Elder Law is unique. It’s an area of the law where an attorney’s advice can be needed from birth until death. Our firm, Futterman, Lanza & Pasculli, LLP, concentrates in elder law, special needs, trusts, and estates. I’ve been named as one of the top fifty female elder law attorneys and a top 100 attorney overall, in the Metro NY area. However, I’ve come to realize that the term elder law is a misnomer. In almost 30 years of practice, I’ve found satisfaction and fulfillment in the fact that an elder law attorney is also a family counselor – someone who can guide a family from the birth of a child with developmental disabilities, through the travails of seeking long term care for an elderly parent, to assisting a family in amicably and efficiently settling an estate.
As “counselors at law”, our job is to assess all aspects of a person’s life, not just the presenting issue. We need to assess the client’s present needs, what documents are necessary to accomplish their goals or care for them, and what support network, if any, they have.
An elder law attorney will assist the parent of a special needs child by advising them on the programs that are available to provide care for a child, and how to pay for it through governmental benefits. We counsel on how to control health care and financial decisions through guardianship. Once a child reaches 18, whether disabled or not, a parent does not have the right to access healthcare or financial information. Therefore, anyone over the age of 18 needs basic advance directives such as a health care proxy and a power of attorney. A spouse may be in the same position when the other becomes incapacitated. For example, the spouse of a mentally incapacitated spouse cannot obtain information on the individual account of the disabled spouse unless they are an agent under a power of attorney.
In summary, a client may need assistance for a disabled child, or health care proxies and powers of attorney for themselves and children over 18; last wills and testaments that determine the distribution of their assets and nomination of guardians to oversee their children’s care and inheritances if necessary; plan for themselves as they age; seek to preserve assets while obtaining eligibility for public benefits to pay for care at home or in a facility through the establishment of trusts; assistance with the actual applications for Medicaid; and finally, assistance with the settlement of an estate.