Probate is the legal process that an estate has to go through unless steps have been taken to avoid it, and of course probate lawyers represent the interests of their clients in probate or surrogate court. But they typically handle myriad issues beyond the matter of the probate proceeding itself, and many probate lawyers offer holistic planning solutions to their clients.
The senior citizen population is the fastest growing segment of the population in the United States. And when you drill down even further, the “oldest old,” which is the term for people 85 and older, is the most rapidly growing subset of the elder population. So the need for long term financial planning with a longer life span in mind has never been greater. Many probate attorneys have expanded their practices to address this need, offering assistance with things like Medicaid, incapacity planning, disability planning, and nursing home expenses.
Debates surrounding the recent health care reform efforts highlighted the issue of end-of-life medical preferences. Aside from assisting people with financial matters, probate lawyers can also help clients state their wishes in this regard through advance health care directives, including medical powers or attorney and living wills. With a living will you can spell out exactly which procedures you will allow, and which you would like to refuse in the event of your incapacitation. When you execute a medical power of attorney, sometimes called a health care proxy, you empower a person of your choice to make medical decisions in your behalf should you become unable to do so on your own.
These are just some of the things that probate lawyers do for their clients, and the scope of elder law is growing wider all the time as new issues emerge. Probate lawyers are dedicated to helping their clients prepare for the future, and as people live longer it is really unwise to proceed without a well conceived long term plan in place.