Elder law and estate planning serve two different — but equally vital — functions. The main difference is that elder law is focused on preserving your assets during your lifetime, while estate planning concentrates on what happens to your assets after you die.
Elder law planning is concerned with ensuring that seniors live long, healthy, and financially secure lives. It usually involves anticipating future medical needs, including long-term care. Elder law attorneys can help you develop a plan to pay for future care while preserving some of your assets. They can also assist you with qualifying for Medicaid or other benefits to pay for long-term care. In addition, elder law planning can ensure that you are protected from elder abuse or exploitation when you get older or become incapacitated. Finally, elder law covers assistance with guardianship and conservatorship, if needed.
While elder law is focused on older adults, estate planning is for everyone of all ages. Estate planning attorneys help you determine what will happen to your assets after you die. Estate planners use wills and trusts to make sure your wishes are carried out after you are gone. Your estate plan can also include naming a guardian for your young children or provisions for pets. In addition, estate planners can help you avoid probate and save on estate taxes.
Estate plans can change as your circumstances change, so it is important to keep revisiting your estate plan over the years. For example, marriages, divorces, births, and deaths, as well as changes in finances, can all call for updates to your estate plan.