The elderly are that part of society who have worked through their lives. They carry a bunch of stories to tell to the young, they guide society. According to the US government reports, the population above 65 years of age in 2019 was 16% of the total. It is set to grow up to 21.6% by 2040. A general estate lawyer knows the laws revolving around the elderly. But, the specialized ‘Elder law lawyers’ have it as a dedicated area of interest. This article aims to showcase what sort of issues are considered today about the elderly. It also elucidates how this legal practice differs from general legal practice.
A general lawyer may work in a wider spectrum of the field. He may be a practicing family lawyer, or even a general estate lawyer. Though the knowledge of the law may not be any less the preference he gives to the work of the elderly may not be anymore. Anyway, an estate lawyer comes into the picture after the death of the elderly. He is required during the execution of the wills. But during the lifetime of the elderly, it is the ‘living will lawyer’.
Elderly Law Lawyers: Who are they?
Elderly law lawyers are also known as ‘Living Will lawyers’, and ‘Wills and Trusts Lawyers’. The term ‘Living Wills lawyers’ pretty much explains the work of these lawyers. First, let us understand what a living will is. The elderly live with a high probability of hospitalization. In this situation, an elderly may desire a specific line of treatment.
He may be unconscious during a medical emergency. He thus assigns a specific person to take decisions in his medical peril. This is why he makes a ‘living will’, that states these clauses in anticipation. The lawyers that aid the elderly in this and related tasks are called ‘Living wills lawyers’. Thus, the lawyers who work for the elderly are ‘Wills and Trusts Lawyers’.
The work of these lawyers is about tax issues, nursing issues, Medicare, social security benefits, etc. But, we must not construe that they work in the civil side of the practice only. They also work to prevent abuse, fraud, and discrimination against the elderly.
How the field arose:
Some 20 years ago, only an ‘elderly lawyer’ would be considered a practitioner of ‘elderly law’. But the growing number of reports of offenses, and disputes about the old laws interest the younger lawyers today, giving birth to this specific practice area.
This field is client-driven. It is less litigation and includes more drafting, conveyancing, and other practical purposes. One appeal that needs litigation for elders is receiving Supplemental Security Income, and such cases are handled mainly by Social Security Disability lawyers.
General estate law is a type of practice with heavy legislation and a complex approach.
The trend began at the international level with the first International Plan of Action on Ageing in 1982. It was then revived through the Second World Conference on Ageing in 2002. Both these international conferences discussed the issues facing older people. It also discussed how we can deal with those through laws.
The state or federal legislation for the Elderly is about taxation, abuse, etc.
For eg., The Elder and Dependent Adult Abuse Prevention Act. is used while dealing with the matters of the elderly. On the local level though, actions by the local officers itself are effective.
For eg. ‘Grey Squad’ was a local Police group that would work more and against the abuse of the elderly.
While this is all the Elderly law, the General estate laws have always been there. We can see this in Indian mythology or even the basic principles of equity.
As stated earlier that this is a client-driven field, and it is lesser into litigation. But, it is about the old and the old as a part of society. The main problem when we say ‘elderly’ is the term itself. The federal law defines the elderly as aged 60, but most states in the country differ. Here come the challenges to the field as a result of the litigation.
Another challenge is, the field is currently filled with rich, old people. It will take time to break the barrier of class. This will come only from legal awareness and more practitioners in this field.
The jurists have had their own set of thoughts about this novel field. They say that the approach should be holistic. The jurists put forth that law for the elderly cannot be only service oriented as asked for by the client.
They say that practitioners must also take into consideration the biology, and psychology of old people. The Courts also must consider this changing demography. It shows that the number of oldies is rising in the country.
As opposed to this, the General Estate law has its own set of challenges as well. As there is modernization and urbanization, there are more cities. The more urban estate generation, the more litigation. General estate law includes various types of issues.
For example, disputes of covered-uncovered parking, illegal sale deeds, etc. are also a part of it. Proper conveyancing and drafting of documents is the need of the hour in this field. It will keep a check on skyrocketing numbers of civil suits for estates.
Thus, all the areas of practice have their own set of trends, challenges, and expected clients. It is up to the client to choose which or what type of lawyer he or she wants to approach.
From a budding lawyer’s point of view, elder law practice is a lucrative area. It is new with lesser guidance to establish in, as also that it works for a specific age group of people.
The General practice, as opposed to that, is the set traditional practice. Many lawyers here have practiced and performed to date. But, this field has a wider scope as the clients include builders, developers, etc. Thus, it is upon the aspirant to choose.