Elder Law

Elder Law

The elder law attorneys at Sullivan & Sullivan, P.C. offer a wide range of legal services to assist older and disabled people. We offer advice to older people and their families on matters involving healthcare, long-term care planning, wealth transfer and estate planning, real estate, and disability planning. An elder law attorney can create a plan to preserve your assets while paying for nursing home care, and address concerns about pensions, Medicare, and Medicaid.

If you and your family need assistance planning for long-term healthcare, accessing benefits, or planning for end-of-life care, Sullivan & Sullivan can help by starting this sometimes-difficult conversation, and walking you through the process.

Our elder law practice is built on the foundational ideals of listening, providing legal advice in plain English, and working to make your plans a reality.

What Is Elder Law?

Elder law focuses on planning and preparing for situations that will arise as we grow older and possibly become disabled or incapacitated. Our elder law services include:

  • Medicaid planning
  • Asset protection
  • Medicaid applications
  • Veterans Asset Protection Trusts
  • Real estate transfers
  • How to avoid Guardianship proceedings
  • How to avoid probate
  • Estate planning including Healthcare Power of Attorney, Living Wills, and Durable Financial Power of Attorney

Jim Sullivan is a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) and the first and one of only a few to be certified in the state. He is also a member of Elder Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA).

Planning for Long-term Care

Long-term care planning strategies address how you will pay for professional in-home care or an extended stay in a long-term care facility. A long-term care plan provides clarity on a wide range of issues that include eligibility for Medicaid, Medicare, and estate planning to maximize your resources in the event that you require long-term care.

Medicaid Asset Protection

Qualifying and applying for Medicaid is a time-consuming and detailed process. Unnecessary delays can result in significant costs. Other times, an older person may lose Medicaid eligibility because of poor estate planning and lack of knowledge about the consequences of making gifts.

A knowledgeable and experienced elder law attorney can help your family preserve a loved one’s eligibility for Medicaid through sound estate planning. To preserve Medicaid eligibility while protecting and conserving assets are needed for long-term care, your attorney may recommend the use of a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust (MAPT).

Veterans Planning and Veteran’s Asset Protection

Disabled veterans qualify for the same types of financial assistance as the general public, but may be eligible for additional benefits through the Veterans Administration. A veteran or spouse of a veteran may qualify for approximately $1,130 (individual) or $2,085 (couple) per month to make up the difference for unreimbursed medical expenses associated with activities of daily living.

A Veterans Asset Protection Trust may be a useful estate planning tool that can protect assets while allowing a veteran to qualify for VA assistance programs.

Guardianship Applications

We advise clients on how to avoid guardianship proceedings through the use of advance directives. In those situations where we have not had the opportunity to put in place those tools, and someone is unable to handle their day-to-day affairs, we advise families on navigating the process whereby the court can appoint a Guardian to be responsible for the person’s financial, medical, or personal matters. But courts do not easily grant guardianships. By granting a guardianship, the court gives the Guardian significant control over the incapacitated person or “Ward.” To successfully petition for a guardianship, you should work with an experienced guardianship attorney at Sullivan & Sullivan who will guide you through the application process and advise you on what you can and cannot do as a guardian.

Sullivan & Sullivan: Protect What Matters Most

As people age, they fear a loss of independence, declining health, no longer being able to live at home, and running out of money. An experienced elder law attorney can ease these concerns by creating a holistic estate plan that proactively addresses end of life planning, the cost of long-term care, and estate planning.

At Sullivan & Sullivan, we help people preserve what they have worked their entire lives for and leave a legacy for the next generation. Our attorneys will carefully listen, explain your options, and compassionately work to create a plan that meets your family’s goals.

From our offices in North Kingstown, we have been proudly serving people throughout Rhode Island since 1955.

Meet our team, learn what to expect when you work with us, and read testimonials from other people we’ve helped. Then contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your needs and how we can help.

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Frequently Asked Questions

When should I sign a Will?

Many people put off talking to an estate planning lawyer until they are in their later years, but even young people, and certainly young families, can benefit from the tools used in estate planning.

When is it critical to review your estate plan, and why?

Just like other important life tasks, your estate plan deserves your time and attention. It's important that you work with us to review your estate plan at least every few years. A meeting within a fixed period isn't the only time you need to consider your estate plan. The occurrence of special life events may mean it is time to pick up the phone and call us.

If you experience any of these significant life events, get in touch with us, and we'll make sure you are up to date.


Have you recently gotten married? Congratulations! Marriage means new ways of sharing and managing finances and assets. It also means any existing will is revoked by marriage under Rhode Island law. As a result, this is an important time to revisit your estate plan. With this life change, you'll need to contact us to make any changes to your beneficiary designations, update your will/trust, and update your powers of attorney. This is especially important if this is a second marriage and/or there are children from a previous relationship involved. Proper estate planning is the only way to ensure that you are protecting your loved ones the way you want.

New Job

A new job presents an exciting new set of challenges and opportunities to explore. It also brings very real financial changes. You may be receiving new benefits that require new beneficiary designations on your estate plan. When you are filling out these new forms, it is important that the beneficiaries are named appropriately so your estate plan will work as designed. In addition, you'll need to make sure your estate plan reflects the change to your financial status, whether that's a pay increase or a pay cut.

Loss of a Job

Similarly, leaving employment brings big changes to your financial situation and to your estate plan. It's important to update your plan to reflect the loss of employer-provided benefits such as life insurance, as well as the change in financial status.


Retirement brings lifestyle changes, more time for loved ones, and important financial developments. We can help you change your plan to reflect that you've stopped earning income and have entered the phase where you will be beginning to use your retirement account. Also, with this new-found freedom, you may find yourself traveling more, making documents such as a Financial Power of Attorney and Health Care Power of Attorney more crucial.


If you have moved across state lines, you'll need to consult with a local estate planning attorney to make sure that the provisions in your estate planning document are still applicable in your new state. A new home is a new asset, and it is important that this asset is titled appropriately to carry out your overall estate plan.


Divorce is, of course, a difficult time. But it is critical to look out for your financial health and future if it occurs. You should make any needed updates to the beneficiaries on your estate plan and ensure your beneficiary designations on any life insurance or retirement accounts are changed so that your ex-spouse does not end up with your assets upon your passing.


There is so much to take care of after the loss of a loved one. Take some time, but don't forget that your estate plan will need to be updated to reflect the change that has taken place. You may need to remove the deceased loved one as a beneficiary from any will, trust, life insurance policy, or retirement account and determine what will now happen to that share. It is also important to verify that your deceased loved one was not appointed as a fiduciary, or if so, to make the necessary adjustments to your documents.

Received Inheritance

The death of a loved one not only brings a loss but may result in an inheritance. An inheritance can mean property, money, real estate, and more. An increase in assets may necessitate a change in your estate planning strategy. Also, depending on the form of the inheritance you've received, there may be additional asset management or asset protection concerns that your estate planner will need to address with you.

Birth or Adoption

Welcoming a new child to the family is an unforgettable time. You may feel inspired to look toward the future, and you should. This is a great time to plan to provide for your new family member's future. Due to the new arrival's young age, it is important to consider how you would like to provide for the child and who is going to be in charge of handling the assets while he or she is a minor.

Sullivan & Sullivan Would Be Honored to Help

Whatever life brings you, the attorneys at Sullivan & Sullivan are here to help you weather the storms and celebrate the milestones. We’d be honored to help you ensure your estate plan is up to date to reflect these life changes. Give us a call today!

When a person dies is it necessary to deal with the probate court in Rhode Island?

The Rhode Island Probate Court has jurisdiction over assets of a decedent if those assets are in the decedent’s name alone, there are no surviving joint owners, and there are no beneficiary designations that control the disposition of the assets. If an asset such as a bank account is owned as joint tenants with the right of survivorship, the account will pass to the surviving joint owner without Probate Court involvement. Similarly, tax-deferred assets such as an IRA or 401(k) will pass to the surviving designated beneficiary. Investment accounts can also name a “Transfer on Death” or “Payable on Death” beneficiary.

When there is no surviving joint owner or a beneficiary designation, then the Probate Court will determine the disposition of the decedent’s assets. If a decedent has a valid Will, the assets will be distributed in accordance with the terms of the Will. If a decedent had no Will, the laws of intestacy govern the disposition of the assets. In other words, the State of Rhode Island will supply the decedent with a Will by default.

In Rhode Island, the probate court is a municipal court, meaning that each of the 39 cities and towns has their own court. To initiate the probate process, a petition must be filed in the city or town where the decedent resided. The petition names the decedent and the heirs of the decedent. If the decedent died with a Will, the beneficiaries under the Will are also included in the petition. All those individuals and organizations named in the petition must receive notice in advance describing the hearing date when the probate court will review the petition.

The petition requests that the probate court appoint either the executor named under the Will or an administrator for an intestate estate (decedent died without a Will). A common misconception is that the executor listed in the Will can act because the Will names them. That is not the case. The Will essentially nominates the executor, but it is up to the probate court to determine whether the will is valid and appoint the executor.

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