Elder Law – How to Protect Your Aging Loved Ones

The field of “elder law” covers a multitude of situations, all of which aim to address the issues that one encounters toward the end of one’s life in an effort to increase the quality of life for senior citizens. “Elder Law” is not actual field of law but rather a nickname given to these set of circumstances and the common legal scenarios facing senior citizens. This includes helping them and their families secure or keep their government benefits, advising them on financial matters, helping them with access to safe housing and adequate healthcare, supporting them in cases of adult guardianship, protecting them from harm, and helping them to plan for their future and the disposition of their property after death.

Often, families do not understand the financial position of their aging loved ones, and failing to put in place appropriate plans for later life care can be financially and emotionally crippling.

There are many ways in which law firms with experience in elder law and family law in Albuquerque can help the elderly and their families achieve peace of mind and financial stability. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

Power of Attorney

A Power of attorney allows individuals to nominate someone to act on their behalf in the event that they are disabled, incapacitated or otherwise unable to make appropriate decisions related to their healthcare, financial or business decisions. This is often the most simple way to ensure an individual is provided for in old age but has limitations and must be entered into while the individual still has the “capacity” to do so. For instance, if a senior citizen is demonstrating symptoms of dementia, it will likely be too late to execute a Power of Attorney.

Powers of Attorney can cover a number of specific circumstances, such as healthcare, medical decisions, financial decisions, and so forth. They may specify the circumstances in which their nominated person may act on their behalf and set particular provisions to ensure that they will be protected in the event that they are no longer able to make appropriate decisions without necessarily forfeiting the right to make these decisions themselves while they are fit and able to do so.

Estate Planning

Estate planning is the process in which people identify all of their assets and interests and determine how they would be divided in the event of their death. This process is all about transparency and honesty and allows the individual to leave a legacy to their loved ones.

Estate planning can be a simple process but often requires thorough analysis to ensure that the proposals made by the client will deliver the desired result. Attorneys are instrumental in this process by drafting documents such as trusts and wills, assisting with charitable donations, and helping their clients to plan for any special needs, asset protection requirements or incapacity.

Support Accessing Medicaid

Some attorneys specialize in helping certain senior citizens be eligible to claim Medicaid [1] or maximize their Medicaid claims. Medicaid provides senior citizens with access to long-term healthcare without the need to forfeit the income and assets that they have worked hard to acquire. Medicaid can prevent elderly citizens from losing their homes when they reach a point in their lives when they need additional health care and provide financial certainty for their families who would otherwise need to fund their care. We do not practice this area of law at the Law Office of Dorene A. Kuffer, P.C., but we encounter and can assist with basic medicaid issues.

Grandparent Visitation

The relationship between a grandparent and their grandchild is special and should be preserved, but grandparents often suffer when their child gets divorced or a custody decision impacts their ability to see their grandchildren. Grandparent Visitation is very fact-specific as the law views the parents’ rights to their children as superior to that of grandparents wanting to see their grandchildren, however the law in New Mexico does provide some notable exceptions that allow grandparents in certain circumstances to obtain visitation or custody of their grandchildren.

Adult Guardianship

If an elderly person’s declining health means that they are unable to care for themselves, the court may deem it appropriate to assign them a guardian or conservator. This process [2] can be complex. Guardianship cases take into account the specific circumstances surrounding the individual and uses three independent professionals to determine whether the individual needs a guardian or conservator. A guardian provides decision-making for care of the incapacitated individual where a conservator controls the finances of that individual. Typically, one or two people are appointed as both guardians and conservators at once.


Attorneys can help families navigate the unfamiliar terrain of probate after the death of an elderly relative, ensuring that their wishes are carried out and their assets are distributed accordingly. This process can be very emotional, so the support of an impartial professional can ensure that family relationships are preserved and a good outcome is achieved.

Transfer on Death Deed

A Transfer on Death Deed [3] allows a senior citizen to transfer property to another individual after their death without the need to go through probate or for them to pay capital gains tax. Family law attorneys can advise on the legality and practicality of writing a Transfer on Death Deed rather than including such property in a last will and testament based on an individual’s specific circumstances.

In conclusion, there are many issues that can affect the elderly and their families. At the Law Office of Dorene A. Kuffer, we are well versed in elder law and stand ready to support you and your family to achieve the best possible outcome for your aging loved one.


[1] https://www.medicaid.gov/
[2] https://adultguardianship.nmcourts.gov/about/process/
[3] https://www.sbnm.org/Portals/NMBAR/forPublic/LREP/SrSuppTransferOnDeathDeed%202017.pdf?ver=J9MT6qmnRA5VBL3ct4yLCA%3D%3D#:~:text=This%20deed%20allows%20the%20owner,property%20until%20the%20owner%20dies.