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Understanding Elder Law and an Elder Law Attorney’s Role in West Palm Beach, Florida

What is Elder Law?

Elder law encompasses a wide range of legal matters affecting an older or disabled person. An Elder Law attorney specializes as a legal advocate for aging adults and their loved ones.

The heart of elder law is serving senior citizens with essential legal matters. Health care costs are rising at a rate faster than most people’s finances can afford. People are living longer because of advances in medicine and healthcare. Many don’t realize that the fastest-growing segment of the American population includes people age 80 and over. Elder law attorneys help plan to protect their nest egg for when, not if, a long-term care event strikes to leave a legacy.

Elder law issues an Elder Law attorney can assist with including:

  • Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Disability claims and appeals
  • Disability planning, durable power of attorney, living wills, and living trusts for elderly parents
  • Preservation and transfer of assets to avoid spousal impoverishment
  • Long-term care and supplemental health insurance considerations
  • Access to health care in varied managed care settings
  • Tax planning
  • Guardianships and conservatorships
  • Estate planning management during life and disposition using trusts, wills, and more after death
  • Administration of probate and estate
  • Lifecare in long-term care community placement or nursing homes
  • Housing issues such as home equity conversions or discrimination
  • Age discrimination regarding employment
  • Elder abuse and fraud recovery
  • Health and mental health law
  • Retirement planning including public and private retirement benefits, pension benefits, and survivor benefits
  • Dementia life strategies
  • Veterans Planning

Because elder law is so diverse, it is most beneficial to have a clear idea of your issue and the legal need that warrants hiring a Florida attorney. Before seeking out an elder law attorney, discuss your matter with your family, clergy, or a trusted friend to identify a legal issue rather than a social service or medical one. Often the lines between problems can blur, but you should be clear about the specific type of help you need.

Why Have an Elder Law Attorney in Your Corner?

At The Law Office of Juan Pyfrom, our Elder Law practice area may handle a range of elder law issues that focus on planning for elder care for our senior citizens in Palm Beach County are surrounding areas of Florida.

As you age, you look for doctors that specialize in the health concerns of older people. Your attorney should be no different. Pyfrom Law’s unique position is to enhance the foundational planning you have already done while preparing you, your spouse, and your family for the challenges aging Americans face.

As elder law attorneys, we help you plan for various issues, including necessary estate planning, both for your spouse and generationally, long-term care planning, long-term care options, asset protection, and placement, and so much more. Pyfrom Law elder care planning addresses legal, financial, medical, and social issues more and more people face every day.

Elder Law Issue: Adult Conservatorship and Guardianship in Florida

Whether through illness, injury, or mental decline, anyone can require a guardian or conservator to care for them if they become mentally or physically incapacitated. Children automatically qualify as not having the “capacity” to be in charge of their financial affairs and decisions about their well-being. And an adult may qualify as not having “capacity” if he or she becomes seriously ill or injured.

Unless you have the proper Florida estate planning in place that names the individual who will be your guardian or conservator in case of illness or injury, a probate judge will be deciding who is your guardian or conservator.

At the Law Office of Juan A. Pyfrom, we can guide you through the often complex and emotional process of the probate court appointing a conservator or guardian for you or your loved ones in West Palm Beach and surrounding Florida areas.

Elder Planning Process for Guardianship or Conservator in Florida

Appointing a guardian or conservator for an adult is a serious undertaking. The law presumes that a person over age 18 can act for themselves unless shown otherwise in Florida. As a result, the probate court typically requires extensive proof that a guardian or conservator of an adult is warranted.

The guardianship process begins with the interested party filing a petition in court that requests the court to declare the adult essentially “incapacitated,” at least from the legal perspective. Sometimes, these proceedings are initially “ex parte” (in secret) so that a guardian, or conservator, may be appointed before other interested parties are aware if there is a concern about other interested parties’ intentions or even the anticipated behavior of the adult at issue.

Many times, guardianship and conservatorship filings in Florida can lead to heated disputes between family members or close family friends who may claim they are better suited for the role. Regardless of who files the petition, guardianship and conservatorship will only be granted if the Florida court determines there is enough evidence to show the person is legally “incapacitated” to the point where they can no longer make legal, financial, or healthcare decisions for themselves.

​Elder Law Answers: Who Is Eligible to be an Adult Guardian or Conservator in Florida?

Although courts typically give preference to a spouse or another close family member, a guardian or conservator does not have to be a relative. Provided the person seeking an appointment is a competent adult, close friend, or any other interested party, they are eligible to serve as long as the judge determines they are best suited for the role.

If a relative or friend is not willing or capable of serving, the court will appoint a third party to serve as a guardian or conservator. Sadly, this can lead to horrible financial and/or physical abuse of the individual, so it is best to plan and name a guardian and conservator in your estate planning documents to keep the courts out of the picture entirely.

​Florida Guardian And Conservator Responsibilities

Depending on the extent of the person’s incapacity, a court-appointed guardian or conservator can be given near-complete control over your life.

There are two decision-making areas where a guardian or conservator has authority: decisions about your well-being and decisions about your finances.

  • Decisions about well-being include determining your place of residence, your attending physicians, and your medical treatment.
  • Decisions about your finances include how your home is paid for, your income usage, whether to pursue legal actions on your behalf, how to manage your assets, filing your insurance claims and many other matters.

Usually, one person is appointed for both roles, but the court can also split the responsibilities among multiple parties. For example, one person may oversee the financial decisions, while another person handles the living arrangements and healthcare.

The Florida court often requires the guardian and conservator to file detailed status reports such as financial accountings at regular intervals or whenever important decisions are made, such as when an asset is sold or when you require a substantial expense for your care.

Some of the most common duties of adult guardians and conservators include:

  • Paying ​your bills
  • Determining where ​you live
  • Monitoring ​your residence and living conditions
  • Providing consent for your medical treatments
  • Deciding how ​your finances are handled, including how ​your assets are invested and if any assets should be liquidated
  • Managing your real estate and other ​property
  • Keeping detailed records of all ​expenditures and other financial transactions
  • Making your end-of-life and other palliative-care decisions

The best course of action for a Florida family is to do your estate planning ahead of time to name exactly who is your preferred guardian and conservator so that your family will not have to deal with a courtroom or lawyers.

Unfortunately, some of our clients did not do estate planning soon enough, and we were called upon to help their family members with establishing guardianship or conservatorship. If you did not establish an estate plan soon enough, our experienced elder law attorneys can offer legal advice for Palm Beach County families.

Veterans Benefits and Veterans Law

After serving nine years on active duty in the United States Army Juan A. Pyfrom is passionate about working with Florida Veterans and their families to maximize Veteran benefits available to improve their lives. Veterans benefits and laws can be difficult to navigate our West Palm Beach law firm understands Veteran laws and the importance of incorporating VA planning into an estate and long-term planning in Florida.

Elder Law Answers: How Can I Qualify for Veteran Benefits in Florida?

Our West Palm Beach office can assist with the Veteran’s benefit application process. Meeting the service requirements and medical eligibility may not be enough to qualify for benefits if you own too many assets. Working with an experienced Veteran law attorney can navigate your application and qualifications by moving your assets into a trust. Be cautious of some of the actions taken to qualify for VA benefits as it may create a penalty period or disqualify you from other benefits like Medicaid. Our Florida attorneys can help you coordinate your VA benefits and understand how the Veteran Laws can affect you.

*Accredited by VA and can help them process their VA claims

Long-Term Care Planning and Florida Medicaid

Medicaid planning can be very complex, but with an experienced Florida Elder Law attorney on your side, you can prepare for the possibility of long-term care. Investing in Medicaid can be a massive benefit towards protecting your assets, especially if you require nursing home care or in-home care, as these health care services can be expensive. Without Medicaid or long-term care planning in Florida, you or your loved ones will be responsible for the out-of-pocket cost of monthly elder care.

FLORIDA ANNUAL MEDIAN COST OF CARE (2019)

IN-HOME CARE COMMUNITY/ASSISTED LIVING NURSING HOME FACILITY
Homemaker Services $48,048 Adult Day Health Care $17,680 Semi-Private Room $102,565
Home Health Aide $50,336 Assisted Living Facility $42,000 Private Room $112,639

Resource: https://www.genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html

Medicaid is a Federal and State program, with varying rules from state to state. If you live in Florida and need Medicaid, then Florida’s Medicaid state rules apply to you or your loved one. Seeking the guidance of an expert in Medicaid spendown planning who understands Florida’s specific Medicaid qualifications and application process for approval can be a huge benefit for your future health care or nursing home needs.

Medicaid Penalty Planning in West Palm Beach, FL

It is important to understand Medicaid qualifications with the guidance of an experienced Florida Medicaid penalty planning attorney to avoid some of the Medicaid penalties.  Without the aid of Medicaid, the cost of a nursing home can wipe out your hard-earned assets and plans to leave an inheritance for your children or grandchildren. Our West Palm Beach law firm can help you protect your life’s savings from being spent down in order to pay for long-term care.

 

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