Elderly Laws: A Guide to Knowing Your Rights (Or the Rights of Senior Loved Ones)

elderly laws

Elderly laws are a set of laws ensuring the protection of the rights of the elderly. These considerations are critical. After all, today’s life expectancy has increased significantly.

To the point where the elderly make up a large portion of the American population.

In the US, 16.5% percent of the population is elderly (over the age of 65), the life expectancy of the elderly is an average of 19.6 years, and 22% of the elderly are considered to have poor health. Also worth mentioning is that the highest medical expenses of a person’s life occur when they become elderly.

These stats help illustrate how the elderly have special needs that must be taken care of to make sure their wellbeing can be guaranteed throughout the final stages of their life.

A brief history of elderly laws

The concept of elder law started in 1965 when president Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Older Americans Act into law. At this point, it became clear the population’s longer lifespan would require that the elderly have special attention to cover their health care needs.

The Older Americans Act provided funding for various programs that would focus on making sure older citizens would have programs that would look after their nutrition, disease prevention, elder rights, and caregiver support.

Additional legislation (such as the ADA) has been passed through the years to make sure the legal framework is available for the protection and best interest of the elderly, and many states have passed laws that complement the federal legislation.

Protection against abuse

According to the data from the department of justice, at least 10% of all elderly Americans will suffer abuse at some point. This sad reality highlights how many of the elderly are at increased risk of falling victim to a variety of crimes as they age.

To dissuade abusive caretakers and other criminals who target the elderly, there have been several laws passed to this end.

Laws to prevent Elder Abuse

Preventing elder abuse is a big challenge. One of the main reasons why prevention is so difficult is due to the elderly having very low rates of reporting the different types of abuse they are subject to.

According to the data collected by the WHO, the most prevalent type of abuse towards the elderly is neglect. However financial exploitation and other types of physical abuse are also common. To help prevent this type of occurrence from happening, there have been several laws passed.

Elder Justice act

This law was passed to create the legal framework needed to fund programs that investigate and prosecute criminals guilty of elderly abuse.

The Elder Justice Act was signed into law in 2010 and has since provided funding to programs that improve the amount of legal action taken to favor the elderly.

Older Americans Act

The older Americans act has been active since 1965. It has provided the funding necessary to create programs that have the objective of enabling older Americans to sustain an independent and healthy life.

The programs that it funds cover a wide range of needs. These needs include meal security, job training, caregiver support, transportation, and many more protective services.

Areas of Elder Law

Elder law practice is the field that specializes in making sure that it focuses on the needs of the elderly and their families. It covers a wide range of needs ranging from planning what type of care will be given to the elderly to what will happen when the elderly pass away.

Many law firms have decided to specialize in elderly law due to the potential complexities and specific requirements needed to fulfill the needs of the elderly.

Disability and Long term care

Disability and long-term care planning are aspects of elderly law where your legal counsel assists elderly individuals in long-term care planning.

This includes:

  • The handling of medical expenses
  • Choosing a nursing home
  • Medicaid,
  • Allowed and Disallowed Procedure(s) to extend the life of the individual

An example is clearly stating that a respirator should not be used. Or that resuscitation techniques should not be attempted if the treatment outlook isn’t favorable.

Another aspect is policing insurance providers to make sure that they provide the coverage they committed to. This is critical since it’s during this period of a person’s life where they will spend the most on medical expenses, so making sure all the financial considerations are covered is paramount.


Also known as conservatorship. Guardianship is the area of elderly law that centers around who will be the legal guardian of the elderly should they become unable to take care of themselves. The result of guardianship results from things like an accident. Or medical conditions that impair them cognitively, such as a stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, or dementia.

In most cases, a close family member will serve as a guardian. But there are many benefits to establishing a power of attorney to that person before a scenario where the elderly becomes incapacitated occurs. This way the guardian can handle all business and legal affairs in a much easier manner.

Important Note: If a close family member or person isn’t a legal guardian, a court will appoint a state or local government agency to take care of these duties.

Estate Planning

This is one of the most common areas of elderly law that people require. Estate planning is concerned with the preparation and administration of a will to follow the elderly’s instructions on what to do with their belongings.

Another aspect of estate planning is the legal counsel that will help the elderly client and their family decide on what the best inheritance strategy is for their needs based on the different tax implications of the process.

One of these strategies would be setting up a trust. A trust has several tax advantages, including additional asset protection. A few scenarios where a trust protects the trustee’s assets are in cases of:

  • a divorce,
  • From creditors in case they come across a financial hardship
  • A trust also specifies who receives any unused funds in case the trustee passes away

Retirement Planning

The average life expectancy for adults over the age of 60 is 19.6 years. But many people live many years beyond their 80’s. For this reason, the elderly must have careful financial planning that will cover them throughout this period of their life.

It is important to note that people incur the most medical expenses during their retirement years. For this reason, relying on someone with adequate retirement planning expertise covers all of the bases. This means organizing your assets and having a sound tax strategy.

What strategy you choose will depend on your needs and the value of your assets. As an example, you consider moving to a more tax-friendly state or converting your IRA to a Roth-IRA. (Both of which often give a significant tax break.)

In conclusion

Elder law is a necessary but complex set of considerations for every adult at or approaching the age of 65. The needs of older adults are varied and every situation will be different. For example, a married elderly person, with chronic health problems, considering relocating for tax reasons. So many different needs exist. There is no one size fits all practices.

Perhaps the only universal consideration is — the sooner you start working with an elderly law expert, the better. You’ll have more time and options. Then, time for ensuring all your needs and wishes. Not to mention the peace of mind.