Elder law is a term used by professionals like Pennsylvania lawyers to refer to the legal issues and problems relating specifically to senior citizens. Pennsylvania lawyers working in this field must keep abreast of an ever-shifting body of law, legislation and regulations which run the gamut from financial planning, health care, and housing to discrimination, abuse, and consumer fraud. Unfortunately, there are many unscrupulous people out there willing to take advantage of those people who should be granted respect and consideration in their later years.
In the field of elder law, it’s important to figure out just who is the client. Children will often bring their parents in to the attorney’s office–which sounds innocent enough on its face. However, child and parent can certainly have differing interests, especially if the child is attempting to pressure or manipulate the parent into leaving them more than the parent wishes. If a parent has physical or mental disabilities clouding their ability to make sound decisions, that child may be able to unduly influence them. Of course, that is just the sort of situation the Rules of Professional Conduct were created for. These Rules are the set of ethical guidelines attorneys like Pennsylvania lawyers must abide by, and attorneys must follow them or risk being disbarred.
For some reason, people often have the mistaken impression that estate planning is something only wealthy people need to worry about–but that is so not true! The term “estate” isn’t referring to some palatial mansion and grounds owned by someone who is ridiculously rich. “Estate” simply refers to what someone owns. Anyone who owns any type of property should plan ahead to make sure whatever people or organizations they wish inherit their property actually do so. This can also help keep your property from going into probate proceedings should you die without a will–something known as dying “intestate.”
When someone dies intestate, their entire estate–including their home, money, and other property–is distributed to various relatives following a strict formula governed by law, also called “intestacy law.” This Pennsylvania law governs how estates are distributed in the case of every person dying intestate, and it does not take into consideration the specific needs of any individual or family.
Just think about that. If you die without a will, someone else determines who receives the possessions you worked so hard to attain. What about the family member who treated you badly or disappeared from your life? Without a will, you can’t guarantee they won’t get their “fair share” of your estate under intestacy law. Pennsylvania lawyers will advise their clients to get a valid will in full force and affect as soon as possible. Otherwise, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania basically creates a will for you under the terms of the intestacy law.
Setting out a well-considered estate plan, including a will, means that neither you nor your family has to stress about who gets what should the worst happen. It also cuts down on the risk that relatives will “duke it out” in the event of your death. If you don’t have a will, you should consider consulting with a Pennsylvania lawyer as soon as possible to get your estate planning in order.
If you already have a will, you should re-evaluate it at least once every four or five years to make sure you understand what it says and still agree with the arrangements you set out previously. Circumstances change, and events like marriage, death, divorce, birth, adoption, asset growth, moving to a different state or a change in estate tax laws may necessitate revision of your estate planning documents. Should you decide you need to make such revisions, there is always a qualified Pennsylvania lawyer standing by ready to assist you.