Although there are many similarities between Elder Law and Estate Planning, there are also some differences. Many attorneys that practice Estate Planning are also familiar with Elder Law, but the two areas of practice are not necessarily the same.
An attorney who practices estate planning will generally focus on estate documents, such as a will, trusts, living wills, etc. They also know how to position assets to protect those assets, as well as methods of minimizing or avoiding estate and gift taxes and probate.
Elder Law attorneys can help in these areas, but may also be able to assist clients with methods for maintaining a sufficient income once a loved one has become incapacitated, paying medical bills, and protecting assets and income for the healthy spouse.
When someone is faced with a health crisis or terminal illness, there are many questions that they need answers to. It is extremely important that before you make any moves that you contact an attorney that practices Elder Law, as well as Estate Planning. When someone has been diagnosed with a terminal or long term illness, not only is it important to have an estate plan in place, but you will need to step carefully when it comes to your assets to ensure that you do not disqualify yourself from receiving Medicaid to cover the costs of long term care.
One of the first reactions that people have when they realize that they are seriously ill is to distribute their assets to their loved ones, but this can be a big mistake. Not only can there be issues when it comes to gift taxes, but there is a five-year look back period for Medicaid, and giving away your assets may cause a major delay in receiving benefits.
The best course of action if you have been diagnosed with a long term or terminal illness is to contact an attorney that focuses on Elder Law and Estate Planning before you do anything else. You will need advice on how you can qualify for Medicaid, and how to create an estate plan that protects you, as well as your heirs.