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Elder legal services

Whether you think your rights might be violated now or you are preparing for the future for yourself or someone you love, you may have a need for legal assistance.

Protecting Your Rights Now

Maybe you have experienced consumer fraud or one of the common scams that target older adults. Maybe you have survived abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation. Maybe you are facing eviction from your independent living apartment, assisted living, or nursing home. Maybe you aren’t getting the full public benefits (like SNAP, Medicaid, or Social Security) that you are entitled to receive.

Legal services can assist you in these and many other “civil” (meaning, other than criminal law) disputes or questions.

To get help on consumer issues that impact older adults, check out the Georgia Consumer Protection Guide for Older Adults.

Having trouble discerning whether you or someone you love is experiencing elder abuse? Open this document to learn more about the types and signs of abuse, as well as ways to prevent it and act on suspected abuse.

Protecting Your Rights in the Future

The future is unpredictable. But being prepared can make surprise obstacles less of a burden for you and the people who care for you. Elder law planning documents speak for us when we cannot. In the future, if you are unable to express your wishes, these documents can minimize confusion, emotional turmoil, family conflict, and the immense pressures involved in making critical decisions.

Unfortunately, discussing money and other assets, care preferences, and end-of-life wishes with your family can be like pulling teeth, and many families do not address these concerns in time. Plus, hiring an attorney may be expensive. But being prepared is a true gift from you to the people who care for and about you.

When is the best time to plan?
The best time is now — when you are able to make decisions about what is important to you.

How Do I Find Legal Services?

Older persons in Georgia can access free legal advice, brief service, or referrals by contacting the Georgia Senior Legal Hotline. This is a free telephone service staffed by attorneys who take calls from older Georgians and their families. If you need to find a lawyer with experience in elder or special needs law, check out the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. For more help finding a lawyer in Georgia, you can use the tools on the Georgia State Bar site.

Encouraging Your Family Member or Other Older Person to Plan for the Future

If you are trying to encourage a family member to plan so they can protect their rights in the future, here are some tips:

What are some strategies to begin the conversation?
There isn’t one answer because these conversations involve different feelings and relationships. If you have done some estate planning, you could say something like, “My husband and I took care of our estate planning, and we feel a lot better now that we have our affairs in order. It made me think about whether you’ve taken care of this.”

Or you could relate the situation to what a friend is going through, such as: “Mary is having a lot of trouble because her mom had a stroke and can no longer express her wishes. I’m worried how this will work if anything happens to you, and I was wondering if we could meet with an attorney and make sure we have everything in order?”

What about other family members?
If there are other family members or interested parties who the older adult wants to be part of the conversation, it is important to let them know about the conversations you are having to ensure that everyone is on the same page and to smooth over any misunderstandings. Communication is key and, to the extent that the older person provides permission, everyone needs to be aware of the decisions he or she is making.

What are the documents that need to be in order?

  • Durable Power of Attorney for Finances
  • Health Care Directive
  • Will (NOTE: depending on the circumstances, a trust will be appropriate in place of, or in addition to, a will)
  • In some cases, an attorney may advise creation of special trusts related to long-term services and supports (such as “special needs trusts” or “qualified income trusts”).  These are especially helpful for individuals who have extremely high long-term care costs and qualify for Medicaid coverage.

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