How Does An Elder Law Attorney Help, And Why You May Need One.
Elder law attorneys are committed to help older Americans. With more than 45 million American citizens seniors over the age of 65, and more aging out or retiring each year, these lawyers are a great resource. With more people living longer, the complexity of the federal programs designed to help them has increased, as well.
There are even low cost or free non-profit law firms that provide assistance to senior citizens as well as retirees. When senior citizens find that these programs are too complicated for them to adequately deal with, there is help on hand in the form of a certified elder law attorneys, and you can find one near you.
An elder law attorney helps the elderly find their way around the complex personal, medical, legal and financial choices that they must make at various points in their life. They can also support caregivers and children who need to care for their parents. Whether it is help with applying for Medicare, Prescription drug coverage, housing, preparing for retirement or even dealing with hardships such as nursing home abuse or employment age discrimination, these lawyers are a great resource.
Elder law is an area of legal specialization. At this point, there are thousands of certified elder law attorneys across the United States, and some will be near you. These lawyers receive training that helps them take into account the mental and physical challenges that seniors experience as well as their unique medical and financial needs. The attorneys also make use of social workers, psychologists, charities and long-term care planners, to help them with the life changes that they go through.
What, specifically, can an elder law attorney help you with?
Elder law attorneys work together with other professionals to help coordinate the legal protections and long-term care that their elderly clients need. They may also help seniors deal with their finances. They tend to serve clients in these areas:
- Coordination of care: An elder law attorney can help seniors set up healthcare powers of attorney, find quality long-term care facilities, complete wills and perform the financial planning necessary.
- Benefits offered by the government: Seniors tend to frequently need guidance to do with keeping their assets secure, and remaining eligible for Medicaid and Medicare. Elder law attorneys help them here.
- Guardianship: If a senior person begins to require help performing various everyday tasks such as paying bills, keeping track of taxes owed, picking a doctor or otherwise taking charge of their affairs, and has no one to turn to, the court may appoint a legal guardian. An elder law lawyer can help.
- Financial help: When a senior citizen or their caregiver needs help applying for supportive housing, energy bill assistance such as LIHEAP, disability, food stamps, or other benefits, an elder law attorney near you can help with applications. Even learn about the best age to apply for social security cash assistance.
- Nursing home or home care: Get help in dealing with visitation rights, ensuring proper and safe nursing or home care, and other long-term care needs.
- Scams and fraud: Unfortunately, many senior citizens and retirees are the targets of scams. It can even be friends or family that target them or professional groups. An elder law attorney near you, especially non-profit firms, can often provide free advice.
- Financial care: When a senior person needs help drawing up an estate plan, creating a durable power of attorney and dealing with a financial planner, an elder law attorney can offer assistance.
Elder law attorneys do not usually specialize in every area of law that seniors may need. They all have different skill sets and focus. Some of the free charitable lawyers also have limited legal aid they offer. Whatever area you are particularly concerned about, you need to find an elder law attorney near you who specializes in it.
When should you find an elder law attorney?
A family should think about looking for an elder law attorney when they begin to see that a loved one needs long-term care, or when they begin to think about how to get their loved one to qualify for government benefits or financial aid. Sometimes, senor citizens or their family worry about being effective taking care of their finances or other affairs on their own. Or many retirees or soon to be retired use them for information on pensions, 401Ks, and other financial matters that require legal advice. An elder law attorney could be the right idea in these circumstances.
However, it is also a good idea to seek help in advance. A lawyer that specializes in assisting senior citizens can provide pro-active advice on planning, such as wills, long term care insurance, applying for health care from Medicare, and more. As the earlier that an older person starts to explore options, it makes the transition to be a senior citizen less stressful.
Questions that you should ask elder law attorneys before you hire them
Anyone who is seeking to hire a lawyer, or even using the free representation of a non-profit, should do their research. Even read online reviews, ask an agency on aging center for referrals, and do due diligence.
•Ask how long they have been in elder law, and what area they specialize in. Some attorneys specialize in Medicaid or Medicare enrollment, and others specialize in drafting wills. You need to find someone who specializes in the area that you need.
•Ask how much they cost. You need to make sure that you understand what their fee for the initial consultation is, and compare different law firms until you find one that is right for you. Attorneys usually won't be able to give you an exact fee quote until they spend time studying your requirements.
In these cases, they give you a fee range that you can use. Some attorneys charge by the hour, and others charge a flat fee. Some charge for phone calls and emails and others don't. You need information on the fee structure of each attorney that you consider.
•If the senior’s income is low enough, look for a free elderly law attorney. There are non-profits, charities, and other groups of volunteer lawyers (that are paid for using government funds) that provide assistance.
•Sometimes, attorneys draft documents, but do not litigate in court. You need to ask whether a lawyer charges extra to appear in court.
•If your age makes it hard for you to visit a lawyer near you, you need to ask if they make house calls, are available online, and what it costs.
Choosing an elder law attorney near you
Finding an elder law attorney is an important decision. You need to consider at least three attorneys, meet with at least two, and compare them. Look into non-profit firms too that can give free advice or court representation. Are you comfortable with the idea that you will be sharing confidential information with them? Are they at a convenient location near you? Do they seem responsive and interested when they answer your questions? You need to think about each of these questions.
You can find certified elder law attorneys by asking friends or relatives, or by looking on the website of the National Elder Law Foundation or the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. The National Elder Law Foundation offers the names of elder law attorneys who have several years of experience under their belt, and have passed a complex examination. Or for free non-profit elder law attorneys, many of which specialize in helping low income senior citizens, call 202-295-1500.
Qualified elder law attorneys can prove to be a valuable asset to seniors. From taking care of legal matters to navigating healthcare or helping with applications to financial assistance programs, there's a lot they can contribute. If you're over the age of 60 and need help with your affairs, an elder law attorney is the professional that you need.