The “graying” of Sussex County is not news. The fastest growing county with its (mostly) mild climate, favorable tax base and close proximity to the beach and many major cities, is a popular destination for many recent retirees looking to enjoy their golden years. And with that brings new challenges. As the specialty of “elder law” has grown in the past 20 years or so, lawyers like Robert Morin at practices like the law office of Susan Weidman in Millville and Millsboro, are more in demand than ever.
Working in some estate planning, Morin, of the Washington D.C. metro area, found it necessary to file deeds in Delaware and eventually became acquainted with Weidman, even finding out the two went to the same law school — George Mason in Virginia.
“She asked if I would assist in establishing elder law and estate planning,” explained Morin, which would eliminate the need for people to travel to Georgetown or Dover or Wilmington. Morin is licensed in Maryland, Virginia and D.C., and has joined Weidman and her team as Senior Counsel on a consulting basis. He still maintains his practice in D.C. a few days a week but moved here full-time in 2009. He specializes in elder law, which he describes as so much more than “estate planning.”
“Elder law is expanded estate planning,” he explained. “Traditionally, estate planning was what to do with your assets after you’re dead. But [elder law] deals with lifetime issues — the quality of life in the last decades of life. With the growing elderly population, they are faced with unique and complicated finance, medical and legal issues.”
He spoke of a doctor of his that wrote a book titled, “The Third Third,” about that very time, the “last third” of life that for some can be 30 or 40 plus years after retirement.
He said with traditional estate planning, it is a controlled environment and a “non-crises” atmosphere. Elder law, however, often involves an unforeseen event and the issues that come with it.
“It’s Mom broke her hip and where does she go, and how do we pay for it? All of the issues between Medicare and Medicaid, advanced directives and housing options…”
Morin originally had planned to go to college to become a dentist, but nurturing his interest in government and politics and history, he found his way to Capital Hill and worked for a trade association before starting law school at the age of 34. He stayed on at the trade association after earning his degree and eventually retired from there. He had planned to become a traditional estate planning lawyer in his private practice, but came upon elder law.
“I was in my mid-50s and I gravitated toward working with people my age and older,” he explained of the natural transition into private practice. He added that since lots of “elder law” laws are federally based, his expertise and experience from working in Washington come in handy at the beach.
“He brings 20 years of legal expertise and perspective that we don’t have in the elder law field,” said Meaghan Hudson, of The Law Office of Susan Weidman. “He has a passion for understanding the field of elder law. And elder law and estate planning are a big need in the area. We are very happy, ecstatic you could say.”
Morin added that elder law lawyers are “essentially 24-7 lawyers.
“You have to be able to assist families in crises, you are partially social workers as well as lawyers.
“For many, it’s a frightening prospect,” he added, especially for women, who statistically live longer than men and often have to deal with picking up pieces after a loss. “One doesn’t have life experiences that prepare them for this kind of decision-making. It’s not about education or intelligence, it’s having to understand a whole new area. And it’s still very minimal the number of people that have done any estate planning.”
He added that for many people, they are simply in denial that they are getting older, or will ever get old, so they resist this type of planning, but the last “third” of life is not something to just takes as it comes.
“Planning for the last third of life is equally important as planning for the first two, if not more,” he said. Asked when people should look into elder care including advanced health care directives, disability planning, planning for housing such as assisted living or nursing care, etc., said, “as soon as you get your driving license,” only half-joking.
“It’s difficult to plan at older ages, one needs to think about it long before the need arises.”
Morin can be reached by appointment at the Law Office of Susan Weidman, 307 Atlantic Ave. in Millville at (302) 539-1388.