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Overview of Elder Law & Special Needs Law

What is Elder and Special Needs Law?

As an example, imagine the questions you would have if your father had a stroke and you were told he would need long-term care and that he could not return to his home.

Where would your father live? What types of supports and services would he need? How would he pay for his care if his assets ran out? What happens when he dies? Should his assets be placed in a trust?

To answer these kinds of questions, you or your father would benefit from the assistance of an elder law/special needs law attorney.

What is an Elder Law/Special Needs Law Attorney?

An elder/special needs law attorney addresses legal planning (both estate planning and government-benefits planning) for a person’s changing financial, residential, and personal care needs that result from aging, illness, or physical or mental disability.

Does an Elder Law Attorney Only Work With the Elderly?

No! Despite its name, elder law can include planning for folks with disabilities of any age. Legal planning for younger persons with disabilities is sometimes also called “special needs” planning. Special needs law (younger folks) is often practiced by attorneys who also practice elder law (older folks).

If an attorney does planning for people with disabilities of all ages, then the attorney will specify that they are an elder law attorney and special needs attorney. (NWLG lawyers are elder law attorneys and special needs attorneys – we do legal planning for folks of any age.)

What Type of Planning is Performed by an Elder/Special Needs Law Attorney?

Among several services, an elder/special needs law attorney can prepare documents that enable a person to assist an individual or loved one with managing their medical and financial needs. They can review and negotiate admissions agreements for healthcare facilities or prepare a trust to protect assets.

If needed, elder/special needs law attorneys can also evaluate the level of disability and the appropriate housing options to provide the level of supportive services needed. They prepare plans for qualifying for Medical Assistance, or, if an individual is a veteran, an attorney can help evaluate what veterans’ benefits are available to pay for the cost of care.

Is an Elder/Special Needs Law Attorney Different From an Estate Planning Attorney?

Yes! Estate planning attorneys prepare wills, trusts, do tax planning, and administer estates after death. And an elder/special needs law attorney is an estate planning attorney.

However, in addition, an elder/special needs law attorney also has a concentrated knowledge of government benefits and guardianship/conservatorship, and how those issues impact an individual’s estate planning needs.

(See the right-hand sidebar for more information about any of Northwoods Law Group’s practice areas.)

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