Many older persons do not recognize that some of their problems are legal in nature; as a result they do not seek help. If they are lucky, they talk to someone who is able to identify the nature of the problem and knows where to turn for assistance; if they are not so lucky, the problem can become a crisis. Poor elderly persons are probably most vulnerable since they are more dependent, and less likely to have access to information and assistance, and may be more timid about approaching a public agency.
What Are the Legal Needs of the Elderly?
Some of the legal problems facing elderly citizens are common to all but there are other problems that stem from an older person’s age and status in society. Such age-related legal problems include private pensions, wills and probate (to a greater extent than found in the general population), guardianship and conservatorship, surrogate decision-making mechanisms (durable power of attorney, trusts, living wills) and age discrimination. There is also another set of legal problems older persons face – these concern government benefits. Upon retirement. most elderly enter into a radically different relationship with the government and its administrative bureaucracy.