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Is Elder Law the same as Estate Planning?

It’s a common question we get – is elder law the same thing as estate planning?  The simple answer is no.  Elder law tends to deal more with the specific end of life issues faced by the elderly, while estate planning is a bit more holistic in scope.  However, some of the issues addressed in elder law are often addressed with good estate planning so the two may sometimes overlap.

Given these differences, should you hire an elder law attorney or should you hire one that focuses on estate planning? It depends on your circumstances.  Both are good options to consider and are far better choices than choosing to do it on your own. Understanding the differences can help, but one thing to keep in mind is that most of these professionals can help you to construct the type of document you need to accomplish your goals.

A closer look at elder law

Perhaps the most important thing to know is that in elder law planning, the goal is to plan for your life’s needs prior to death. This means providing for your medical needs, your living expenses and even long-term health care. While estate planning does this as well, it also focuses on your estate after your death, giving you more opportunities to achieve what you hope to before and after your death.

Often, elder law focuses primarily on the prior to death laws. This may include providing you with help and guidance for things like:

  • Nursing facility care
  • Care if you become disabled or incapacitated
  • Care including conservatorships and guardianships
  • Disability planning resources

In short, with elder law you are planning for those years prior to your death, in case something happens that leaves you unable to make decisions yourself or when you need help to ensure your wishes are carried out when you cannot state what those wishes are.

Differences with estate planning

Estate planning attorneys can help with the creation of plans prior to death as well, especially in terms of planning for the monetary aspects of these needs. When you are working with an estate planning attorney, though, you are often going to focus specifically on your goals for long-term estate planning. Not only will this plan help to provide for your needs up until your death, but also after your death as well. It is often more of a comprehensive plan for all of your needs.   Estate planning may also include things like trusts and guardianships as well as advanced medical directives which help address these other important issues.

Elder law or estate planning, the decision is up to you based on what your goals are. However, most parties can meet all of your goals overall, not just one or the other. Take the time to consider what you need and want from your estate plan. Contact a professional to help you to make it happen and get it in place. It is never too late to make key decisions that will affect your life and your heirs.