An Overview of Elder Law in Orange County by Attorney Bettina Yanez
An Overview of Elder Law in Orange County: Elder law is an area of law that includes several legal issues relating to the aging population. Every person is unique, and every person has unique needs, but it is important to both plan ahead for yourself, and to understand how to care for an aging parent or other family member.
Estate planning, one of the areas of elder law, includes planning for a person’s assets and debts after death. Successful estate planning should eliminate uncertainties surrounding a person’s estate through using wills, and trusts so that there are few questions about how to handle a person’s estate.
In addition to estate planning, elder law covers things like disability, Medicaid, and guardianship of the person as he or she ages. Quality healthcare, financial planning, guardianship of a disabled adult, and ensuring that a person’s estate plan is in order are all parts of elder law.
The Basics of California Estate Planning
This is usually the first part of elder law that a person needs to handle. Estate planning should begin early in life, and it needs to be updated with any major life change.
In California, the idea behind estate planning is to avoid probate, as much as possible, for any estate. This is accomplished through thorough estate planning, which is best approached with the help of an estate-planning attorney.
Estate plans cover topics like wills, trusts, living trusts, living wills, and various types of powers of attorney.
Wills & Trusts
A last will and testament, or simply a will, does the following:
• Lists who has a legal right to your property following your death,
• Lists a person who can manage any property you left to a minor child,
• Lists a guardian for your minor children,
• Lists an executor, who will be responsible for carrying out the terms of your will.
Without a will, the state of California takes control of your property and determines what will happen to it based on state intestacy laws. Generally, under intestacy laws, your property will be inherited by family members.
In order for a will to be legal and valid, it must be signed by two witnesses. It does not need to be made with the help of an attorney, however, hiring an attorney for assistance can minimize the number of potential conflicts that could arise during the execution of your will.
A trust is another way to pass your property on to another person. One can be created while you are alive (a living trust) or at the time of your death, if it is included in your will. When you create a trust, the property in the trust belongs to the beneficiary, or the person who you want to inherit your property. You, as the creator of the trust, are the trustee.
A living trust, made while a person is alive, can be simpler because it completely avoids the probate process.
Powers of Attorney & Living Wills in the OC
There are several types of powers of attorney that exist under California law. A power of attorney is put in charge of some aspect of your life so that if, at any time, you become incapacitated and are unable to make decisions for, or care for yourself.
Financial Power of Attorney - A financial power of attorney takes over your finances if something happens to you. This means they are responsible for paying your bills, managing your investments, collecting any benefits for which you are eligible, and managing your bank accounts. Make sure to choose someone you can trust as your financial power of attorney.
A durable power of attorney goes into effect immediately, and ends automatically if you become incapacitated. A strong power of attorney goes into effect when a medical doctor has certified the fact that you are incapacitated. A durable power of attorney ends if you die, if you revoke it, if you divorce, if the power of attorney document is invalidated, or if your agent is unavailable.
Health Care Directive - A healthcare power of attorney, or an advance health care directive, is responsible for making healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. Before signing a health care directive, discuss what you would want for yourself with the person you choose.
Disability, Medicaid & Guardianship of an Elder Person in the OC
As we age, many of us will require consistent, long-term care. Whether you are responsible for the care of an aging parent, other family member, or friend, it is important to get started early, and to discuss the wants and needs of the elder person prior to making any decisions.
Don’t only think about what the elder person needs right now, but about what he or she will need in the future. Where should this person live? Some people are able to live at home and care for themselves, or they have spouses who can help. Some people need regular visits to doctors, or in home care from a professional. Others require the services of a nursing facility.
Depending on these needs, how is this person financially supported? Some have health insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare, while others have savings, retirement or pension plans, or the financial support of family.
As your loved one ages, try to make sure that he or she has all of the necessary documents in order. If it comes down to it, is it better to have the state choose a health care directive and make health related decisions, or is it better to have a family member in charge? If there is no financial power of attorney, the family could face financial difficulties following probate.
Every person is unique, and every situation is different. However, in order to ensure that every person has power of his or her own life decisions, it is important to plan ahead.
Depending on your age, your needs, and the needs of your loved ones, you may be dealing with your own elder law plans and helping a loved one through another stage of his or her life at the same time. Elder law can be confusing, and it requires the assistance of family, friends, and a skilled elder law attorney. Contact the attorneys at Yanez & Associates today for your free initial consultation, to ensure that your family will be well cared for.