The elderly are the fastest growing part of our population. They’re more active and living longer than every before, and as a result they have legal needs and concerns that prior generations haven’t faced. And a new field of the law is evolving to address those needs and concerns.

It’s called Elder Law and it combines estate planning, wills and trusts, guardianship, elder rights, health care planning, and Social Security. And one of the elder issues on the minds of virtually every Boomer becoming eligible for Social Security is “when should I start taking Social Security benefits?”

I addressed a part of that issue recently in my post, Social Security "early bird special" taken by most married men. The decision to take early Social Security benefits would result in a reduction in a wife’s survivor benefits.

Someone who has, however, addressed the totality of the Social Security decision is Richard Kaplan, a law professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, who teaches elder law. Professor Kaplan, a prolific author on elder law issues, has just had published, A Guide to Starting Social Security Benefits, that appeared in the July-August, 2008 issue of the Journal of Retirement Planning. Here is the Abstract of his article:

When a person should begin taking Social Security retirement benefits is a critical question for planning one’s retirement. This article explains the various factors at play in determining the optimum starting point, including: longevity considerations; spousal implications, whether for a previously employed or a previously unemployed spouse; the impact of post-retirement employment; the availability of health insurance prior to Medicare eligibility for the worker and the worker’s spouse; alternative sources of retirement income, including distributions from retirement savings plan assets and lifetime liquidation of nonretirement assets (and the pertinent income tax ramifications); and anticipated investment strategies.

Here is a link to download Professor Kaplan’s complete article from the Social Security Research Network (free but registration required).

Hat tip to Rick Bales, my fellow blogger, one of the Editors at Workplace Prof Blog.