Many people mistakenly believe that the practice of Elder Law simply consists of drafting wills and representing estates. However, Elder Law is much more than a will and estate practice.
Traditionally, Elder Law focuses on estate planning. Estate planning is the process by which assets accrued through a lifetime of hard work are protected from taxes at the time of death. In Pennsylvania death taxes include the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax and possibly the Federal Estate Tax. The Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax imposes a tax upon the net assets of the estate (gross assets less estate debts) of between 4.5% and 15%. If an estate is large enough, the Federal Estate Tax imposes a tax on those same assets of between 37% and 55%.
Although the Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax applies to any and all estates, no matter how small, the Federal Estate Tax only applies to estates above a threshold that has changed several times in the past few years from $600,000.00 to $2,000,000.00. In 2010 there was no Federal Estate Tax, but it returned in 2011. The threshold is now $2,000,000.
A proper estate plan may exempt all or at least some of your assets from these taxes.
Elder Law also involves the planning for potential placement in a personal care home or skilled nursing facility. The monthly average cost of a semi-private room in a skilled nursing facility is now approximately $9,000 ($108,000.00 a year) and continues to rise. This figure includes room and board only. No medications, physical therapy, occupational therapy, etc. are included in this figure. An individual may quickly exhaust his or her resources in trying to pay for a skilled nursing facility and also may create problems for the non-institutionalized spouse in meeting monthly bills. Elder Law involves planning techniques which facilitate the payment of a skilled nursing facility stay or a stay in a personal care home from sources other than an individual's own income and resources.
Elder Law also may involve hospital and nursing home negligence cases. These cases involve situations in which elderly individuals are left in hospital rooms or nursing home rooms without proper care. Lack of proper care often exacerbates the condition that led to their placement. In some instances the only remedy is a lawsuit against the hospital or nursing home seeking damages for the injuries resulting from the hospital or nursing home neglect.
If you have any questions concerning Elder Law, you can contact Needle Law at (570) 344-1266.
We handle elder law issues for clients in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Stroudsburg, Tunkhannock, Montrose, Milford and all of Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties.