Elder law is a legal term that describes the legal practice area that places an emphasis on issues that affect the growing aging population.
There are three major categories to elder law:
- Estate planning and administration;
- Medicaid, disability, and long-term care issues; and
- Guardianship, conservatorship, and fiduciary administration.
Other issues include elder abuse, neglect, and fraud; consumer protection; and discrimination.
History of Elder Law
Perhaps the most important piece of legislation surrounding elder law is the Older Americans Act (OAA), which was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 14, 1965.
Older Americans Act (OAA):
To provide assistance in the development of new or improved programs to help older persons through grants to the States for community planning and services and for training, through research, development, or training project grants, and to establish within the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare an operating agency to be designated as the ‘‘Administration on Aging’’.
- Created the National Aging Network
o Administration on Aging (Federal)
o State Unites on Aging (State)
o Area Agencies on Aging (Local)
- The network provides funding for nutrition and supportive home and community-based services, disease prevention services, health promotion services, elder rights programs, the National Family Caregiver Support Program, and the Native American Caregiver Support Program
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits employment discrimination against anyone at least 40 years of age in the United States. Elders fall under the scope and protection of the ADEA.
While including a broad ban against age discrimination, the ADEA specifically prohibits:
- Discrimination in hiring, promotions, wages, termination, and layoffs.
- Statements of age preference and limitations in job notices and advertisements.
- Denying older employees’ benefits.
o An employer may reduce benefits based on age only if the cost of providing the reduced benefits to older workers is the same as the cost of providing full benefits to younger workers.
- Prohibition of mandatory retirement in most sectors.
o Permitted for executives over age 65 in high policy-making positions that are entitled to a pension over a minimum yearly amount.
- Phase elimination of mandatory retirement for tenured workers.
Finding Help for Elder Law
Elder law can be a complex topic because many of us don’t pay attention to it until we’re older. If you or someone that you know is in need of counseling because of an elder law issue, you should not hesitate to contact an attorney that has experience in the practice of elder law. Sadly, up to 5 million older Americans are abused every year, and the annual loss by victims of financial abuse is estimated to be at least $2.6 billion. Contact a lawyer to get the help that you need.