Understanding Elder Law & The Importance of Legal Planning


Even for seniors in near-perfect health, legal planning should be a top item on their to-do list. Before a crisis makes getting your affairs in order a stressful, urgent matter, older adults should consider their elder law options for protecting their assets, finances and personal health for the future.

“It’s never too soon to start preparing for the future,” says Nancy Clanton, Community Relations Director at Tuscan Gardens® of Venetia Bay in Venice, FL. “Far too often, people wait to get their affairs in order until it’s too late, and they miss out on the benefits of security and the chance to make the best decisions for themselves. Planning ahead also saves families and loved ones from having to make difficult legal choices in the case of an emergency.

“We encourage seniors to be proactive with their legal planning. Investing time and resources in elder law affairs now can make for a peaceful, confident future.”

Elder Law Elements You Should Know

Although we would like to think that we’ll always be able to take care of ourselves, we never know what each day will bring. Legal plans offer seniors and their loved ones security and peace of mind from knowing that whatever the future holds has already been taken care of.

When it comes to legally protecting your assets, including your health, there are many options available. Some of the most important and most commonly used legal documents, as noted by elder law attorneys and AARP, include advanced directives. Here are a few to consider:

  • Living Wills – A living will is a written legal document that states how you would like to be cared for if you become terminally ill, incapacitated or cannot communicate your health care wishes.

A living will ensures that you receive the health care and treatments that you prefer, even if you are unable to communicate at the time. Living wills can also include end-of-life preferences. To ensure that the wishes stated in a living will are carried out by health care providers, you can name a trusted loved one as your power of attorney to make sure your wishes are respected.

  • Durable Power of Attorney – Naming someone your durable power of attorney (DPOA) gives that person the legal power to manage and make decisions about your care and finances, should you become unable to yourself. A DPOA is usually a spouse or trusted family member who understands your wishes and will make decisions that coincide with your best interests.

While a DPOA is responsible for making decisions on your behalf, they cannot legally override your decisions if you are still capable of making them. Choosing a DPOA should be handled carefully, as he or she may be responsible for making life-altering decisions. Communication with a DPOA is vital in order to ensure they understand your preferences and concerns regarding the management of your health care and assets.

  • Living Trusts – Similar to a last will, a living trust allows you to pass on property after death. In order to do this, you must transfer the ownership and control of your assets to the trust during your lifetime. A trustee (either yourself, a chosen loved one or a bank) manages the assets put into the trust according to your directions. After death, your trusted assets are given to the beneficiaries you chose when creating the trust.

There are pros and cons to living trusts. In comparison to a last will, living trusts usually don’t require the costly and time-consuming court processes that wills do. Another benefit to a living trust is that your trustee will have the legal ability to handle your property if you ever become incompetent due to health issues.

On the other hand, living trusts cost more legal fees than last wills. They are also complex and vary based on type, so trusts require more research and understanding on your part. An elder law attorney and accountant can help you decide on the best kind of trust for your situation.

Legal Plans for Loved Ones with Dementia

While planning ahead is important for every senior, it is especially important for someone diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Since a loved one with Alzheimer’s will eventually lose the capacity to fully understand their circumstances, necessary legal decisions will need to be made by a family member in the final stages of the disease.

If your loved one has dementia, it’s important to begin making legal plans with your loved one and an elder law expert as soon as they are diagnosed. This way, they will have the most opportunities to take part in the planning and make decisions for themselves.

An additional legal consideration for loved ones with dementia entails guardianship. Guardianship over a loved one who is mentally incapacitated due to Alzheimer’s disease gives you the right to make decisions about their living situation, health care and finances. Usually used as a last resort, guardianship is often the best solution if your loved one can no longer make safe decisions about their own well-being.

Support from a Community You Can Trust

When it comes to your future, you want to know that the best options are available for your health and happiness. So do we! At Tuscan Gardens, we’re committed to helping seniors make the most of their retirement years.

“Our commitment to caring for older adults allows us to build relationships that matter,” says Clanton. “Our residents and their families trust us to share our expertise in all things senior living. Whether you could use more advice on legal planning or are looking for a senior living community to call home, our team is happy to offer our support.”

The Art of Living

At Tuscan Gardens® of Venetia Bay, we’ve mastered the art of living well. We’ve perfected the balance of personalized support and an uplifting lifestyle, helping our residents experience independence, joy and meaning every day.

Offering supportive independent living, assisted living and memory care services for families in Venice, Florida, Tuscan Gardens of Venetia Bay was founded with one simple, yet profound goal – to create a community worthy of our parents. In all we do, we are guided by the principles of family, culture and engagement, working to represent the remarkable way of life our families deserve.

Luxury, intimacy, opportunity, passion and beauty combine to create what the Italians call sprezzatura – a culture of effortless elegance. The essence of our community is made up not only of mere aesthetics, but an artfully designed lifestyle to bring out the best of what each day has to offer. From dedicated care that respects residents’ individuality and dignity to a lifestyle that nurtures their love of life, Tuscan Gardens was built to be more than just a residence, but a place to call home.

To learn more about our comfortable, elegant community, contact us today!