What is an Elder Law Lawyer?
Elder law is a broad area of legal practice that encompasses the legal, financial, and healthcare needs of older adults. Elder law lawyers advocate for and represent older adults and their families. They provide advice and guidance and help their clients take legal action when necessary. The practice of elder law ranges from estate planning and wills to long-term care and elder abuse.
While their practice covers a variety of areas of the law, elder law lawyers are specialists because of their clients. They handle the complex legal issues associated with aging and also have skills and experience working with a vulnerable population.
What Do Elder Law Lawyers Do?
This area of the law is broad but entirely focused on older adults and their families. This means that elder law lawyers can do a lot of different things for their clients:
- Advise on estate planning
- Create an estate plan, including trusts, a will, a living will, and related documents
- Make social security, Medicaid, Medicare, and disability claims
- Make appeals of denied benefits
- Petition for a conservatorship or guardianship
- Plan for disability, including setting up powers of attorney, living trusts, living wills, long-term care, and anything else needed in the event of incapacity
- Guide families through probate
- Help family choose long-term care for an older loved one
- Advocate for victims of age discrimination
- File a complaint or take legal action for elder abuse
- Protect older adults from elder abuse and financial fraud
When Do I Need an Elder Law Lawyer?
Elder law lawyers assist two types of clients: older adults planning for their futures or facing current legal issues and older adults’ loved ones and families. If you are an older adult and have any legal or financial questions related to your age, benefits, discrimination, estate planning, and related issues, you need an elder law attorney to advise and represent you.
For family members, rely on an elder law lawyer when you have an older loved one who needs more help than you can provide. For instance, if they can no longer make decisions or have become incapacitated, a lawyer can help you help your loved one.
What Are the Benefits of Working with an Elder Law Lawyer?
Many of the issues related to aging and older adults can be tackled without a lawyer, but many good reasons attempting it is a bad idea. What seems like a simple issue can quickly become complicated by various laws, financial issues, and family dynamics.
Working with a dedicated elder law attorney has many benefits:
- Expert advice
A lawyer completely dedicated to elder law is best able to provide accurate, useful advice. The legal and financial situations affecting older adults can be complicated and difficult to understand. A lawyer will explain everything and guide your decisions for the best outcomes.
- Sensitivity to older adults
Not only do these lawyers have the legal experience to help you, but they also know how to work with older and disabled adults. They bring empathy and compassion to their practice.
- A holistic approach
Elder law attorneys usually take a holistic approach to helping their clients. Rather than solving just one or two specific problems, they take a look at all of the needs of each older adult or family they help. They provide well-rounded advice that considers legal issues, finances, housing, qualify of life, healthcare, and more.
- A network of experts
Elder law lawyers also have a large network of professionals in other areas dedicated to helping older adults. They can provide you with resources and connect you to trusted medical professionals, mental healthcare providers, social workers, and experts who can help.
- Peace of mind
The issues facing older adults are sensitive. Not addressing them or making mistakes can have serious consequences. Whether the advice is for you or an older loved one, working with an expert will give you the peace of mind of knowing everything is taken care of.
How Do I Find and Choose an Elder Law Lawyer?
Search for a firm or an attorney specializing in elder law. This should be their main focus of practice. Some good sources to begin your search include:
- Friends and family who have worked with an elder law lawyer in the past
- An attorney you know and trust who can recommend a colleague
- Your state bar association
- Professional organizations, like the National Elder Law Foundation and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
This is a sensitive and important type of legal practice, and it’s worthwhile to take some time to interview and choose the right lawyer for your family. Reputable firms will be happy to answer questions before you make a decision:
- How long have you been practicing elder law?
- Is elder law your main focus of practice?
- Are you certified in elder law?
- Do you focus on one particular area of elder law, or can you help us with everything?
- Can you help with financial decisions and planning as well as legal issues?
- What are your fees, and how do you charge?
Elder law is complicated and confusing to many, but with an expert on your side, you’ll get the best advice and make smarter choices. Choose someone who makes you feel comfortable and who is dedicated to elder law practice.