Elder Law

Wed, Apr 30, 2014

Elder Law

Some rights reserved by Ethan PraterElder Law is the general focus on the special legal needs of the elderly population. This is of particular interest to the Sarasota/Bradenton area.

Elder law encompasses a very broad array of practice topics including, but not limited to:

  • Estate planning
  • Retirement planning
  • Asset protection
  • Gift and tax planning
  • Elder abuse and exploitation
  • Guardianship

Estate planning, retirement planning, asset protection, and gift/tax planning are important things to consider as one ages. Estate planning is the process of preparing documents to make sure your wishes are carried out in the event you can no longer make decisions for yourself. This includes power of attorneys, medical surrogates, living wills, traditional wills, trusts, and more.

A power of attorney can take many forms, and allows you to choose in advance, whom you would like to make decisions for you in case of your complete or temporary incapacitation. Powers of attorneys can also be revoked, should your wishes change.

A medical surrogate is similar to a power of attorney, though it relates only to medical decisions. Living wills spell out your wishes should you need resuscitation or other life-saving measures in an emergency. The living will and established medical surrogate would work together during these times to best carry out your wishes.

A traditional will is always a good idea, and spells out your wishes after death. A trust is a great way to specifically leave assets to your heirs and avoid probate.

Many of the above estate planning documents are created at the same time. This is in an effort to be thorough and to have them work together. This is not to say they cannot be changed over time if your wishes or circumstances change.

While you are doing your estate planning, some retirement planning is advisable. This can include creating asset protection plans and creating any gift plans you may have in mind. It’s also advisable to consider tax planning at this stage of your life. All of these are within SmithLaw’s practice areas.

SmithLaw also concentrates in elder exploitation. Elder exploitation is the practice area that focuses on the protection of the elderly from the exploitation of third parties.  Often, this involves bringing a combination of lawsuits against wrongdoers, some of whom could be family members, caretakers or scoundrels who prey on the elderly or infirm. Exploitation is both a crime and a tort, and is actionable at law. We have sued wrongdoers in the past to recover stolen monies and property.  Often the elderly are not even aware they are a victim, and often are unaware of their rights.  Sometimes the wrongdoing happens after the person has lost mental capacity; often the wrongdoing is through the abuse of a power-of-attorney or a last will and testament procured by undue influence.  Timing is very important in these cases, both to protect the right to sue and to best preserve the value of the stolen assets.  Thus, you can see our elder law practice encompasses both preventive measures and allows for help if the worst-case scenario happens.

Sometimes a guardianship can be helpful in protecting elders from elder exploitation. Guardianship is the legal process of appointing another person to manage the affairs, medical decisions, and property of a minor or an incapacitated adult. This process involves the filing of a court petition and requires court oversight, monitoring, and the appointment of either a knowledgeable person or a professional.

Attorney Christopher D. Smith is a Lakewood Ranch, Florida attorney with SmithLaw Attorneys. He concentrates in bankruptcy, civil litigation, probate, estate planning, and elder exploitation cases in the Sarasota and Bradenton area. Call 941-907-4774 to learn more and to ask about our free consultations.

Image: Some rights reserved by Ethan Prater

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