What is the Difference Between Elder Law and Estate Planning?

Elder law and estate planning serve two different – but equally vital – functions. The main difference is that elder law is focused on preserving your assets during your lifetime, while estate planning concentrates on what happens to your assets after you die. 

Elder law planning is concerned with ensuring that seniors live long, healthy, and financially secure lives. It usually involves anticipating future medical needs, including long-term care. Elder law attorneys can help you develop a plan to pay for future care while preserving some of your assets for yourself and your family. They can also assist you with qualifying for Medicaid or other benefits to pay for long-term care.

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In addition, elder law planning can ensure that you are protected from elder abuse or exploitation when you get older or become incapacitated. Seniors can be targets for crime and discrimination and some will need an elder law attorney to help battle these issues. An elder law attorney can assist their senior client in recognizing abuse and crime, reporting it, and making sure their rights are protected.

Finally, elder law covers assistance with guardianship and conservatorship, if needed. If an elderly client becomes incapacitated, planning is needed to protect their assets and obtain the necessary medical care. Hopefully the client had the proper estate planning in place and has written documentation of their wishes in the event of incapacitation. Then, the elder law attorney will help the client’s family carry out those wishes in the best manner possible. If the client did not have estate planning in place, then the elder law attorney can guide the family through petitioning the court for guardianship and conservatorship over the elderly client.

While elder law is focused on older adults, estate planning is for everyone of all ages. Estate planning is a proactive task that is all about preparing for the inevitable – death. Estate planning attorneys help you determine what will happen to your assets after you die. A proper estate plan establishes the who, what, and when of what happens to a client’s property after death. The plan provides a roadmap for families to follow when they can no longer look to the client for guidance.

Estate plans can change as your circumstances change, so it is important to keep revisiting your estate plan over the years. For example, marriages, divorces, births, and deaths, as well as changes in finances, can all call for updates to your estate plan. 

The practice areas of estate planning and elder law overlap, and skills used in one area can often be useful in the other. To get the most out of your estate plan and to ensure that the plan is comprehensive, it is important to make sure that you are meeting with a certified elder law attorney.


Hook Law Center: Hi, Kaya! We saw a lot of snow in Hampton Roads over the past two weeks. While snow can be quite the headache to adult humans, how come dogs are always so stoked for snow?

Kaya: If you couldn’t tell from my picture…I am a big fan of snow! Dogs are very much like young humans in the way we enjoy the snow. Adult humans often find snow to be an inconvenience…but for obvious reasons, dogs tend not to stress so much about work or other responsibilities. Dogs also love to manipulate their environment – for example, jumping into a pile of leaves can often provide a similar feeling. You should check out this article from Southern Living on why we react to snow the way we do: https://www.southernliving.com/culture/pets/why-do-dogs-love-snow.

Posted in Senior Law News