The term “elder law” has become more and more common among legal professionals in recent years. The aging of the baby boomer population has made it more important to understand the unique legal issues facing older clients. Yet, the term itself can be somewhat confusing. Elder law is not like employment law or contract law. Those areas are specific bodies of law with their own doctrines and statutes. Elder law is a grouping of many different types of laws that touch the lives of older clients.
The Different Facets of Elder Law
In general, elder law is a term for the group of different legal areas that impact a person's life as they age. However, there is no hard and fast rule for the set of law that people talk about when they discuss elder law. Some of the most common areas of law that fall into elder law are estate planning, government benefits, and domestic violence.
The central area that people think of when they focus on elder law is the area of estate planning. Although people of all ages can benefit from estate planning services, older clients have a clearer picture of their estates, so they can develop a fuller estate plan. Additionally, older clients may have health issues that necessitate other types of estate planning, such as living wills or healthcare powers of attorney.
Another area of law that has a particular importance for seniors centers on government benefits. Older clients begin to qualify for Medicare and Social Security, which may lead to disputes with government agencies. They may also be receiving veterans’ benefits or other pensions that have special legal rules.
Finally, there are unique concerns related to domestic abuse with senior clients. Seniors are often victims of neglect, and those situations can be more difficult to detect or litigate. One common version of this problem occurs in nursing homes, where residents may be getting substandard treatment to the point where they may have a legal claim against the nursing home.
The Cook County Elder Law Division
The government is also recognizing the unique way in which many different areas of law can interact with older citizens. In order to deal with this, Cook County recently created the Elder Law and Miscellaneous Remedies Division. This is a new division of the court system designed specifically for people over the age of 60. The division deals with cases related to elder abuse, powers of attorney, and criminal matters in which the victim was over 60 years old.
As people age, they face new, unique legal issues. If you think that you have legal concerns that would be best handled by an elder law practitioner, contact an Illinois elder law attorney today. We work with clients in many northwest suburban towns, like Inverness, Palatine, Schaumburg, and Mount Prospect.
About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.