In the United States, the 21st century has seen increased longevity that originated with the Baby Boomer generation (who were born between 1946 and 1964). The lengthened lifespan of aging Americans leads to increased individuals seeking benefits from elder law.
Elder law itself takes root in the Older Americans Act of 1965, which offers social services to senior citizens. State bar associations in 39 states have committees dedicated to issues surrounding aging and disability.
The majority of aging Americans will benefit from the services of an elder law attorney. They will represent the older individual in several matters, including guardianship, estate planning, living wills, trusts, estate administration, insurance, probate, long-term senior care and power of attorney, and additional services.
Choosing the right attorney to represent you or an elder loved one is a task that should be given considerable weight. Here are some helpful tips for seniors to choose the appropriate elder law attorney to best represent their individual needs.
1. Assess Your Concerns
Before you start on the journey to choose an elder law attorney, seniors and/or their families should create a list of current and foreseeable concerns that an elder law attorney can address. Recognizing your needs will assist in evaluating potential lawyers who should be qualified in handling specific areas of elder law.
2. Seek Referrals
Referrals are an excellent way to lead to an initial consultation with an elder law attorney. Friends, family, financial advisers and clients who have had positive experiences with a particular elder law attorney can pave the way to a fruitful client-lawyer relationship.
3. Hire Knowledge
Laws change constantly and elder laws are no exception. States’ elder laws differ across the country. The attorney you choose should be knowledgeable of the existing laws and policies of your geographic location. A skilled and educated lawyer stays updated on current practices in elder law.
During your search, you may consult with lawyers who are extremely knowledgeable about one or two specific issues revolving around elder law while others can help with general inquiries.
4. Visit the Bar
Elder law attorneys should be registered by the American Bar Association and licensed to practice in their state. An attorney’s credentials can be researched online through any of several professional organizations, such as ElderCounsel or the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. An elder law attorney who also pursues board certification receives verification of the lawyer’s expertise and ethics in specific areas of the law.
5. Schedule Consultations
Brief, in-person interviews with potential elder law attorneys are important in helping to determine if you are comfortable and at ease with conducting business in their offices. You also have the opportunity to gain feedback about the staff. Know beforehand that specific legal firms offer free consultations, while other lawyers charge a fee.
6. Evaluate Relatability
The elder law attorney with whom you eventually settle is someone with whom you will ideally establish a trusted partnership. You should feel comfortable discussing all areas of concern with the elder law attorney.
A lawyer who is attentive and whom you sense will fight for your rights is someone you want on your side. Choose someone with whom you are able to have open conversations, and you’ll be less likely to struggle with an uncommitted or unsympathetic elder law attorney.
Practical services, such as power of attorney, wills and advanced directives, can be handled by any elder law attorney. But the right lawyer will offer you a customized approach to your situation, along with the pros and cons of each scenario. In short, a skilled elder law attorney will invest the time to offer you personalized solutions.
7. Ask Questions
Schedule brief meetings to consult with potential elder law attorneys. An interview should consist of a series of relevant questions that will help you determine whether or not you’d like to start a possible long-term association. Questions may include the following:
- How long have you been practicing elder law?
- How do you stay abreast of current elder laws?
- Do you hold a license to practice elder law in this state?
- What elder law organization are you a member of?
- If it becomes necessary to go to court, do you possess litigation experience?
An elder law attorney who is sensitive to your concerns is one who will help you know your options.
8. Investigate No- or Low-Cost Options
Pro bono services are available to the elderly who qualify for low-cost representation; these individuals must meet certain criteria to be eligible. Veterans have the option to seek help from free law clinics that operate through their local chapter of the Veterans Administration or the National Veterans Legal Services Program, and other similar programs.
When your loved one needs help with planning for healthcare, patient’s rights or long-term care options, the right elder care attorney will guide you through the processes.
Choose a Home Care Service
While helping a loved one look toward the future, you’ll discover a wide range of in-home care services through senior care agencies, such as Assisting Hands Home Care. You’ll find legal support through an elder law attorney, but you’ll find compassionate in-home care through the reliable caregivers on staff at Assisting Hands Home Care.
Assisting Hands Home Care is a licensed, bonded, and insured home care agency in Fort Myers, FL with the experience and skill to accommodate the non-medical care needs of the elder populations.
Our services include, but are not limited to:
- Personal care (such as grooming, bathing, toileting and dressing)
- Hospice care
- Post-operative care
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s care
When working with our home care agency, families are updated with the care recipient’s condition and provided with peace of mind knowing their loved one is in good hands.