It was based largely upon this experience that I chose a career in elder law. I wanted to assist families in these decisions, as well as the myriad of the issues facing them. These decisions include getting a proper estate plan in place for the parent, such as financial powers of attorney, a health care directive, and a will or a trust. The family must also make decisions about how to manage the parent’s finances, to ensure sufficient income exists to cover the parent’s monthly costs, or to ensure that the parent becomes eligible for Medical Assistance or other government benefits at the most appropriate time. Alternatively, the family must determine whether long-term care insurance is an available option and, if so, whether it is cost-effective for their parent. If the parent has become incapacitated and does not have a power of attorney or health care directive in place, the family must have a Conservator or Guardian appointed for the parent, and must then administer that Conservatorship or Guardianship for the rest of their parent’s life.
These are serious issues and must be addressed with both compassion and competence. I believe that these requirements are a major reason so many women attorneys choose to practice in the areas of estate planning and elder law. In my own firm, for example, eighty percent of the Elder Law Department attorneys are women. I do not believe this is coincidental.
Women today are far less likely to be the homemakers of yesteryear. Two-income families are the norm, yet the wife and mother still bears a disproportionate share of the caregiver role for children, and now for elderly parents and other family members. To have a woman as the family’s attorney during this complicated process adds an invaluable measure of empathy in addition to legal assistance. In fact, many times it is the empathy that is more important to the family than the legal advice.
Elder law is an incredibly rewarding career, but it is also one which forces an attorney into dealing with sensitive mental capacity issues, dysfunctional family situations, financial crises and highly emotional decision. In short, it is one that should not be entered into lightly.
Kris Maser is a shareholder in the law firm of Maser Amundson, P.A. where she manages the firm’s Elder Law Department. Her practice is dedicated to the needs and interests of the elderly and families of the elderly.