The choice about whether or not to hire an elder law attorney (or elder care lawyer, as some say) is one that is not to be taken lightly. Unfortunately, it's a topic that can cause a lot of anxiety both for the aging adult and for their children. There are multiple reasons that it's an uncomfortable conversation to have.
Of course, the most obvious is that the need for an elder law attorney brings up the topic of the senior's mortality. An attorney can be brought in for many reasons, one of which is estate planning. And with estate planning comes the reality that each of our lives will come to an end. This can be especially distressing to an aging person, but you can't overlook the feelings that it stirs up in their family members and friends.
Another reason that folks find themselves wanting to work with an elder care lawyer is because the senior is beginning to make decisions (or appears to be making decisions) that are not in their best interest. No one wants to tell Mom or Dad that it might be time to stop driving, that they shouldn't have sole control over their finances, or that it's time to consider moving to a senior community rather than staying in their home of decades. When an elder care lawyer comes into play, it's often to address these exact topics. And elder law attorneys then often pull in other professionals to assist, especially geriatric care managers, to assist with coordinating the senior's non-legal concerns such as residential changes, medical crises and care management.
The conversation can be softened a bit with different approaches. One common one is for the adult child to make it about themselves instead of about the parent's age or health. For example, it's not too hard to relate a "friend's" story to your own situation, pointing out how your friend or person you've heard about is having a hard time getting a senior the right care because there are no powers of attorney or medical directives in place.
Earlier Is Better
One of the things that often brings people to the Wills, Trusts and Estate practice group at Harris Beach PLLC is the realization that a senior is starting to decline in health. This could be physically, mentally, or both. Of course, it's preferable to work on a long-term plan before this becomes an issue, but if that hasn't happened, there are still options available. The better the senior's health and decision-making capabilities, the more say they can have in co-creating their plan.
No matter what the senior's capacity, it's a good idea for any adult siblings or other legally concerned parties to be kept informed with the client's permission. Depending on the client's wishes, adult children often take part in the meeting with the lawyer, although they are there to listen and ask questions, not direct the choices made by the client. This can help to reduce friction later because everyone is aware of the plan and understands how it will be implemented and who carries which responsibility.
It's always a good time to review your circumstances or those of a beloved senior in your life. Spending a little time with one of our experienced attorneys now can make a world of difference down the road. We provide services across New York state and are certain one of our locations can serve you – visit us in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Ithaca, Saratoga Springs, Albany, Westchester, Manhattan or Uniondale. Or ask for a virtual meeting using the platform of your choice.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.