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Elder Law Attorneys: A Comprehensive Guide

If you are someone who is taking care of a senior or has an elderly loved one, you should consider working with an elder law attorney. Though you may not expect it, individuals begin to face new and more complex legal concerns as they get older. Actions that may have seemed trivial when they were younger can gain unintended legal effects. This article will serve as your comprehensive guide to what an elder law attorney does and how they can help you navigate the legal aspects of aging. 

What Is Elder Law?

Elder law covers several legal fields. Below are some of its major aspects:

  • Medicaid and Medicare claims/appeals
  • Disability planning:
    • Powers of attorney
    • Living trusts/wills
    • Financial and health care management
    • Plans for incompetence or incapacity 
  • Social security and disability claims/appeals
  • Short and long-term health insurance 
  • Transfer or protection of assets when one spouse moves to a nursing home
  • Estate planning:
    • In-life estate planning
    • Trusts
    • Wills
  • Guardianship and conservatorship
  • Managing and administering trusts and estates
  • Probate
  • Nursing home and life care community placements
  • Age discrimination
  • Housing and home equity conversions
  • Elder abuse
  • Fraud recovery
  • Retirement:
    • Retirement benefits (both public and private)
    • Survivor benefits
    • Pension
  • Health and mental health law

Because elder law comprises so many different fields, you cannot assume that an elder law attorney will specialize in every one of these areas. If you plan to hire an attorney, we suggest that you make sure they are familiar with and regularly work on the specific issues that concern your senior’s particular case. 

What Does an Elder Law Attorney Do?

In most cases, elder law attorneys take on a holistic approach when working with seniors. They attempt to equally consider legal issues in health, housing, long-term care, financial well-being, and any other major area of concern for the elderly. Besides, they can be advisors to the family and caregivers of the senior. They help families understand what options each senior has when it comes to their aging needs and plan for the final years of the senior’s life. 

They can assist in managing and administration of estates and trusts, combating abuse and fraud, planning for the senior’s estate, filing social security claims and appeals, and more. To expand on this, here are some of the major concerns about your senior’s legal security that an attorney can put to rest:

Who do I turn to with my questions?

Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of hiring an elder law attorney is that they will be able to provide you with accurate answers to complex questions that arise as you begin to care for your elderly loved one. They will be able to grasp your particular situation and advise you on future actions that are necessary for your family and senior. 

What is best for my elderly loved one?

An elder law attorney can be the calm, rational advisor for those families who are struggling to decide what the best course of action is when it comes to senior care. Disagreements within families are expected and it can be extremely helpful to have an outsider’s expert opinion on the matter. For example, your senior may want to remain at home but entering a nursing home could be the more logical option. This argument can be an emotional one for them and you. An attorney will be able to recommend legally-sound strategies that will help keep your elderly loved one safe. 

What legal actions need to be taken?

If your senior needs someone else to make financial and other decisions for them, elder law attorneys will make sure that a durable power of attorney is put in place. They will work with you and your elderly loved one as you prepare the necessary documents. They will also assist you with guardianship proceedings and explain what needs to be handled in the senior’s personal and financial affairs. 

What should be my long-term care plan?

When you hire an elder law attorney, you also get to utilize their previous experience with other senior clients. Attorneys will have past encounters with financial and medical issues concerning aging and families of the elderly. they will also have a good idea of what to expect from Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other chronic illnesses. By having this knowledge, attorneys can guide you on your path to having a solid plan for your elderly loved one’s later years. Attorneys will be able to advise you on whether or not long-term care in a nursing home is necessary, making sure that your and your senior’s assets are protected in every case. 

How do I get Medicaid benefits for my elderly loved one?

Elder law attorneys will also help you access Medicaid. If you hire a certified elder law attorney, they should be knowledgeable about Medicaid, how to become eligible, and how to apply for benefits. Some attorneys can also provide you with information about additional funding and resources such as veteran’s benefits. 

How do I ensure that my and my senior’s financial assets are protected?

As unfortunate as it is, an elder law attorney has most likely dealt with cases of financial exploitation before. They will be able to spot and inform you about any possible cases of fraud or financial abuse. It is essential to protect your elderly loved one’s financial assets, especially as they become less able to spot dishonest predators. 

Why Should You Hire a Law Attorney?

An elder law attorney will focus on the particular needs of you and your senior. They will work with a variety of legal strategies and tools to meet your specific goals and objectives and utilize a holistic approach that takes into consideration the key issues you and your family are facing as you attempt to take care of your elderly loved one. These can range from issues with housing, care, quality of life, finances, and more.

Elder law attorneys are unique because their field is specifically structured to fit the elderly client that they assist. By utilizing their knowledge and previous experiences, they will be able to help you look past the myths and misconceptions about aging and elderly care and make sure that physical and mental difficulties accompanying the aging process are considered. Attorneys will focus on real-life problems and can also help you access a large network of various elder care professionals that can come in handy. 

How Do You Find an Elder Law Attorney?

So, you’ve decided that hiring an elder law attorney is the right choice for you; now what? Your next step is to find an attorney whose expertise will fit your particular needs. We recommend the trustworthy method of choosing from the members of the National Academy for Elder Law Attorneys. These attorneys are experienced and trained to correctly approach and resolve issues facing aging and disabled individuals in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. NAELA is a non-profit association whose mission is to provide clients with attorneys qualified in guidance, advocacy, and other services necessitated by aging. 

To find an attorney and obtain more information about the association, you can visit their website.

How Do You Choose an Elder Law Attorney?

Now that you have a comprehensive database to pick from, there are several things to consider when choosing an attorney. As you narrow your search, make sure that the person you settle on has:

  • Flat fees – Once you have a consultation with the attorney you are considering, they should be able to provide you with a one-sum number and not bill you hourly. 
  • Specialized experience – Make sure that your final choice for hire specializes in the issues most important to you and your elderly loved one. 
  • Knowledge about elder care resources – If your lawyer is dialed into an extensive network of elder care professions, this will be extremely beneficial for you in the long-run. 

What Questions Should You Ask an Elder Law Attorney?

Once you meet with your chosen attorney, you should ask them the following key questions:

  1. What are your previous experiences in elder law and how long have you practiced in this field?
  2. How often do you handle Medicaid applications and do you have a proven success rate?
  3. Is your entire practice dedicated to elder law? If not, how prominent is elder law in your overall cases?

After you’ve covered your bases, ask them about the specifics of your situation and whether or not they are familiar with your and your elderly loved one’s concerns. 

Conclusion 

Getting older can be a difficult process for many and taking care of a loved one is always a challenge. So, when it comes to dealing with the legal repercussions of aging, you should seriously consider hiring an elder law attorney to alleviate some of the burden on you and your family – especially if none of you are familiar with the legal field. If you decide to consult an attorney, make sure that they have the necessary experience and specialization for serving your interests. 

Sources:

  1. The Top 6 Reasons to Hire an Elder Law Attorney, NAELA, www.naela.org

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