Elder law focuses on the legal issues that are unique to seniors and vulnerable adults and recognizes that unique issues or needs may arise when attorneys represent these individuals in other practice areas. For example, the Minnesota Vulnerable Adult Act applies to many individuals simply based upon their status or residence. However, when assisting senior, elderly, or vulnerable clients with drafting estate planning documents (such as a will) or entering real estate transactions (such as a life estate), an attorney must also consider the effect of other laws upon those actions, such as medical assistance rules.
One goal of elder law is to prevent elder abuse, which has become a great concern to many people. Sadly, many seniors, elderly adults, and vulnerable adults have fallen victim to financial exploitation by relatives, caregivers, and scam or con artists who prey upon these populations. Mortgage companies and the financial sector have also created several products, such as the reverse mortgage, which may work well for some but not for everyone. Many of the laws which cover these issues create two separate avenues of relief: there may be a private right of action for the victim against the individual abuser (with the victim recovering money damages) as well as a public one (with the local government taking action against the offending business or facility, such as imposing fines or revoking operations permits or licenses).
Another goal of elder law is to assist these individuals as they plan ahead for their future. Depending upon their situation, we counsel clients on ways to insure against the rising cost of long term medical and nursing home care. If you or your spouse is a veteran, veteran’s benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA) may also be available to defray some of these costs. Many clients are also concerned with how to properly “spend down” their property and assets without jeopardizing eligibility for medical assistance. We also help clients weigh their options regarding property or asset transfers (and kinds of property ownership) when making gifts to children and other loved ones, especially if a client may need to rely upon medical assistance at some point in the future.