While legal problems facing the elderly range across the full spectrum of the legal system, a handful of issues regularly recur. We have attempted to provide a narrative explanation in plain English for the most common legal concerns affecting seniors. Note that this information is very Arizona-specific; the answer may be different (sometimes radically different) in other states or jurisdictions.
Most individuals have strong feelings about whether there are any circumstances in which medical care should be withheld. While people differ considerably in the specifics, most should execute both a “living will” and a durable power of attorney for health care. Learn more about the concepts behind advance directives, and what you can do to make it more likely that your wishes will be carried out after your incapacity.
Trusts, Wills, and Estate Planning
Avoiding probate, reducing estate taxes and providing for distribution of your estate are some of the most common reasons for engaging in estate planning. Is a revocable living trust the best way to accomplish these goals? It is for some; for others it can simply be more estate plan than they need. This explanation of the terms and issues involved in estate planning should help you determine whether your estate plan needs review or revision.
Durable Powers of Attorney
It may be the most important document you will ever sign — and it is almost certainly the most dangerous. A durable power of attorney survives even if you become incapacitated (in fact, you can sign a durable power that only comes into existence only if you become incapacitated). Why is it important? Because your family does not have any inherent authority to take care of your finances after your incapacity. Why is it dangerous? It can literally be a license to steal.
Guardianship and Conservatorship
When an individual is unable to handle his or her finances or personal decisions (including health care and placement), a guardian and/or conservator may be appointed. In Arizona, a guardian has control over the person (including health care decisions) and a conservator controls finances. Those terms are not the same in all other jurisdictions. Learn about the Arizona approach to guardianship and conservatorship, including an estimate of the costs of court proceedings.
Long-Term Care Costs and Insurance
The cost of long-term nursing home care in Arizona can easily reach $45,000 per year. Long Term Care Insurance may be available to help with those costs–assuming that you can qualify for and afford the coverage. For the poor, the federal-state Medicaid program (AHCCCS and ALTCS in Arizona) helps, but the rules can be complicated. This explanation attempts to simplify at least some of the eligibility rules, as well as insurance alternative and some of the costs associated with long-term care.
Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation
Seniors and the disabled are especially vulnerable to physical abuse, neglect by caregiver and family members, and financial exploitation. Arizona law (like the law of many other states) requires that certain individuals report instances of abuse, neglect or exploitation; failure to do so can be a crime. Meanwhile, recovering damages from exploiters and abusers can be difficult but rewarding.