August 2010 "Elder Law: What Is It?"
PLANNING FOR WEALTH & SECURITY
By attorneys Jennifer and Jeff Hawkins
ELDER LAW: WHAT IS IT?
The term “elder law” appears in many publications and advertisements targeted at retirees. A similar term, “elder care,” also appears in many venues. The logical question that many may ask is “what is elder law?”
The term “elder law” originated from a series of meetings in the late 1980s among the founders of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). Those attorneys found themselves wrestling with the laws that affect older Americans in such varied subjects as guardianship, elder abuse and neglect, long-term care finance, and end-of-life choices. They realized that an entire practice could be established that concerns itself with those subjects and that the practice would not necessarily fit into any existing practice profile (such as probate, personal injury, or public benefits). One of the NAELA founders, Indianapolis attorney Scott Severns, says that the group eventually settled on the elder law label as the group continued to refine its perspective of elder law practice and its various parts.
Elder law subjects evolve so rapidly that it is almost impossible to maintain the necessary level of knowledge about the subject without associating actively with other elder law attorneys and monitoring the law on a daily basis. We Indiana elder law attorneys have organized an Indiana NAELA Chapter and have committed to keep one another informed of the latest elder law developments through e-mail and periodic meetings. Some of us take this affiliation a step further by gathering periodically to plan meetings with legislators and state agency officials to negotiate changes in laws that ease the legal and financial burdens that seniors must bear as they age.
The authors of this article work hard to not only understand elder law, but to help define Indiana elder law practice. For example, Jennifer Hawkins taught a course in Indianapolis, Indiana, about issues that attorneys must consider when they write wills and trusts for the Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum (ICLEF) entitled “Fundamentals of Trust Drafting and Practice” on April 30, 2010. ICLEF engaged Jeff Hawkins to lead a discussion on the use of limited liability companies and other emerging estate planning systems during the Advanced Elder Law portion of the ICLEF’s Annual Masters Series Conference in French Lick, Indiana, on July 16 through 18, 2010. ICLEF will also engage Jeff to make a similar presentation at the annual Elder Law Institute in late fall of 2010. Jeff has also written several legislative proposals that the Indiana State Bar Association’s Probate, Trust & Real Property Section will present to the Indiana General Assembly for the 2011 legislative session, including a bill to help families pay funeral expenses for deceased family members who spent time in nursing homes before their deaths.
The enormous baby boom generation is growing the number of retired Americans dramatically. This growth will force the United States to restructure how that generation receives goods and services so that our nation can afford to care for its aged citizens. Elder law attorneys are gearing up to serve this generation’s needs in this rapidly evolving social and economic world. For more information about elder law and a wide variety of estate planning subjects, explore the author’s website at www.hawkinslaw.com.
© 2010 by HAWKINS LAW PC, Estate, Trust & Business Attorneys. All rights reserved. Published with permission.