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Estates, Wills & Elder Law

Estate Law is the area of practice that regulates wills, trusts, probate and other subjects related to the management of another’s property. 

What is Wills & Estates Law?

Succinctly stated, Wills & Estates law involves what happens to your assets after you have passed on.  

An estate is the property that a person owns or has a legal interest in. The term is often used to describe the assets and liabilities left by a person after death.

 

 

A person’s will is a written document that sets out the person’s wishes about how his or her estate should be taken care of and distributed after death. It takes effect when the person dies.

An estate is the property that a person owns or has a legal interest in. The term is often used to describe the assets and liabilities left by a person after death.

 

A trust is created to hold property or assets for the benefit of a particular person called the beneficiary. It is managed by a person called a trustee, who has an obligation to deal with the property for the beneficiary of the trust. There are many different kinds of trusts.

 

A Power of Attorney is a legal document in which you give someone you trust (called your “attorney”) the right to make decisions for you if something happens and you are no longer able to look after matters on your own.

 

There are two types of Power of Attorney:

 

  • Power of Attorney for Personal Care– the person you name can make decisions about your health care, housing and other aspects of your personal life (such as meals and clothing) if you become mentally incapable of making these decisions.
  • Power of Attorney for Property– the person you name can make decisions about your financial affairs (including paying your bills, collecting money owed to you, maintaining or selling your house, or managing your investments).

You don’t have to create a power of attorney. But if something happens to you and you don’t have one, other arrangements will have to be made. A family member may have the right to make certain personal care decisions, and can apply to become the guardian of your property. Alternatively, someone else — like a close friend — could apply to the court to be authorized to act for you.

 

Estate planning involves the transfer of someone’s assets (e.g. property, money) when they die, as well as a variety of other personal matters. Wills, estates, trusts and power of attorney are all common tools used in estate planning.

 

 

What is Elder Law?

In a nutshell, Elder Law deals with protecting the rights of elderly people. Elder Law is a complex field dealing with many different statutes and regulations. Furthermore, there are potentially a plethora of situations wherein elderly people might feel their rights have been infringed and require protection. Just for example:

 

  • They are the victim of ‘elder abuse’ at the hands of either family members, friends or strangers. Abuse can be not only physical but psychological or financial in nature;
  • There has been a misuse of an elder’s power of attorney, or an elder has been unduly influenced or pressured to designate someone as a power of attorney;
  • There has been undue pressure or influence placed on an elder with respect to the elder’s will;
  • There is an issue as to the elder’s ‘capacity’ to create a will or powers of attorney;
  • An elder’s rights, as outlined in the Long-Term Care Homes Act, are being infringed by the care facility in which the elder resides.
Elder Law is a burgeoning field. This is not surprising given the demographics of our society. As our society ages, elder law issues—eg. misuse of powers of attorney, undue influence with respect to wills and powers of attorney, long-term care arrangements, etc.—will proliferate. This area of law will also take on increased prominence as we as a society change our thinking about the elderly. As a society, we must think of the aged as an asset as opposed to a liability. We must respect and admire the wisdom that only life experience can bring. At the same time, we must think of old age—and as corollary, the infirmities often accompanying old age—in terms of a disability and accord to older people the same reasonable accommodations we do for other disabilities.