is not the right fit, please call us to discuss how we may be able to help you.