As Duane Horton contemplated his death, he decided to use on app on his smartphone to write a message that explained how he wanted his estate distributed when he was gone. Under Michigan law, that “document” was his will. So says the Michigan Court of Appeals in the recent case of In Re Estate of Duane Francis Horton, II.
Recently, a colleague told me about an experience she had with her father and father-in-law. Both were widowed. Both were of an advanced age. Both were beginning to experience trouble getting around. When presented with the proposition that they could benefit from using a wheelchair at times, one was all for it, the other was completely opposed. This story illustrates an important aspect of the aging process that doesn’t always get a lot of attention, but which can be the most important variable in anticipating how challenging the aging process will be.
Fixed incomes and fixed assets make older adults particularly vulnerable to financial fluctuations. A bad investment, an unexpected medical crisis, a financial predator or an unwise financial decision resulting from cognitive decline can quickly turn an older adult’s financial world upside down.
For obvious reasons, I interact with a lot of people who are looking for an “elder law” attorney. The label seems to have caught on. So I will take this opportunity to explain what I understand “elder law” to be, look back at where it came from, and look ahead to where it may be going.
A young but growing specialty
Elder law is a specialized area of legal work that involves traditional estate planning, but focuses more particularly on issues that clients face as they age, and especially legal issues associated with the late stages of life, such as long-term care planning, surrogate decision-making and end-of-life care.
This is a young practice area, probably no more than 30 years old. The founding of the National Academy ofAttorneys in 1987 probably provides the best marker for its start.
The way I see it, people often struggle to find the right lawyer for their cases. Over the years, I have been involved in many cases in which more than one party is represented by an attorney. Not infrequently, I look across the table and wonder how this person ended up with that lawyer. Often what I learn is that…
It sounds like a simple proposition: hiring caregivers to help an impaired older adult remain in their home. But, as with many of the issues that arise in the context of aging, nothing is quite as simple as it first appears…