Welcome to the Q&A Corner with Richard Tizzano!
QUESTION: What is "elder law"?
Elder law is law practiced by an attorney over 95 years of age. ☺ (Just kidding). Actually elder law is a very specific area of the law that has to do with the legal issues which relate to seniors.
For instance when preparing an Estate Plan, a common issue to all people is preparing a power of attorney. A Power of Attorney is a document that appoints someone to assist you, act on your behalf, while you are alive. The unique elder law perspective is that because seniors are much more likely to use their Power of Attorney than people younger than themselves, there are some issues that seniors should consider.
When does a power of attorney become effective? Traditionally powers of attorney spring into effect when the principal, the person who needs help, has become incapacitated which usually means that the person has to go to a doctor for the purpose of having the doctor write a diagnosis that basically says that the person is no longer competent to manage their own affairs just to effectuate the POA. So the doctor has to make a determination that the person is incompetent just so that person's power of attorney can become effective and be used by the agent, called the attorney in fact, to help the principal.
Wouldn't it be easier for everyone if the power of attorney became effective when the principal person signed the document? That would eliminate the need for the principal to go to the doctor just to activate the power of attorney. If the person was just having a bad day or a bad week and they wanted some assistance with something financial or medical their agent could assist immediately without a trip to the doctor and without compromising their perceived capacity.