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Elder Law

Elder Law is a growing area of law focusing on senior clients, and not necessarily focusing on a specific type of legal services provided to the client. There are a few common needs of senior clients, but the variety of services continues to expand as the needs of this generation grow. At The Bell Law Firm we focus on providing compassionate and experienced counsel in areas including:
  • Long-term care planning, which can include proactive asset protection consulting for future Medicaid qualification or VA benefits qualification
  • Planning for mental incapacity, or managing existing incapacity, through powers of attorney, guardianships and conservatorships
  • Managing the quality of a client’s long-term care along with advocating for quality care of these elder clients
  • Providing clients guidance with end-of-life wishes, and ensuring these items are properly included with their estate planning or future trust and estate administration
  • Assisting clients to understand their available veterans benefits, and when appropriate, advocating for the client with the VA
  • Identifying abusive situations for a senior client, and providing alternatives to eliminate the abuse and better protect the client
  • Preserving client legacies, life stories, their lessons learned, and through our partners, help these clients and their families to pass this non-financial wealth to the next generation
Many of these areas overlap for senior clients, and they need a comprehensive approach with the client’s planning. At The Bell Law Firm we also include these areas with estate planning or trust administration and probate. Our goal is to provide caring counsel to the senior client, and to provide their families support and peace of mind during their time of need.

Long-Term Care Planning

The Bell Law Firm will help protect your assets from the cost of nursing home, and other long-term care expenses, and provide peace of mind and security to your spouse and your family. Long-term care costs are continuing to climb with common costs of $5,000 per month or higher. Clients will normally pay for their long-term care either through private pay for the services, through a long-term care insurance policy, through Medicare for a short period of time, perhaps through applicable VA benefits, through Medicaid when they can qualify for this government benefit or through a combination of the above. The costs of long-term care can quickly erode your assets and the assets of your family. So it is critically important for the senior client to proactively plan, or at least consult, on available options to minimize these costs. 
We will consult with you to fully understand your situation and your projected care requirements. We can then outline available options to help pay for your long-term care, create a customized plan to assist you in protecting your assets and work with your additional advisors to minimize the risks associated with your long-term care. Many times there is client confusion on how Medicare and Medicaid will interact to support their long-term care needs. Additionally, it is very important for you to fully understand how to protect your assets when qualifying for Medicaid, how gifting of assets can impact Medicaid qualification and how the Medicaid system is designed to recover these costs upon your death. All of these items are patiently reviewed with you as we consult on your long-term care planning. Many families are simply overwhelmed as long-term care planning reaches a crisis level, so we provide ongoing counsel to our clients so they can proactively plan for their long-term care needs. We have provided many of the common questions on long-term care planning within our frequently-asked questions (FAQ) section, so please review these for additional information.

Managing Mental Incapacity

Mental capacity continues to be a growing challenge for senior clients and their families. It is difficult to recognize, to measure and for the family to manage. Many times mental capacity begins with a slight fade of memory, and this can be hidden or denied for a period of time. Nevertheless, with time this fading capacity can lead to complete mental incapacity. An incapacitated person is an adult who has lost mental capacity due to dementia, strokes, severe mental illness and other diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The incapacitated person often needs help with management of their finances, their medical treatment and the common tasks of daily living. 
You can take proactive measures to protect against your mental incapacity. The durable power of attorney and the health care power of attorney appoint a representative to make decisions for you when you cannot make them for yourself. At The Bell Law Firm we include these documents with our estate planning process, and we will customize these to the specific needs of the client.
When a person has become incapacitated, or lost their mental capacity, then the court can establish a protective arrangement for the incapacitated person. This protective arrangement is called a guardianship or conservatorship. Both of these are considered a remedy of last resort by the court. If the court can take less drastic measures to meet the client’s needs, then they will take these less restrictive steps. As a result, families need to be sure they have considered all other alternatives, and they need to be prepared to prove the individual is actually incapacitated. We will work with families and the court to establish a guardianship or conservatorship when it is the recommended next step. 
A guardian is a person appointed by the court, and the guardian is responsible for the personal affairs of the incapacitated person including making decisions for the person’s support, care, health, safety, treatment, education and their home. On the other hand a conservator is appointed by the court, and they are responsible for managing the estate and financial affairs of the incapacitated person. The guardian or the conservator must report their actions to the court in serving in this capacity for the incapacitated person.
There are many complex items associated with mental incapacity. The Bell Law Firm first focuses on helping you develop a proactive plan for this threat through careful planning with documents such as the durable power of attorney and the health care power of attorney. We cannot predict when you may face mental incapacity in your lives, so being prepared is the best approach. Additionally, we will work with families through a compassionate process to implement alternatives, such as a guardianship, for individuals who did not proactively plan.

Managing a Client’s Qualify of Care and Supporting End-of-Life Wishes

When a loved one is placed in a nursing home it is a difficult decision for most families. Unfortunately, this is an increasing requirement for many seniors. We will work with families to provide advice and counsel as they work through this process. These services can range from a review of initial admission agreements with the nursing home, to advocating for a patient’s rights and helping to maintain a continuum of quality care for the client. Our goal is to provide professional advice and maintain the dignity of the senior client and their family during this time.
The Bell Law Firm will work with your team of advisors to help manage your quality of care. If you need an additional care manager for your support, then we will work with recommended care managers to be sure you are receiving the proper care from the facility. The personal care plans are customized to the individual needs of the client.    
Additionally, as clients approach their passing it is important to ensure their end-of-life wishes are documented for their care. As part of our planning processes we include a Living Will to document the common requests from our clients. We will also work with clients and families to further document additional end-of-life wishes, so family harmony will be protected during this time. Our goal at The Bell Law Firm is to provide informative advice and caring support during all stages of our life-long clients’ lives.

Assisting Clients with Veterans Benefits

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides a wide range of benefits in areas such as compensation, pension, health care and burial. The eligibility requirements may vary, and veterans can qualify for certain benefits and not all benefits. The VA provides applications directly for these benefits, and clients commonly work directly with the VA to complete these applications.
As a VA accredited attorney, Jerry coordinates our legal services in all areas of veterans planning to review individual income and asset eligibility requirements for clients. When appropriate, we can provide advice and strategies to clients in order to help them qualify for these valuable benefits. These benefits need to be included with other government benefits to create a comprehensive plan, and then coordinated with the client’s team of advisors to create a tax-friendly plan for their future.
Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is a very ugly stain present in our society. Our primary focus is to help our senior clients (and their families) recognize elder abuse, work towards protecting the client from ongoing abuse and strive to create additional protections for the client. Unfortunately, elder abuse is often unreported in multiple ways, and many times it happens within the family. Although we are not litigators as a firm, we will not hesitate to bring in litigating firms, or prosecuting attorneys, to ensure those accused of elder abuse have to answer for their actions against a senior client. Our primary goal is to build protections for the client, but we will also coordinate overall needs for the client situation.  Click here to access the National Council for Aging Care's guide on Elder Abuse. 


Preserving a Client Legacy – Speaking Heart to Heart

Whether we realize it or not, at some time in the future someone close to you will miss you deeply. Your family and friends will long for your words, and they will long to hear your voice again. Can you picture someone who has passed away, and can you recall a conversation you had with them? What if they could speak to you in a heart-to-heart approach, and share wisdom, stories and advice from their lives?
The Bell Law Firm believes deeply in preserving client legacies. We believe we must capture these stories, as this legacy is too precious to let slip away and be lost forever. We work with partnering companies, such as Voices in Time, who are specifically focused on preserving these legacies. Often clients will tell us they are too busy to share this non-financial wealth, so at The Bell Law Firm we encourage clients to preserve their legacy or the legacy of their loved one. It becomes a true blessing for us to help a client preserve their legacy.

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