10 Questions for an Elder Law Attorney
Many concerns and questions can arise as we grow older and approach the sunset years of life. Where will I live if I become too frail to take care of myself? Who will take care of me and help me make good decisions? How will I be able to pay for long-term care? How will I distribute my assets?
In the last decade or so, a new category of law has emerged that specializes in helping people answer these questions and learn their rights. Elder law focuses on providing legal services to senior citizens and younger people with special needs, such as early onset Alzheimer's or Crohn's disease, who want to manage their circumstances now and into the future [source: Goldberg]. The client may also be a person helping a family member or friend in need.
So whether you're hoping to understand your personal rights in more detail, or just about to delve into the emotional and legal intricacies of end-of-life planning, it's a good idea to seek sage council as early as possible. Keep reading to learn the most important questions to ask an elder law attorney.
Planning for the future can be problematic without the correct information. Simple situations can rapidly turn into complicated and expensive conundrums without good advice. That's where an elder law attorney can help.
According to certified elder law attorney Ruthann P. Lacey, counsel can help lead you through the pitfalls, roadblocks and hurdles associated with:
- Evaluating the client's needs relating to federal tax, social security, Medicare, Medicaid and property laws
- Advocating the best way to move forward, consistent with these laws
- Preparing trusts and wills
- Figuring out the best way to pay for long-term health care
- Helping the client make emotionally difficult decisions, such as those related to end-of-life
Today, lawyers can demonstrate their specialty in elder law by becoming certified through the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF). The certification was created to educate lawyers on all parts of the law relating to the aging population, and then help them demonstrate this dedication to their clients. Once certified, the attorney must continue focusing on elder law and special needs and complete continuing education credits. On the flip side, the certification also helps people find a lawyer skilled in this particular field.
According to NELF, some of the requirements for certification include:
- Being licensed as a lawyer in one or more states
- Practicing law for five years or more
- Maintaining a level of excellence of all the bars
- Demonstrating involvement in practicing elder law
- Finishing at least 45 hours of continuing education in elder law in the last three years
- References from five attorneys
- Passing a certification examination
The only way to know is to ask. So remember to question the law firm about its range of experience, especially as it relates to the area of elder law in which you're seeking help. Sometime later, you may need the firm for another facet of elder law, so it's good to ensure its lawyers have a wide range of skills.
According toElder Law Answers, some areas of expertise might include:
Are you experienced? On the next page, we'll find out if your lawyer is or not.
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