LEGAL RESOURCES FOR SENIORS
Whether you are in one of these more vulnerable populations, or you are a caretaker who is caring for a disabled or elderly loved one, it’s critical to understand these legal concerns and the laws put in place to protect you. This guide is designed to provide information about what legal concerns elderly and disabled individuals might face, and how to address them appropriately if these rights are violated.
Legal Considerations and Resources for Seniors
As we age, our attention turns to getting our legal affairs in order. It’s critical for seniors to have their end-of-life and estate planning documents in place, as well as those documents that can assist them with ensuring their desires for their senior years are protected. Here are some critical legal considerations that today’s seniors must make in order to protect their rights and desires.
First, seniors need to ensure their desires for health care and end-of-life concerns are met. Two of the most important documents to help in this regard are:
- Advance Medical Directive – An advance medical directive, which may be called medical powers of attorney or a living will, dictates the individual who will make medical decisions on behalf of the senior when the senior is unable to do so.
- Do Not Resuscitate Orders – These orders will indicate the individual’s desire for resuscitation, and on what terms the medical team should resuscitate, in the event of a serious medical event.
Next, seniors should take into consideration the need for estate planning. Some helpful documents include:
- A Will – A will is the bare minimum you need to ensure you restate is divided according to your desires.
- A Trust – The right type of trust can help keep your will out of the probate courts, which would leave beneficiaries scrambling.
- Durable Powers of Attorney – Powers of attorney documents allow a senior to designate a person to make legal and financial decisions on their behalf. This is different than a medical power of attorney. While the individual may be the same, you need both documents.
- Real Estate Titling – If a senior plans to gift real estate to a beneficiary, it may be beneficial to change the title or make the sale before the end of life to avoid problems with probate court. This is sometimes needed in order to qualify for Medicaid benefits in the future.
Sometimes seniors need someone to take over for their affairs because they have become incapacitated. A durable power of attorney can do this, but in the event that the senior is not willing or able to sign a power of attorney document, but is clearly unable to think clearly or care for daily life tasks, the loved ones of that senior may have to take action. Here’s what can help.
- Guardianship – Guardianship, or conservatorship, is a legal designation that gives someone the ability to make decisions on behalf of the person who is incapacitated in some way, but who is not able or willing to sign a power of attorney document. To get guardianship, you must be able to prove to the courts that the person is incompetent, at which time the courts will give you the right of guardianship. Typically your loved one’s doctor can help with this process, and an attorney can also assist.
- Court-Appointed Guardian – In rare instances the courts will appoint a guardian for a senior, rather than having someone come to the courts to petition for guardianship. The role is still the same.
Seniors may also need legal help with public benefits, which may include access to:
- Supplemental Security Income
- Veteran’s benefits
- Social Security
- Food stamps
Finally, seniors and their caretakers must be vigilant to watch for signs of abuse and get legal help if abuse is occurring. Here are some signs that may indicate your elderly loved one is the victim of abuse:
- Unexplained or too-frequent bruises, broken bones, burns, abrasions or pressure sores. Also, injuries that have strange explanations.
- Signs of neglect, such as unusual weight loss, a messy home, lack of medication or medical aids, bedsores, or soiled clothing.
- Withdrawal, apathy, unusual behavior, strained relationship with caregiver, forced isolation, or other signs of emotional or verbal abuse.
- Signs of sexual abuse such as bleeding from the genitalia, bruising, bruising around the breasts, or venereal disease.
- Bills not getting paid, money that’s not accounted for, or increased credit card use, which are signs of financial exploitation.
If you’re noticing these signs and symptoms of abuse or exploitation, talk to a lawyer right away to ensure your loved one is getting proper legal guidance.
For additional help, visit:
- Comfort Keepers: Legal Considerations for Seniors
- National Association of Realtors: Legal Considerations with Senior Homes
- Retire At Home: Legal Considerations for Seniors
- PBS.org: Caring For Your Parents – Finding Legal Resources
- Pennsylvania BAR Association: A Guide to Legal Issues for Pennsylvania Senior Citizens
- American Society on Aging: Recognizing the Behavioral Signs of Elder Abuse
This Post was submitted by Cyrus Dylan – For More Info on Legal Resources Visit: Legal Resources
Staying active provides untold benefits to the mind and body. We welcome all seniors to participate in any of our free social and learning activities at Senior Medical Associates. Events take place often at our 10 medical centers in Broward county. Call (954) 659-9690 for event information.