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 more 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. An elder law attorney 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, among a host of 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 important factors that will help seniors select the most appropriate elder law attorney to best represent their individual needs.
Assess Your Concerns
Before you start on the journey to find the best-suited 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 you in evaluating potential lawyers who should be both qualified in and capable of handling those specific areas of elder law.
Referrals from people you trust are an excellent way to lead to an initial consultation with an elder law attorney. Friends, family, financial advisors and, in general, people who have had positive experiences with a particular elder law attorney can guide the way to a fruitful client-lawyer relationship.
Laws change constantly, and elder laws are no exception. States’ elder laws differ across the country. The elder law attorney you ultimately choose should be knowledgeable about the existing laws and policies of your geographic location. A skilled and educated lawyer should also be up to date about 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 other elder law attorneys speak the necessary legalese to address every single area of elder law.
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. Plus, an elder law attorney who pursues board certification receives verification of the lawyer’s expertise and ethics in specific areas of the law.
Brief, face to face interviews with potential elder law attorneys are important in helping you determine if you are comfortable with them and at ease with conducting business in their offices. You also have the opportunity to gain feedback about the staff. Know before you go that certain legal firms offer free consultations, while other lawyers charge a consultation fee.
The elder law attorney with whom you eventually settle is someone with whom you will, ideally, establish a trusting association. Be sure that you 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. However, the right attorney 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.
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.
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, as well as many 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.
While helping a loved one look toward the future, you’ll discover a wide range of in-home elder care services through senior care agencies, such as Assisting Hands Home Care.
While you’ll find legal support through an elder law attorney, 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 in-home senior care agency with the experience and skill to accommodate the non-medical needs of the elder populations in Fort Myers, Florida.
Our services include, but are not limited to, personal assistance (such as grooming, bathing, toileting and dressing), hospice care, post-surgical care as well as dementia and Alzheimer’s care. Families are kept updated with the care recipient’s condition; and, family members experience profound peace of mind knowing their loved one is in good hands.