As an elder law attorney, I often meet senior clients as a result of them coming into our offices with their adult children. When this situation happens, it is the lawyer's job to recognize the differing needs and rights of both parties. The lawyer must be clear on who is being represented and then do his or her part to focus on that client.
For example, if the above situation happens and an adult child brings in a parent, the child and parent may have different interests. Perhaps the child is interested in protecting a potential inheritance, but the senior is more concerned with how to protect his or her assets while qualifying for Medicaid. The elder law attorney must explain whose interests are to be represented, as two different approaches might be needed to fulfill each party's agenda.
Elder law attorneys adhere to a specific code of conduct to ensure that they are acting in an ethical manner. This helps keep the situation in perspective when creating a plan to move forward. This code of conduct helps to protect the senior who might be unduly influenced or coerced by the child.
When the Senior Is Struggling
It's not unusual for elder lawyers to be called upon to help seniors who are experiencing health or mental problems. Generally speaking, the attorney will assume that the senior is competent, but if there are clear signs this is not the case, he or she will look into the possibility of having an adult guardian or conservator named for the client.
Of course, it's possible that a senior who is having these kinds of difficulties will already have a guardian in place. The lawyer will then determine the proper party to work with in meeting the senior's needs. For example, there may be a guardian who is in charge of personal decisions, while there is also a separate individual charged with fiduciary responsibilities. Any powers of attorney, such as medical proxies and such, will also need to be identified so the lawyer is working within the client's legal rights.
All-in-all, the goal of any elder law attorney is to represent the senior to the best of his or her ability. Focusing on the client's needs does not mean, though, that an adult child or other appropriate party cannot give input into the situation. The child may hold valuable information that will help the elder lawyer to create a plan that truly suits the outcomes desired.
If you have questions about planning for an older parent or you would like to discuss your own needs as it relates to your family estate planning, please feel free to contact us at 931-250-8585 or 530-456-7123 or 707-670-1000 to schedule a consultation.