Legal problems that affect elders are growing in number. Elder Law encompasses many different fields of law; among them are:
- Medicare claims/appeals
- Social security and disability claims/appeals
- Supplemental and long-term health insurance issues
- Disability planning
- Conservatorships and guardianships
- Estate planning
- Long-term care placements
- Nursing home issues
- Elder abuse and fraud recovery
- Housing issues
- Age discrimination in the workplace
- Retirement benefits
- Mental health law
Most elder law attorneys do not specialize in every one of these areas. When you contact the attorney’s office, discuss your reasons for calling and find out if the attorney specializes in these areas.
Attorneys who primarily work with seniors bring more to their practice than an expertise in the appropriate area of law. Elder law attorneys bring a special knowledge of seniors so they and their staff can ignore myths relating to aging and elders’ competence, and instead focus on the important decisions that need to be made. In addition, Elder Law attorneys are tied into a formal and informal system of social workers, psychologists, and other elder care professionals who may be of assistance to clients and their families.
Ask Questions First
You should ask lots of questions before selecting an Elder Law attorney. On the initial phone call, ask questions like these:
- How long has the attorney been in practice?
- Does his/her practice emphasize a particular area of law?
- How long has he/she been in this field?
- What percentage of his/her practice is devoted to Elder Law?
- Is there a fee for the first consultation, and if so, how much is it?
- What information should we bring to the initial consultation?
Get It in Writing
Once you decide to hire the attorney, ask that your arrangement be put in writing, whether in a letter or formal contract. It should spell out what services the attorney will perform and what the fee and expense arrangement will be. Even if your agreement remains oral and is not put into writing, you have made a contract and are therefore responsible for all charges for work done by the attorney and his/her staff.
How to Find an Elder Law Attorney
Members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys are experienced Elder Law attorneys. Visit the website – www.NAELA.org, and click on “Find an Attorney.”