Major concerns for the elderly and their caregivers are legal issues affecting the provision of care and the securing and retaining of entitlements and benefits. Some communities have established separate, non-profit legal services to assist persons with specific advocacy needs. These include: representation at public benefit agency hearings, court proceedings for the establishment of conservator ships or guardianships and interceding with government entities which provide services such as home support services. Usually, there is an income limitation for eligibility. In some areas, private law firms have expanded their services to offer seminars and workshops to persons who are interested in sound financial planning to protect income, savings and property resources as they foresee long-term care needs. Specific information about legal assistance may be obtained through the local Area Agency on Aging or your local Bar Association.
Counseling on benefits and rights, wills, taxes and other legal matters may be provided by an attorney or non-lawyer to older persons with economic or social needs. Legal documents that seniors might think about preparing include:
- Power of Attorney
- A written document in which you authorize another person to act as your agent in handling of your daily affairs. The person granting authority is called the principal and the agent is called the attorney-in-fact. Power is revoked by acts of principal or by death.
- Durable Power of Attorney
- A power of attorney which continues to be effective or takes effect if or when you become incompetent or disabled. The power of the attorney-in-fact survives the disability of the principal. All powers of attorney are presumed to be durable unless specifically provided otherwise.
- Advance Directive for Health Care
- A written document which you may use under certain circumstances to tell others the type and amount of care you would like to receive or not receive should you become unable to express your wishes. An advance directive may take many forms and is commonly referred to as a "living will." In Pennsylvania law, a living will is known as an Advance Directive for Health Care. A living will is a written document that describes the kind of life-sustaining treatment you want if you are unable to advise your doctor. A living will would apply only in cases where your condition is terminal or you are permanently unconscious.
- A person with legal responsibility for, and power over, the personal affairs and/or the property of another person found by a court to be incapable of managing his or her own affairs.
- A right in property held by one person called the trustee for the benefit of another called the beneficiary.