Elder Law / Special Needs

In planning for the present and the future, the attorneys at McCandlish Lillard take the time to get to know clients in order to provide individuals and families with candid expertise, careful attention, and compassion to understand and address legal issues in the areas of Elder Law and Special Needs Planning.


Elder Law encompasses several areas of the law that affect seniors, and individuals with disabilities and special needs. This includes estate planning, life care planning, Medicaid planning, long-term care planning, special needs planning, trusts to implement those, and guardianships and conservatorships.

McCandlish Lillard lawyers can help you plan ahead:

  • Questions or concerns about long-term medical care
  • Guidance on long-term care insurance coverage and gaps
  • Legal protection to safeguard assets
  • Explanation of related tax implications – both federal and state
  • Discussion of eligibility for government benefits including Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) and Veteran’s Administration benefits
  • Strategize, and establishment and administration of, estates and trusts
  • Assistance with guardianship and/or conservatorship
  • Special Needs Planning
  • Preparation of Healthcare Powers of Attorney (a.k.a. Advanced Medical Directives), Powers of Attorney, Wills & Trusts, including Special Needs Trusts


Elder abuse, as defined by the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA), refers to any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult.  Elder abuse can occur in the form of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; exploitation; neglect; or abandonment.

The rights of the elderly and disabled are protected by law. McCandlish Lillard lawyers understand the legal complexities as well as the emotions faced by families dealing with suspected elder abuse situations. If you suspect that your loved one is the victim of elder abuse or neglect, seek immediate legal help.

For more information about McCandlish Lillard’s Elder Law Practice, or to request an initial consultation about your case, we invite you to review the profiles of our attorneys who practice in this area of law and to contact them directly.


Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides medical assistance to low-income individuals, including those who are 65 or older, disabled, or blind. It should not be confused with Medicare, which is the government funded insurance that you are eligible for once you are 65 or older or for certain people with disabilities.

Currently the single largest payer of nursing home bills in America, Medicaid serves as the option of last resort for people who have no other way to finance their long-term care. Medicaid eligibility rules vary from state to state, and federal minimum standards and guidelines must be observed.

For many seniors and their families, their long-term care plan has been to apply for Medicaid benefits.  In the past, proving Medicaid eligibility with respect to long-term care was as easy as reviewing one’s bank statements.  However, there has been a steady drift towards more complex and restrictive rules, and we likely have not seen the worst of it yet. These changes have resulted in complex eligibility requirements for those in need of Medicaid benefits.

McCandlish Lillard lawyers can help you navigate the complex issues, analyses, planning, and applications for Medicaid and/or other public benefits programs. For more information about McCandlish Lillard’s Elder Law Practice, or to request an initial consultation, we invite you to review the profiles of our attorneys who practice in this area of law and to contact them directly.


If you currently provide care for a child or loved one with special needs (such as mental, emotional, or physical disabilities) special needs planning can ensure a high quality level of care when you die or are no longer able to provide the care.


A properly drafted Special Needs Trust or Supplemental Needs Trust provides funding for a variety of life-enhancing expenditures without compromising your loved one’s eligibility for certain government benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, or Veteran’s Administration benefits.

If the Special Needs Trust is established by you or someone other than the disabled person and the disabled person does not have the legal right to demand Trust assets, the Trust is not considered a ‘countable resource’ for purposes of government benefits. Therefore, the Special Needs Trust beneficiary can continue to receive public benefits even though he or she is a Trust beneficiary.


The Trust will give the trustee the discretion to make distributions to the beneficiary to enhance his or her life without reducing certain public benefits.  Furthermore, Trust assets are available if the beneficiary no longer qualifies for governmental assistance or that assistance is no longer available.

Money from the Trust can be used to pay for supplemental and extra care, over and above any benefits that the person receives – now or in the future:

  • Annual check-ups at an independent medical facility.
  • Purchase of materials for a hobby or recreation activity
  • Supplemental education and tutoring
  • Out-of-pocket medical and dental expenses
  • Transportation (including purchase of a vehicle)
  • Purchase of goods and services that add pleasure and quality to life: computers, smartphones, videos, furniture, or electronics
  • Funds for trips or vacations
  • Maintenance of vehicles
  • Attendance at religious services
  • Personal care attendant or escort
  • Athletic training or competitions
  • Special dietary needs
  • Funds for entertainment such as movies, shows or ballgames


Part of a coordinated estate plan, Special Needs Trusts can be highly personalized documents. Through the language in the document, or in a Letter of Intent (sometimes called a Memorandum of Intent), you may leave specific instructions as to the care of your loved one: his/her likes and dislikes, special diet, important medical therapies, favorite activities, and so forth.