The field of elder law involves all of the issues that are relevant to people as they age, and of course estate planning is one of these. Estate planning when taken literally entails making preparations for the transfer of your assets to your heirs after your death. This sounds simple enough, but there can be so much taxation involved in it that many people need to situate their assets in creative ways to avoid the taxman. This is one of the reason why trusts are so frequently used by estate planning attorneys.
And just for the record, if you have any notions about being perfectly willing to pay your fair share of taxes, consider the fact that the maximum estate tax rate for 2011 is 55%. Few would suggest that they feel perfectly good about their heirs paying the government more than half of the value of their inheritances.
Aside from using trusts to gain tax efficiency, elder law attorneys also use them to avoid the process of probate. Probate can be useful for providing transparency when a complicated estate is being administered, but it is costly and time consuming and worth avoiding in many cases.
Aside from these after-death matters, elder law specialists also help their clients plan for possible eventualities that can confront them while they are still alive. Planning for incapacity is something that can be done through the execution of advance health care directives such as a living will and a durable medical power of attorney.
With the living will you state your preferences with regard to the types of medical procedures you would be willing to accept should you be unable to state your wishes. With a durable medical power of attorney you select an individual to make medical decisions in your behalf in the event of your incapacitation.
This is just a surface look at the duties of an elder law attorney, but they can expand into retirement planning, financial planning, and long term care preparation. Things inevitably change as we enter different stages of life, and being prepared is the key to embracing these changing seasons with intelligence, grace, and dignity.