Plan How You Want to Live and Don’t Go it Alone

By Laurie Menzies

Would you have an orthopedist perform your heart operation? Or have an environmental attorney handle your will? Of course not! However, too often people think that every physician can answer their medical questions and every attorney can handle their legal matters. Like physicians who specialize in a specific area of medicine, lawyers, too, spend years honing their skills in a specific legal area such as tax, litigation, or family law.

I have devoted many years counseling clients on elder law matters. While estate planning and elder law complement one another, they are not the same. Estate planning focuses on how to plan, manage and dispose of what you own after your death, while elder law focuses on how you want to live before you die – and living with dignity and grace is something I feel passionate about.

Generally, elder law attorneys help families plan for how they and their loved ones can be cared for properly, and that they will be able to pay for the care they may need or want as they age. Elder law attorneys also focus on strategies to transfer assets in accordance with their clients’ wishes, while minimizing their costs.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard from families facing a crisis that they don’t even know where to begin navigating the complex array of programs, services, payment sources, and regulations involved in making long-term care decisions. It isn’t easy to make informed decisions about confusing types of long-term supports and services that are administered by multiple public and private agencies beset by confusing rules and regulations. Too often families realize that trying to handle these issues alone increases stress, costs more in the long-run, and often ends up becoming a source of family conflict.

Fortunately, elder lawyers are familiar with a network of professionals who can help coordinate these complex services for their clients. They have experience in managed care and government plans that can help people retain more of their personal assets. Many families don’t even know that Medicaid can be accessed in a way that allows couples to remain together at home, instead of having to place a loved one in an expensive nursing home. Speaking with someone who encounters these issues daily can offer you precious ideas, wisdom, and information that you can’t get anywhere else.

I know that no one really likes having to see a lawyer. But think of an elder attorney as a family relationship counselor or a financial guide, and maybe it won’t seem so hard to make an appointment. Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that money spent on educated advice from an elder attorney will pale in comparison to finances that could be wasted by going through the process alone.

About the Author:
Laurie Menzies is an attorney who limits her practice to elder care matters. Learn more at, or call (716) 204-1055.