What is Elder Law?
Elder law is the area of legal practice that is devoted to planning in advance for death or disability, as well as care for any vulnerable individual no matter how old or young they are. This is my primary area of practice. I love practicing elder law because it really helps my clients “where the tire meets the road.” To learn more about what’s involved in advance planning (what is often called “estate planning,”) read on …. !
When thinking about what legal documents they need, most people think immediately in terms of a Last Will and Testament. I think of a Will as a gift to those who survive you after your death. It allows you to designate who gets your probate estate after you die, and it also sets up who administers your estate and how. But creating a Last Will and Testament is only one part of a comprehensive estate plan. There’s so much more to be done than this!!
The other documents that are part of your estate plan directly affect the quality of your life while you are alive. In that sense, having good quality documents is more important to you personally than your will. What are these documents?
Durable Power of Attorney
Your DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY is a document that designates who would manage your business affairs if you were unable to do so.
Health Care Power of Attorney
Your HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY is a document that designates who would make health care decisions for you in the event you were incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. (I use the example if you were in a car wreck and were unconscious, and a doctor needed to make an emergency decision. Who would they talk with about what your preferences would be?)
A LIVING WILL is another document that should be discussed during your initial estate planning interview.
And So Much More!
An ESTATE PLANNING INTERVIEW should not only cover what these documents are, but should also discuss the difference between probate and non-probate assets, the importance of keeping beneficiary designations up to date, and many other issues. In my opinion, there’s simply no substitute for the guidance of an experienced professional in this area.
Adult Guardianship or Conservatorship
If a person hasn’t done advance planning for disability, and they become unable to manage their own affairs (whether business or health), then an probate court action may be needed to appoint a Guardian or Conservator for that person. Another scenario is if a parent has a child who has a disability and that child will never be able to function “on their own.” I represent parties in Guardianship and Conservatorship cases throughout the state of South Carolina.
If you live in South Carolina, feel free to call and discuss your estate planning needs or any concerns related to protection of a vulnerable adult!