At Stavely & Sallitto, elder law is all we do, every day. Our team of professionals are dedicated to empowering the elderly. We work to protect the interests of our clients, while involving and educating family caregivers. We help protect families from debilitating care costs, keeping assets available for spouses and dependent family members or those with disabilities. Working closely with our clients and family members, our goal is to achieve the best possible outcome.
How We Can Help
There is a difference between an elder law attorney and an estate planning attorney. Estate planning attorneys focus on the optimal disposition of your assets after your death. Elder law attorneys are concerned with the best use of your assets to ensure your health and well-being while your facing the challenges of aging or disability. This type of planning can often be a family affair, and our attorneys routinely meet with seniors and their families to discuss realistic long-term care planning. When needed, we use the services of geriatric care managers who can assess the immediate and long term needs of the senior and create a care-plan that best protects the health, welfare and dignity of the senior.
Most people are surprised to learn that Medicare has very limited benefits to cover nursing home care. Often, they are faced with nursing home bills exceeding $10,000 per month and the frightening realization that the burden will bankrupt them unless they find an alternative way to pay for the long-term care needs for themselves, their spouse or their loved one.
Medicaid pays for long-term care. The program is complicated and fraught with misinformation and misunderstanding. With proper planning, the person needing that care can become eligible for the Medicaid long-term care benefit while protecting the home and preserving the lifestyle for their spouse, protecting certain family members, or even enhancing their own care. Our experienced attorneys work with you and your family to create a plan specifically tailored to your circumstances that will enable you to obtain Medicaid benefits and protect you and your family.
Special Needs Planning
Nothing is more valuable than the security of knowing that your loved one with special needs will be well taken care of in your absence. A comprehensive special needs plan can maximize available assets in a way that preserves government benefits while protecting your loved one. Through the use of ABLE accounts, well drafted special needs trusts and the selection of appropriate fiduciaries, your loved one will be assured that their needs will be taken care of in a manner that protects their dignity, comfort and independence for their entire life.
A Last Will and Testament is the cornerstone legal document of most estate plans. In essence, it directs who will receive your money and property when you die as well as names a person to take charge of your estate business (the executor).
You can include provisions to care for minor children, those with special needs, or even a beloved pet. If you die without a will, you leave your estate vulnerable to the laws of the state to determine how your assets will be distributed.
Powers of Attorney
Everyone could benefit from the protection of a Power of Attorney. Because you don’t know when a traumatic injury will hospitalize you or some other circumstance will fall upon you, it’s important that you prepare before the need arises.
Life can throw unexpected problems your way. Whether it’s a car wreck or even a prolonged illness that keeps you in the hospital, most clients need Powers of Attorney in place to ensure they have someone who can make decisions for them if they can’t.
A Power of Attorney is a legal document in which the principal (you) designates another person (the agent or attorney-in-fact) to act on your behalf to make decisions in specified matters or in all matters. Typically, special circumstances will trigger the need for a power of attorney. For example, if the principal is unexpectedly injured or has a prolonged illness that prevents them from making decisions.
Health Care Directives
Because many people have differing beliefs regarding end-of-life medical treatments, the law has provided a method of making a declaration to your doctor about your desire to receive certain treatments that are designed to mechanically keep you alive. Such treatments include (but may not be limited to): mechanical ventilation, tube feeding or hydration, dialysis, etc. If you wish to maintain control and make your wishes known, you should consider executing an Advance Directive.
Although these are often thought of as “end of life” documents, health care directives are useful at any age. A health care advance directive lets you designate the person or persons you trust to make health care decisions on your behalf for you in the event you cannot. Your health care agent can help with medical decisions and be an advocate for you in any health care setting. Advance directives also are a vehicle to express your preferences as to the type of care you want at life’s end, and it provides a place for you to let others know how to handle your remains after your death.
Who needs an Estate Plan? Everyone needs a plan.
Everyone has an estate. Some estates are larger, $10 million or more. Some estates are smaller, $50,000 or less. Most are somewhere between those two numbers. Estate planning is important for everyone, regardless of estate size or value. You have worked hard for what you have and if you have more, you have more to lose. If you have less, you can’t afford to lose what you have.
Your estate is made up of everything you own— your car, home, other real estate, checking and savings accounts, investments, life insurance, furniture, and personal possessions. We talk about estate planning in terms of protecting your FAMILY, your LIFE, and your FUTURE.
Our experienced attorneys will help create the right estate plan for you based on your goals.
Guardianship may be among the toughest decisions to make when your elderly parent or relative has reached a point when they can no longer care for themselves or make rational decisions. With a deep appreciation for how difficult and sensitive situations like these are, our attorneys can provide you with the guidance you need. Our attorneys can make sure that your and your loved one’s interests are protected.
What Is Guardianship?
A guardian is a person who is appointed to make legal or financial decisions on behalf of another party who is not able to manage their own affairs. In Maryland, a guardianship could be put in place to protect a child, a disabled adult, or a person who has become temporarily or permanently incapacitated. A court may appoint a guardian of persons, a guardian of property, or both.
Notably, in Maryland, the process for obtaining a guardianship is a complicated one. In essence, a person who has been placed under a “guardianship” has lost the legal authority to make their own decisions. While that is certainly an appropriate step in some situations, it is also not something that a court takes lightly.
In determining competency or capacity, a Maryland court will need to see strong evidence that proves that a guardianship is warranted by the underlying circumstances. Further, Maryland law favors the use of a less restrictive alternatives whenever possible. Other alternative solutions such as setting up a durable power of attorney or a specialized trust may be preferred.
What Happens When a Loved One Dies?
When someone dies, their assets may need to be accounted for and distributed through a court process known as probate. In probate, a personal representative is appointed and the assets of the decedent are inventoried and appraised. Creditors must be notified, debts and taxes paid, and the remainder distributed to the ultimate beneficiaries. Our experienced attorneys and staff can assist with all aspects of the probate process including period accountings, working with the court auditors and final distribution.
Domestic Partnership Agreements
In 2009 the Maryland legislature extended certain legal protections to unmarried people sharing a household who have agreed to live together in a state of mutual interdependence. Domestic partners are recognized as surrogate health care decision makers and are exempt from inheritance taxes on the share of the primary residence they inherit at their partner’s death. A domestic partnership is created by notarized affidavit that is accompanied by certain supporting documents.
Mental Health Advance Directives
Health related privacy laws when applied to mental illness, can deprive the afflicted individual of much needed family support and assistance. The only means to avoid a potentially catastrophic situation for the patient, is through a mental health advance directive. These are treatment specific documents that provide guidance to both health care agent and health care provider as to the types of treatment that the afflicted principal is willing to undertake, any medication issues unique to the principal and also outlines the types of decisions the agent is authorized to make.