Elder Law Resources
Answers to frequently asked questions and links dealing with elder law issues in Maine and beyond.
Frequently asked questions
What is elder law?
Despite the name, elder law is not just for the elderly. Elder law is an area of law focused on issues that affect the elderly, the disabled, and their entire families. At the Elder Law Office of Kienitz and Pross, P.A, we provide a thorough understanding of these laws with compassion for all involved and the issues they face, including health care, long term care, guardianship, and much more. In addition, we also assist in estate planning. Please take a moment to read about our areas of practice here.
What is a durable financial power of attorney?
If you become incapacitated, someone will need to handle your financial affairs. That may mean paying bills, cashing checks, transferring money, accessing information about retirement accounts or insurance policies, selling property, or applying for benefits on your behalf. Even among married couples, there is no guarantee that a spouse would be able to perform all these functions for you without a durable power of attorney. If this power is needed and has not already been given, someone would have to apply to be appointed guardian and/or conservator by a court to help with your affairs. That is a much more lengthy and costly endeavor than simply appointing someone you trust while you have the capacity to do so.
The companion document to this is the health care power of attorney with advanced care directives, which allows a trusted individual to make medical decisions for you if you are unable, and explains your wishes for medical care at the end of your life. It, too, is an essential piece of a comprehensive estate plan.
What is the difference between guardianship and conservatorship?
Guardianship does not typically include control of the assets of a protected person, hence the role of conservator. The guardian is appointed to take charge of an incapacitated person’s (“IP”) health and welfare while the conservator is appointed to manage the IP’s financial affairs. The same person can be appointed to both roles, or just one. In either case, sufficient allegations of incapacity must be made to justify the appointment, which in effect, supplants vital decision-making authority from an individual to a surrogate. In both guardianship and conservatorship, the appointee takes on essentially the role of a parent in managing the affairs of the IP.
Do I really need a will?
Most people are surprised to learn how their assets will pass if they die without a will, known as “intestate”. For example, if one dies intestate (without a will), many people think that all their assets would automatically pass to their spouse. Everything that is jointly titled or passes according to a beneficiary designation would, but other assets might not. If you want to be sure your wishes are carried out within the probate process, it is best to have a will prepared by a competent attorney. It is especially important if you have minor children or a disabled person you intend to include in your will.
What is probate?
Probate is the process of proving a will, and appointing a personal representative to administer an estate. The will is the instrument that will guide the probate process. There are ways to avoid probate, but whether that is necessary or advisable for your specific circumstances is a discussion you should have with your attorney.
Will Medicare or my supplemental health insurance cover all my long term care needs?
No. Medicare has a very limited nursing home care benefit (generally rehabilitation following a hospital admission), and your Medicare supplement only covers the co-pay for the portion covered by Medicare. Beyond the limited Medicare coverage one might receive for nursing home care, individuals are typically required to privately pay or to rely on assistance from Medicaid (MaineCare) if asset eligibility requirements are met. Our office helps families plan for these expenses and can expedite qualifying for MaineCare assistance. Please call 207-783-8500 or email for more information.
Will the State take my house if I need togo to a nursing home?
It depends. If the State (MaineCare) pays for care for a person and that person dies owning a home, in some circumstances, the State can make a claim against the house to recoup the money it spent on that person’s care. It is best to consult a qualified professional about your specific circumstances because there may be steps you can take to avoid this issue.
Can I use estate planning documents that I find online or in an office supply instead of an attorney?
There are many websites and retailers offering “canned” estate planning documents. Buyer beware. What may seem like a cheap and easy solution can ultimately cause more headache and expense in the end. There is usually no guarantee that the documents comply with Maine law, or that they are up-to-date with any recent developments in the law. It is safer, and often cheaper, in the long run to hire an attorney to ensure that your estate plan is in good order and is tailored to your specific circumstances.
How much will legal services cost?
The costs of legal services vary based on the client’s needs. Our office charges for the initial consultation because it is a valuable service. Oftentimes, the consultation is all that is needed to resolve the situation or provide you with enough information to move forward on your own. If you chose to hire the attorney for further work, documents like wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and deeds are typically charged on a flat-fee basis. Attorney and paralegal hourly rates apply to other services like probate estate administration, obtaining guardianship or conservatorship, or handling a MaineCare application process. The firm is usually able to quote a price based on anticipated complexity.
Please call the office and speak to one of our helpful staff members to get a better idea of approximate legal fees for your situation: 207-783-8500
Attorneys, like other professionals who advise on personal financial matters, are required by a new federal law to inform their clients of their policies regarding privacy of client information. Attorneys have been and continue to be bound by professional standards of confidentiality that are even more stringent than those required by general privacy laws. Therefore, we have always protected your right to privacy. If you are a client of Elder Law Office of Kienitz and Pross, P.A. you should know that all information that we receive from you is held in confidence, and is not released to anyone outside the firm, except as authorized by you.
We retain records relating to professional services that we provide so that we are better able to assist you with your professional needs and comply with professional guidelines. In order to guard your nonpublic personal information, we maintain safeguards that comply with our professional standards. Our office keeps paper files for approximately 10 years unless the client requests in writing for us to keep them longer.
Elder Law Links
Below are some links that may be helpful for those interested in elder law issues in Maine and elsewhere. For specific questions about elder law in Maine, please contact our law offices.
- Alzheimer’s Association
- American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
- Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice
- Benefits Checkup from the National Council on the Aging
(A Helpful Guide to Government Benefits)
- Coalition for End of Life Care
- Funeral Consumers Alliance
- Legal Services for the Elderly
- Maine Long Term Care Ombudsman Program
- Medicare Plan Finder
- Maine Pooled Disability Trust
- Medicare Rights Center
- Maine State Bar Association
- National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
- National Council for Aging Care
(Guide on Recognizing Elder Abuse)
- National Elder Law Foundation
- National Institute on Aging
- National Senior Citizens Law Center (NSCLC)
- Planned Giving—Maine Community Foundation
- Reverse Mortgage Consumer Information
- Social Security Administration
- Social Security Handbook – Guide to Social Security Programs
- Veteran’s Aid & Attendance and Housebound
- Veteran’s Benefits
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