Omaha ElderCare Resource Handbook:
Legal Issues

Advance Medical Directives

Advance Medical Directives are written guidelines directing future care in the case an individual cannot make or communicate a medical decision.  The primary emphasis is usually on end of life care.  The most common types of advance directives are Living Wills & Powers of Attorney but others have become more prominent in recent years.  In Nebraska and Iowa, you must fill out a Living Will and a Healthcare Power of Attorney for a complete Advance Directive.

Living Will
A Living Will is a legal document that indicates the individual’s wishes regarding end of life decisions, i.e. CPR, ventilators and feeding tubes.  They can be specific or more general and only become active after the individual has been determined to be unable to make or communicate a medical decision.  A Living Will supplements the Healthcare Power of Attorney by providing a means to understand and honor your personal wishes.

Five Wishes 
Five Wishes is a Living Will document that lets your family and doctor know your healthcare decisions and wishes and that meets legal requirements in Nebraska and Iowa.  The “Five Wishes” include:  (1) the person you would like to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, (2) the kind of medical treatment you would want, (3) how comfortable you want to be, (4) how you want people to treat you and (5) what you want your loved ones to know.  You can call 1-888-594-7437 for information or an online version can be found at

Code/No Code – Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order
Code/No Code is a medical order that states whether an individual wishes attempts to be made to restart his or her heart and lungs in the event that they stop working.  It is also known as a DNR Order.  Hospitals and care facilities often ask terminally ill patients or their agent to write a Code/No Code order for their medical record.

Powers of Attorney

Powers of Attorney (POAs) are legal documents that appoint trusted persons to assist with medical or financial management on an individual’s behalf.  If a Power of Attorney is durable, it will continue to be in effect after the individual is deemed incapable of making decisions on their own.  It does still allow the individual to make decisions as long as they are capable.  If a Power of Attorney is springing, it becomes effective upon the individual’s incapacity.

Healthcare Power of Attorney
A Healthcare Power of Attorney (HCPOA), or Medical Power of Attorney, appoints a trusted agent (the principal) to make medical decisions for an individual who cannot make or communicate a needed medical decision.  The principal has the same rights as the individual to accept or reject treatments, provide instructions for desired end of life care, authorize access to medical records, admit the individual to hospitals or facilities and relay feelings regarding hospice care, specific medical procedures, organ donation or funeral instructions.  There must be documentation from a physician regarding the incapacitation of the individual to become effective.

A Healthcare Power of Attorney must be written as well as signed and either witnessed by two adults or notarized.  You may revoke your HCPOA at any time by notifying your healthcare provider or attorney or by making a new Healthcare Power of Attorney.  An HCPOA prepared in another state is honored in Nebraska and Iowa.

Financial Power of Attorney
A Financial Power of Attorney (FPOA) appoints a trusted agent to manage finances and property for an individual.  These may include checking accounts, savings accounts, safety deposit boxes, securities, investments and more.   An FPOA can be granted to a spouse so they may manage or access another spouse’s individually owned assets or the agent may be another competent adult.

A Financial Power of Attorney must be written as well as signed and either witnessed by two adults or notarized.  You may revoke your FPOA at any time.

The HCPOA and FPOA may be the same person or two different people.  If they are different, they must be able to work closely together.  An attorney can assist in preparing a power of attorney.  Contact an elder law attorney or visit the Nebraska or Iowa State Bar Association for more information.

Guardianships and Conservatorships

If an incapacitated individual does not have powers of attorney in place or will not cooperate with their POA, the local court may appoint a Guardian or Conservator to assist and protect the individual. 

An interested party may petition the court to appoint a Guardian to assist an individual whom doctors find unable to manage their health or daily needs if no durable Healthcare Power of Attorney is in place.  Family, friends or community volunteers may serve as the Guardian.  The Guardian must work within the individual’s resources to provide food, clothing, shelter and healthcare.  A Guardian must report annually to the court on the individual’s condition and progress.

An interested party may petition the local court to appoint a Conservator to assist an individual whom doctors find unable to manage their property and finances.  Family, friends or community volunteers may serve as a Conservator.  The Conservator will use the individual’s assets to pay for medical care and support and may also apply for government benefits to assist with these costs.  The Conservator must file a detailed annual accounting report for review by the court.

The Guardian and Conservator may be the same person or two different people.  If they are different, they must be able to work closely together.  Call the Office of Public Guardian at 402-889-3272 or contact an elder law attorney for more information.

Representative & Protective Payee

Representative Payee
A Representative Payee is a person appointed by the Social Security Administration to handle all of an individual’s Social Security affairs.  That person must file an application with the Social Security office and have medical verification that the person is incapacitated.

Protective Payee
A Protective Payee is a person appointed by the Nebraska or Iowa Department of Social Services to handle the protected person’s state benefits.

Probate, Wills and Trusts

Powers of Attorney, Guardianships and Conservatorships lose their authority to act when the individual dies.  After death, the estate will often go into probate and the assets of the deceased individual are controlled primarily by his or her Will or Trust.

Probate is a legal process that takes place after an individual’s death.  Probate courts admit wills, appoint personal representatives, oversee the accounting and distribution of the estate and preside over any will contests that may be filed.  The probate process can be short and informal or longer and overseen by the court depending on the size of the estate.

A Will is a legal document that appoints someone to administer their estate, a personal representative, and says to whom assets should go.  If an individual dies without a will, state statutes determine the distribution of assets.  Someone must still administer the estate.  A Will must be written, signed and witnessed by at least two individuals as required by state law.

A Trust is a legal entity created by the individual to hold title to his or her assets.  All assets are transferred to the trust.  A trustee may manage assets during the individual’s lifetime in case of illness.  When the individual dies, the Trust continues to own the assets and the beneficiaries bypass the probate process in obtaining assets.  If an individual creates a Trust, he or she typically will still create a brief accompanying Will.  An attorney can provide advice as to when a Will alone is adequate and when a Trust might have advantages.

Legal Assistance

Aging Resources Group
Wilfred H. Looby
PO Box 9092
Omaha, NE  68109
Creighton Law School
Milton R. Abrahams Legal Clinic
2120 Cass Street
Omaha, NE  68178
Iowa Concern
Iowa Legal Aid
532 1st Avenue, Suite 300
Council Bluffs, IA  51503
Iowa Legal Aid Hotline for Older Iowans
Iowa State Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
Legal Aid of Nebraska
209 South 19th Street, Suite 200
Omaha, NE  68102
Legal Aid of Nebraska Elder Access Line
National Legal Resource Center
Administration on Aging
Office of Public Guardian
7905 “L” Street, Suite 230
Omaha, NE  68127
Omaha Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
Omaha-Douglas County Self Help Desk
Nebraska State Bar Association
(walk in only; available limited hours)
Douglas County Law Library
1819 Farnam Street
Omaha, NE  68183
Volunteers Assisting Seniors
1941 South 42nd Street, Suite 312
Omaha, NE  68105

State Bar Associations

635 South 14th Street, Suite 200
Lincoln, NE 68508
625 East Court Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50309


Many law firms offer mediation services. Consult your phone book for further listings.

Concord Mediation Center
4225 North 90th Street
Omaha, NE  68134
Eldercare Mediation
K.T. Beck Enterprises, LLC
Nebraska Mediation Center
435 North Park Avenue
Fremont, NE  68025
Shaul Mediation & Family Services
120 North Washington Street
Papillion, NE  68046

Private Practice Attorneys Specializing in Probate, Wills and Estate Planning

Many firms have attorneys with experience in probate, wills and estate planning.

Badura & Wintz Law
The Wear Building
7602 Pacific Street, Suite 300A
Omaha, NE  68114
Baird Holm, LLP
Jensen, Ronald C.
1700 Farnam Street, Suite 1500
Omaha, NE  68102
Boyum Law
14301 FNB Parkway, Suite 204
Omaha, NE  68154
Brown & Brown, LLC
2027 Dodge Street, Suite 501
Omaha, NE  68102
Buford Law Office
9910 North 48th Street, Suite 106
Omaha, NE  68152
Carlson & Burnett
17525 Arbor Street
Omaha, NE  68130
Cassem, Tierney, Adams, Gotch & Douglas
9290 West Dodge Road, Suite 302
Omaha, NE  68114
Dorwart, Charles E.
6790 Grover Street, Suite 100
Omaha, NE  68106
Elder Law of Omaha, PC, LLO
Catherine N. Swiniarski
3032 South 87th Street
Omaha, NE  68124
Harris & Associates, PC, LLO
1005 South 107th Avenue, Suite 100
Omaha, NE  68114
Kelly, Law Office of Seamus
2807 South 87th Avenue, Suite 3
Omaha, NE  68124
Latenser & Johnson, PC
12337 Gold Street
Omaha, NE  68144
Locher Pavelka Dostal Braddy & Hammes, LLC
2002 Douglas Street, Suite 200
Omaha, NE  68102
Marks, Clare & Richards, LLC
11605 Miracle Hills Drive, Suite 300
Omaha, NE  68154
McClellan Law Office, LLC
503 South 36th Street
Omaha, NE  68105
O’Bradovich, Michael
7701 Pacific Street, Suite 205
Omaha, NE  68114
Peterson, LeRoy Law
10730 Pacific Street, Suite 107
Omaha, NE  68114
Reisinger Booth & Associates, PC, LLO
7602 Pacific Street, Suite 222
Omaha, NE  68114
Seidler & Seidler, PC
Regency One Building
10050 Regency Circle, Suite 525
Omaha, NE  68114
Stalnaker, Becker & Buresh, PC
1111 North 102nd Court, Suite 330
Omaha, NE  68114
Stinson Leonard Street
1299 Farnam Street, Suite 1500
Omaha, NE  68102
Stuart Tinley Law Office
310 West Kanesville Boulevard
Council Bluffs, IA  51503
Thompson Law Office, PC, LLO
13906 Gold Circle, Suite 201
Omaha, NE  68144
Thompson, The Law Offices of David M.
1905 Harney Street, Suite 600
Omaha, NE  68102
Whitmore Law Office
7602 Pacific Street, Suite 200
Omaha, NE  68114

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