It began in 1963, when President John F. Kennedy met with the National Council of Senior Citizens and designated May as “Senior Citizens Month” to honor Americans age 65 and older with a Presidential Proclamation. Since then, May has also been designated Elder Law Month by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of legal services for older Americans and individuals with special needs.
In most years, Elder Law Month is recognized by Elder Lawyers who offer educational programs and work with local community groups to support the legal needs of seniors. The goal is to help seniors and their families better understand their legal options regarding Medicaid eligibility, long term and health care planning, special needs planning, elder abuse, and other issues germane to senior Americans.
Two historical events have merged in the last year and a half to make this a timely and important issue. The COVID-19 pandemic caused many Americans to confront their mortality. Millions of families across the country learned first-hand how not having a plan for serious illness and death created more problems, complications, and costs for the survivors.
At the same time, the aging of the Baby Boomer generation and the transfer of boomer wealth has been underway for the past few years. As of this writing, Boomers are 56 to 74, and they are aging. Over the next two or three decades, Boomers will need to plan for increased medical and long-term health care services.
To clarify – Elder Law and Special Needs Law are different from Trusts and Estate law. Elder Law and Special Needs attorneys are more focused on representing seniors and disabled individuals and their families with legal issues while they are living.
Trusts and Estates law is more focused on post-mortem planning, including creating wills, succession planning and tax planning.
Elder law attorneys help clients with estate planning also, but their practices are skilled with issues like:
- Long Term Care Needs and Medicaid
- Eligibility for Medicare and Social Security
- Guardianship and Incapacity
- Elder abuse recognition and prevention
- Assisting with placing individuals in long term care facilities and advocating for patients living in these facilities.
New challenges to seniors and their families continue to emerge, as we recover from the worst of the pandemic and prepare for the coming years. An experienced, well-credentialed Elder Lawyer is an invaluable resource for individuals and families in preparing for the future. We celebrate Elder Law month in May, we practice Elder Law every day all year round as we work with clients to protect them and their families.