In 2009 there were 39.6 million people in the United States who were aged 65 years and older, representing 12.9% of the U.S. population. In 2000 people 65 years and older constituted 12.5% off the population, and by 2030 they are projected to make up 19% of the population. (http://www.aoa.gov/Aging_Statistics/). This is a good thing! Advances in science and medicine have decreased infant mortality rates, cured many diseases, and healed many wounds that would formerly have claimed their victim’s life. Previous generations did not have the opportunity to live into old age. Average life expectancy in the United States for a person born in 1900 was 47.3; for a person born in 2010, it was 78.7.
The increasingly aged population faces a number of issues that were not a concern for previous generations. These concerns can include:
- Retirement Planning — How much do I need? Where should I invest? What are the tax consequences of different investments? Will this provide for my spouse if I die first?
- Incapacity Planning — What happens if I become incapacitated? Who will take care of my finances? Who will take care of me? Who will make medical decisions for me? How do I communicate my desires with regard to medical care in the event of my incapacity?
- Estate Planning — I’ve worked hard my whole life; how do I pass on the fruits of my labor to my children? How do I maximize each child’s share of the estate? How can I control what my money is used for after I am gone? How can I benefit my church or my favorite charity?
- Long-Term Care — What if I need long-term care? Should I get long-term care insurance? Will my children take me in? How will I pay for a nursing home? How can I get help from Medicare and Medicaid?
- Family Law — What if one spouse dies before the other? What if one of us remarries after the other one is gone? Who will be our heirs?
- Entitlement Programs — What public assistance programs am I eligible for? What do I need to know before applying for Medicare, Medicaid, SSI, or VA benefits?
In an attempt to assist clients with these increasingly complex questions, lawyers have developed a special sub-field of expertise known as elder law. An attorney who practices in this field should be able to help a client navigate the numerous, difficult questions that come with being an older member of a society.
Each post in this blog will address an issue in the oft-related fields of elder law and estate planning. Each month I will address a new topic in these fields, providing some basic guidance and hopefully helping you to make sense of some of the complexities and numerous acronyms that make these topics so difficult to understand. This blog is certainly no substitute for the personal advice of an experienced attorney; rather, reading this blog should help you understand the issues that you will need to address with your attorney, and then you and the attorney can create a plan that is personally tailored to your specific needs.
These issues are complex, but with patience and through working with your attorney you can have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you are prepared to navigate your later years.