James and I are packing our bags and heading off to Las Vegas today! No, it's not to feed a gambling addiction ... running a small business today is enough risk-taking for me, thank you! We are heading off to the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys' (NAELA) Elder Law & Special Needs Annual Conference.
Integrity Marketing is a big supporter of NAELA, which we observe is one of the finest supportive organizations in the legal field. Their annual meeting provides Elder and Special Needs Law professionals an unparalleled opportunity to learn, network, and engage with leaders within the field. The focus this year is on current legislation, changes in tax code, and updates in health care reform and case law.
Many of our clients are NAELA members. When I meet with a new client, I always ask them about elder law -- and the answers I get back are quite varied. It seems "elder law" means something slightly different to nearly everyone. Some see "elder law" as primarily crisis Medicaid planning. Others see it with almost a social-work mentality -- helping families choose care providers, sift through housing options, obtain health care powers and guardianship if necessary.
I spoke to a new client a few weeks ago, though, who provided the answer that I liked best. She said, "I don't consider Elder Law and Estate Planning distinct areas." She went on to explain how, in her view, comprehensive estate planning will encompass elder law and Medicaid planning ... and elder law cannot be practiced properly without an eye toward estate planning. I liked that, and repeated it to another new client who said he did not "do Elder Law."
He said his main practice focus was traditional estate planning -- wills and trusts. But he said his "ideal client" is typically age 55 to 60, and often comes to him initially because of issues relating to their aging parents. "What prompts them to call me is usually something that has happened with their parents. They need to protect a family farm or business interest from Dad's nursing home expenses."
So, I said, you do practice Elder Law. In fact, it's a big part of your marketing and practice development, because it's issues of elder law that are motivating new clients to call.
He just had never looked at it from that perspective.
As our population ages, issues of elder law are pervasive. They affect each of us in our own lives, and are a necessary component of any responsible estate planning.
If you have not yet, I encourage you to look into joining NAELA. It's a great organization, you can learn a lot -- and of course, you'll get out of it only as much as you put it into it. So, don't just join. Get involved. Chances are you are practicing "elder law" on some level -- NAELA can help you do it better!