Column: What is elder law and how can it help you?


Commentary by Lisa Dillman

Elder law is a specialized legal practice area that focuses on the unique legal needs of older adults. Here are some interesting statistics and points highlighting the importance of elder law:

Aging population

The population of older adults is growing rapidly. According to the United States Census Bureau, the number of Americans 65 and older is projected to nearly double from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060. This demographic shift underscores the increasing need for legal services tailored to the elderly population.

Estate planning

Estate planning is a crucial aspect of elder law. However, a significant number of Americans, including older adults, do not have essential estate planning documents in place. Elder law attorneys play a vital role in guiding individuals through the estate planning process, ensuring their wishes are documented and their assets are protected.

Long-term care planning

Long-term care is a significant concern for older adults and their families. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 70 percent of individuals aged 65 and older will require long-term care services at some point in their lives. Elder-law attorneys assist with planning for long-term care needs, including navigating Medicaid eligibility, setting up trusts, and developing asset protection strategies. 

Elder financial abuse

Older adults are vulnerable to financial exploitation and abuse. According to a study by the National Council on Aging, financial abuse costs older Americans $2.9 billion annually. Elder law attorneys play a critical role in preventing and addressing financial exploitation by establishing safeguards, advocating for their clients’ rights, and pursuing legal remedies when abuse occurs. 

Guardianship and conservatorship

Guardianship and conservatorship proceedings are essential tools for protecting the rights and well-being of incapacitated older adults. Elder law attorneys assist families in initiating guardianship or conservatorship proceedings when necessary, ensuring that vulnerable individuals have responsible and trustworthy individuals appointed to make decisions on their behalf.

Health care decision-making

Advanced health care directives, including living wills and healthcare proxies, enable individuals to express their healthcare wishes and designate someone to make medical decisions on their behalf if they become unable to do so. Elder law attorneys assist older adults in creating these important documents, ensuring that their healthcare preferences are respected and that they receive appropriate medical care.

Elder law advocacy

Elder law attorneys play a crucial role in advocating for the rights and protection of older adults. They work to address legal issues specific to older individuals, such as elder abuse, age discrimination, access to healthcare, and social security benefits. Some firms, including Applegate & Dillman Elder Law, offer life care planning services, including Elder Care coordinators who assist older adults navigate the aging world.

Elder law encompasses various legal areas, and its importance lies in addressing the unique legal challenges faced by older adults, protecting their rights, and ensuring their well-being and dignity in the later stages of life.


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