All seniors have legal issues that should be important to them. First of all, like others in our community, seniors should have a sound estate plan. At a minimum, this should include a valid will and the new Utah Advanced Health Care Directive (effective January 2008). This new directive enables seniors to appoint an agent to assist them with health care decisions, and make advance decisions regarding health care matters, including end-of-life issues.
Many seniors can also benefit from a revocable or “living trust” agreement. A trust is a contract whereby a senior, or perhaps a senior and a spouse (known as the trustors or grantors), appoint a trustee (perhaps themselves during their lifetimes, or other close family members) to carry out the terms of the agreement for the beneficiaries – usually the seniors during their lives, with a distribution to their loved ones when both spouses have passed away. A revocable trust can effectively manage assets during life, including any period of incapacity, and convey assets at death with minimal or no probate. For wealthy individuals, such a trust can also help minimize or avoid imposition of estate tax.
A financial power of attorney also merits consideration. This document enables a senior to appoint one or more individuals to assist them with financial matters, including receiving money, paying bills, handling tax matters, and similar issues. In the event of incapacity, a financial power of attorney can be particularly important.
In certain situations, a guardianship and/or conservatorship may be needed or helpful. A guardian generally determines where a person resides, and can make health care decisions if the senior’s wishes are not otherwise known. A conservator is generally responsible for a person’s financial affairs.
In addition to estate planning, seniors may also need assistant in planning for the expense of nursing home care, both for the spouse needing such care, and for the spouse remaining at home. Attorneys who assist with this work, known as “elder law” attorneys, help their clients pay for nursing home expenses by qualifying for public benefits, help seniors sort through long term care policies and annuity options, and make sure seniors’ rights and care are properly respected by care center staff. Elder law attorneys can also help seniors understand the estate recovery rights of the State should the State assert a claim after a senior’s death.
How do you select a good elder law attorney? Calvin Curtis, Attorney at Law PLLC, offers unmatched credentials. Cal is a longstanding member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), and is one of the few attorneys in Utah designated as a “Certified Elder Law Attorney” by the National Elder Law Foundation. In 2009 and 2010, Cal was selected for inclusions in “The Best Lawyers in America.” In 2008, he was selected as a Mountain States “Super Lawyer.” Cal is also included in the Martindale-Hubbell Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, and has consistently been selected by his peers as one of Utah’s “Legal Elite” in Utah Business magazine.