Answers To Your Estate Planning And Elder Law Questions

What does elder law encompass?

It simply means representing the needs of the elderly and making certain that there is protection of their legal rights. While there are a number of laws in place providing protection to elderly people, attorneys who practice in this area should proactively look after all of the needs of the elderly. This includes helping the elderly person create an estate plan that reflects his or her wishes, assisting in appointing a trustworthy guardian for the elderly person when the elderly person needs decision-making assistance, and taking steps to prevent victimization of the elderly person by others.

What is estate planning?

Estate planning involves planning for the distribution and management of a person's estate after he or she dies. This process involves legal documents and tools generally prepared by attorneys such as trusts, wills, powers of attorney, and advance directives.

There are a number of laws governing the use of these tools unique to every state. When preparing a will in Oklahoma, for example, our statutes have unique requirements regarding the form of the will, witnessing of the signing, and phrasing of the will language itself. Therefore, it's always a good idea for Oklahoma residents considering estate planning to first consult with a licensed Oklahoma lawyer, rather than trying to do it alone.

What estate planning documents should I have prepared?

Every individual's personal and financial circumstances are unique, so no two estate plans should be the same. However, in almost every circumstance, an adult should have a will prepared to specify the way you want your estate distributed. This is especially important if you have significant assets or young children dependent upon you.

Powers of attorney are also extremely important documents to have. Most of us do not want to think about that time when we are no longer able to take care of our own affairs. However, there is an even greater hardship if incapacity occurs without the proper legal instruments to guide your family in taking care of your affairs. At that point, there may be no easy way for the individuals you trust most to make financial or medical decisions on your behalf.

Wills and powers of attorney can be accompanied also by one or more trusts geared toward meeting your specific needs. These documents provide you a certain amount of control over use of these assets in the event you pass away or are incapacitated. Trusts help avoid costly public probate court proceedings, and can sometimes reduce taxes and expenses your estate may have to pay.

In any case, it's vital to understand what these documents can and cannot do for you. Please speak to an experienced estate planning lawyer to learn all of your options.

Under what circumstances should I set up a guardianship?

While courts generally appoint guardians when a loved one is no longer able to manage his or her own affairs, guardianships do not necessarily mean that individual gives up all decision-making authority. It's possible for a guardianship to limit a guardian's authority to certain financial, medical, or residential decisions in the event the ward is incapacitated or partially incapacitated.

Regardless of the kind of guardianship that is set up, it's important to remember that guardians face significant responsibility when making such decisions for another individual. It's important to understand the duties of a guardian before taking action. While law firms can assist guardians in fulfilling their duties, it's important that the guardian, the court, and in some cases, the ward, are all comfortable with the arrangement.

Contact An Oklahoma City Elder Law And Estate Planning Attorney

To speak to Jeffrey I. Crain regarding your estate planning or elder law matter, please contact Crain & Associates, PLLC, by calling 405-242-4107.