Changes in Washington Practice Report (#9) / 2014 trends in Washington elder law

January 8, 2014

Washington State LawThis is installment #8 in a continuing series of Changes in Washington Practice Reports.

Moving into 2014, there are several major trends that appear likely to affect Washington Elder Law during the next year.

Three major topics are associated with the financial stress being experienced by clients; more issues related to health care and long-term care; and challenges to client intent.

Financial stress continues for many individual clients. During pre-retirement, the ability of clients to prepare for later retirement is often being impaired by everyday financial pressures.

Both planning options—and strategies for the future—are subject to being shaped by present financial stresses.

At the same time, financial stresses often affect problem-solving options and strategies for clients already into the retirement periods of their lives. Inadequate savings and income help shape the retirement options that are available.

Attorneys will need to develop client action plans that can deal with these situations.

An immediate need for access to health care or long-term care can also drive the requests for help received from many clients.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is improving options for many clients, enabling them to shop for subsidized insurance through the new Washington Exchange (at www.wahealthplanfinder.org) or qualify for the expanded Washington State Medicaid program.

However, there can be many barriers left to obtaining needed health care (because of large insurance deductibles, or because desired providers are not available, or provider protocols do not include the desired treatment) or qualifying for assistance for Medicaid assistance for long-term care (which has not yet been affected by the ACA).

Because of financial pressures, Medicaid coverage of long-term care is likely to become subject to more restrictions.

Attorneys also need to develop plans that can deal with such trends.

Thirdly, attorneys face the difficulty of handling challenges to client intent. Evolving statutes, regulations, court rules, and practice norms may all result in nonrecognition of client intent or in disregard of intent, depending on the application.

Attorneys will have to be on guard to protect client wishes, as efforts to streamline case resolution may come into conflict with client preferences.

A new concept of Elder Law is likely to be needed.

All attorneys who represent individuals are likely to encounter problems that include elements of Elder Law, as the breadth of the field expands.

At the same time, many attorneys are likely to experience the need for more detailed Elder Law depth of analysis in selected areas, to resolve problems related to specific client issues.

As Elder Law expands in breadth and depth, attorneys will often choose their own unique practice characteristics. They will often need a broad general familiarity with Elder Law—and selected areas of in-depth knowledge of targeted Elder Law issues.

Professional networking among attorneys will need to accommodate a range of differing emphases on Elder Law issues.

For additional information regarding the extracts, summaries and other legal resource materials to be found in Methods of Practice, refer to volumes 1 to 1C of Washington Practice, by Cheryl Mitchell and Ferd Mitchell of Mitchell Law Office.