What Do Elder Care Lawyers Do?

Estate Planning & Elder Law

A few days ago, I met with an estate planning attorney I have known since the mid-1980s (a long time to know someone).  

I was surprised to learn that this well-known attorney had no idea what elder law lawyers did for a living or why.  

So, my friend, the estate planning lawyer, didn’t know the difference between estate planning and elder law, and I am betting most people receiving this email don’t either.  

Simply stated…

Elder Care Lawyers

Help manage and preserve your assets while alive (usually to maximize government long-term health care benefits) while

Estate Planning Lawyers

Help manage your assets after you die while minimizing estate and gift taxes.  

Elder law  – “What happens while you are alive” 


Estate planning is “what happens after you are dead.”  

picture of a lawyer in a blue suite writing out an estate plan for a family

Why Does Everyone Need An Elder Care Lawyer? 

The reason is simple: long-term healthcare costs are astronomical (up to $200,000 per year or even more), and the risk of outliving your assets is real for most Americans.  

Here’s what I have learned over the last few years: almost no one has a viable plan for paying for long-term healthcare (even those with long-term healthcare insurance), even fewer baby boomers know what government benefits are available or how to access them, and no one “wants” to talk about this because it is scary and depressing.  

The fact is, virtually everyone can qualify for long-term healthcare benefits that will help pay for home healthcare, assisted living, or nursing home care.  And almost everyone can immediately be eligible and do so without blowing up their estate plan.  

But, accessing government benefits isn’t easy.  Most people need an elder care attorney to get these benefits.  Without legal counsel, you have little chance of successfully receiving these government entitlements.  

Given the long-term healthcare cost, the aggregate financial exposure for a married couple is now approximately $2 million. 

With that much at risk, it doesn’t take long for one spouse to outlive their assets and impoverish the other.  And without receiving advice from an excellent elder care lawyer, if you need long-term healthcare, forget about your children inheriting anything (you will burn through your estate).  

Who Needs An Estate Planning Attorney?

People that might be subject to estate and gift tax when they die need an estate planning attorney. 

Under current law, if your estate is greater than $12.92 million per person, you don’t have to worry about estate or gift tax.  A married couple’s exemption from estate and gift tax is almost $26 million.  

Elder care lawyers are fully trained to help you with probate, trusts, and wills (but not estate and gift tax, which doesn’t make a difference unless your estate is larger than the above limits).  

So, if you are mega-rich, estate planning attorneys are for you.   But for everyone else, you need to see an elder care attorney.