What issues are particularly common for elderly married couples to encounter?

I think the failure to properly plan in advance and failure to seek proper assistance are the two most common issues I see my clients encounter. Many clients automatically assume that their spouse of their children can do anything on their behalf, so they do not prepare any estate planning documents. Then a substantial life event occurs and they do not have the proper legal paperwork to address the situation.

Second, clients often try to either do their own legal documents or seek advice from someone who is not trained in this area. I often tell my clients: “I am not a plumber, so when I have a leak, I call a plumber to fix it correctly. I would rather pay someone to do it correctly than have a problem later on.” This is the same for legal work. You may be able to print forms off the internet more cheaply than having an attorney prepare them, but you do not know what you may be missing. You may have a correctly executed document, but you will still have no planning for that document – the most important part.

The same can be true if you do not use an attorney who is skilled in this area. If you go to a general practice attorney to ask questions about Medicaid or advanced estate planning, they will not be able to answer the questions correctly. This can cause substantial financial losses, simply because clients did not seek proper assistance. Many lawyers will fail to consider Medicaid issues or render opinions based on the same false assumptions that clients have regarding these issues. Some law offices even allow legal assistants who do not attend any formal legal training or continuing legal education to provide clients with advice or to actually preform work on their behalf. I have seen situations where clients have lost a significant amount of money and did not even know they had other options.