By: Gerard J. Garno, esq.
The roots of Heritage Elder Law go way back to my childhood. I had taken up classical guitar and my peers were not the best audience (needless to say, they were more interested in rock and roll). Thus, I found a ready ear with the people in nursing homes. I would take my guitar there and play music for them on a regular basis throughout my teen years. I was always struck by the joy they found in my visits and in the special attention.
After college, and then law school, I started serving senior clients in the area of estate planning. It seemed to me a natural area of practice as I had grown to know and appreciate seniors since my youth. It was always a pleasure to be able to help them achieve their estate planning goals by avoiding probate and estate taxes. However, I soon began to realize that the main source of risk for the elderly was not probate, not estate taxes—it was nursing home costs.
One of my first elder law clients was an elderly mother who was struggling with dementia. The daughter came to me for help. The mother had been wandering out into the neighborhood, talking to strangers and offering to write a check for those she did not know. We were able to solve the problem by getting a guardianship and conservatorship for the daughter and then putting the assets into a special trust.
Soon I found that there were numerous such cases. In addition, cases involving spouses were just as common. For example, a wife came to me when her husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and needed long-term care. She was distraught—“What can I keep? Will I lose my home? Can I keep my IRA?” I told her I would have to research the issues. I discovered that there were special laws for the protection of spouses in such a crisis—and thereafter was able to get the client’s husband qualified for Medicaid while protecting everything they had. At that point the wife was able relax and focus on visiting her husband while he received the outstanding care he needed in a nursing home.
Cases such as these were so numerous and the value provided to such clients so great that I found myself drawn toward a special emphasis on elder law. Serving seniors, those with disabilities, and those who love them is now my top priority. That priority led to the establishment of a new law firm, Heritage Elder Law & Planning, PLC, which maintains a regional presence in the greater Detroit and thumb areas of Michigan.
Millions of Americans now are facing the same issues as the very first clients I served. They have worked hard, saved for retirement and planned to live out the rest of their lives in peace. Little did they know that there, lurking in the shadows, was a long-term illness, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, ready to appear like a thief and steal many hopes and dreams.
The potential loss of everything a person has in this life can be as frightening as being accosted by a robber. It is a threatening experience that leaves families grappling with the tremendous emotional, physical and financial costs as well as the stresses of a long-term illness. Many, especially many spouses, feel helpless and alone.
At Heritage Elder Law, we are the defenders of those faced with the loss of a loved one due to long-term illness or death. We work to extend and preserve each family’s estate and care potential by skillful knowledge and application of all legal options. We discover whatever public benefits are available and coordinate those with the person’s estate plan. We protect income and assets for spouses and children while providing solutions to the high cost of care for their loved ones.
The goal of Heritage Elder Law is to relieve stress and provide peace of mind and soul for the ones struggling with the long-term illness and their families.
As we look toward the coming decades, we know that we have the blessing of technology and medicine to help us live longer than people ever did before. Unfortunately, with that longevity come problems unique to the elderly. Heritage Elder Law is there to provide estate planning, disability, Medicaid assistance and legal options for lasting solutions. It is our mission to do so with a wealth of expertise and compassion.
That is our mission and that is the story of Heritage Elder Law & Planning, PLC.