The Top Legal Concerns for Seniors

You may have to make difficult decisions while you still have the mental and physical capacity to deal with financial, legal and health care issues. Personal and health affairs management, estate planning and administration, and long-term care and how to pay for assisted living or nursing home care are needs that must be addressed by all of us—the sooner, the better.

In the health arena, powerful instruments give authority over life and death decisions:

  • Advance Directives includes the appointment of a Health Care Representative, end of life decisions/Living Will, Organ donation and the designation of a future conservator.

These documents help you ensure that family, friends and providers carry out your wishes.

Under the umbrella of estate planning and administration, seniors will want advice and counsel on:

  • The preparation of documents such as wills, trusts, and durable powers of attorney.
  • Real estate titling, sale, conveyance or gifting.
  • Advance planning in order to qualify for future Medicaid benefits.
  • The financial and tax implications of any of these proposed actions, as well as real estate, gift and estate taxes (Connecticut and federal).

Planning for incapacity is not fun, but facing it is wise. Consider the appointment of:

  • An attorney-in-fact.
  • A Health Care Representative
  • An executor of one’s estate under a will or a trustee under a trust.
  • A conservator for you and/or your property.
  • A representative payee for your Social Security benefits.

Many of these roles are similar, but there are important differences regarding who has control of what and under what circumstances. For example, power of attorney allows someone to act on your behalf. But if that power of attorney is durable, it remains in effect even if you become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions for yourself.

You will probably want to look into how capacity is determined and what level of capacity is required for various legal activities where you live or own property. You may be the subject of guardianship/conservatorship proceedings or other protective arrangements — who should represent you? You will want a plan to allocate responsibility to someone you trust.

An attorney can explain who can have what level of control over your finances, your life and any trusts.

End-of-life medical and living assistance

Long-term care or home care insurance may be something you will want to explore. It is prudent to understand your rights as a patient or resident of hospitals, nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and continuing care retirement communities. Key considerations include admission, transfer and discharge policies, and quality of care.

Among other legal issues to home in on are:

  • Housing and financing options, such as mortgage alternatives, renovation loan programs, life care contracts and home equity conversions.
  • Pensions, retiree health benefits and unemployment benefits.
  • Income, estate and gift tax advice, especially the consequences of plans offered.
  • Litigation and administrative advocacy for contested wills, capacity issues, elder abuse, financial or consumer fraud, fiduciary administration, public benefits, nursing home torts and discrimination.

This checklist of legal issues you may face can serve as a good preliminary overview of areas you will want to consider. Without proper planning, the estate you worked to build could go to a long-term care facility instead of to your loved ones. Our office will be happy to consult with you to address these legal concerns.

You can count on Ericson, Scalise & Mangan, PC to provide you with sound guidance and experience in these uncertain times. For assistance with your legal needs, please contact us today at (860) 229-0369, or email us at info@esmlaw.com.