Our experienced elder law team goes beyond traditional planning to address the needs of seniors and individuals with disabilities by assisting them in Long-Term Care Planning and Advocacy, Guardianships and Conservatorships, and End-of-Life Planning. We address the financial burden of the cost of care by advocating for our clients and maximizing their eligibility for government benefits, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans’ benefits. We also assist our clients in locating appropriate care, as well as coordinating private and public resources to finance that care. Our services blend Estate Planning with long-term care planning, and we believe that estate planning is not just about what happens after you die, but how you will live as you age.
Long-Term Care Planning — Long-term care planning addresses health care needs, family dynamics, personal values, and resources available to the client. Our goal throughout the long-term care planning process is to create a long-term relationship between our firm and our clients to offer continued guidance, advocacy, and support as changes in health, finances, and lifestyle occur. Throughout the process, we assist clients and their families in preparing for challenges that may arise from aging, illness, and disability. Our experienced staff assesses a client’s current finances and health care needs, and develops a plan by outlining any issues that the client currently faces and providing insight into disease progression and potential challenges that the client may face down the road. The plan is centered on asset preservation and planning for long-term health needs by identifying and planning for third-party payer sources, ensuring the correct level of care and transfer of assets. In addition, we consult with clients regarding long-term care options, placement options, and funding sources and services available through government and private agencies. We also review admission agreements to ensure that residents and family members are protected.
Unfortunately, many clients wait until they need nursing home care before consulting an elder law attorney about estate planning and health planning documents. This delay can be costly. Pre-crisis planning has many advantages:
- It helps you get the care you need today.
- It increases the chances you can age in place, preserving your independence.
- It often provides more opportunity for asset protection.
- It ensures you do not make innocent mistakes that can result in Medicaid ineligibility.
- It provides you and your family with a network of support to help you prepare for and deal with transitions and crises as they occur.
Guardianships and Conservatorships—When issues of capacity arise, there may be no one able to access accounts or make medical decisions. In these cases, we assist clients to obtaining guardianships or conservatorships to address the healthcare decision-making and financial needs of disabled loved ones. Guardianship and conservatorship are obtained through petitioning the Superior Court. With our extensive experience handling these matters, our firm can help you maneuver the legal system and keep costs down.
End-of-Life Planning — One of the hardest things for clients to talk about is planning for end-of-life care. This includes appointing agents to make decisions concerning healthcare, and making decisions that express wishes regarding life-prolonging measures and treatment. We help individuals and families gain control of the dying process and maintain independence through the end of life. It is important to understand the patient’s medical condition; expected prognosis; and the patient’s specific goals, such as wanting to spend time at home with family, wanting to get treatments that allow the patient to live until a loved one’s wedding, or wanting to be comfortable and pain-free regardless of length of life.
Since 2011, Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) have become available in New Jersey. POLST is an approach to improving end-of-life care in the United States by encouraging doctors to speak with patients in advance to create specific medical orders for healthcare professionals to honor during a medical emergency, so they can provide treatments that patients want, and avoid treatments that patients do not want. POLST is designed for seriously ill patients or those who are medically frail, with limited life expectancy, regardless of their age. It is a standardized, portable, brightly-colored single page form that is immediately recognizable, and can be used by doctors or advanced practice nurses (APN) and first responders, including paramedics, fire departments, police, emergency rooms, hospitals, and nursing homes.
The POLST form complements an Advance Directive and is not intended to replace that document. An Advance Directive may still be necessary to appoint a legal healthcare decision maker and is recommended for all adults, regardless of their health status. POLST is signed by both the doctor or APN, and the patient or their surrogate. Filling out a POLST form is entirely voluntary. However, New Jersey law requires that medical orders contained in a POLST be followed by healthcare professionals and provides immunity from civil or criminal liability to those who comply in good faith with the patient’s POLST.