What is an elder law attorney?
Seniors are often faced with a variety of complex legal issues, such as estate planning, but elder law attorneys can help their clients make sense of it all. These legal specialists will guide seniors and their families in important decisions affecting their future with compassion and proper foresight.
What can an elder law expert do for their clients?
These specialized attorneys can provide expert legal advice and assistance to clients and help with the following:
Long term care planning
A specialized attorney can help seniors and their families sort through long term care options, like assisted living homes or nursing homes. An attorney’s experience with Medicaid and estate planning can help when considering long term care arrangements.
Elder law attorneys can draw up wills, help set up trusts or assist with other critical estate planning matters. Estate planning can be extremely complex, especially if a client owns a business or a lot of assets. It can also be a challenge if guardianship or other family law matters must also be considered. The attorney will carefully consider everything when helping clients plan out what happens after they are gone.
Nearly 45 million people, about 15 percent of Americans, rely on Medicare to some extent, but it’s a complicated government program that is often difficult to understand. Elder law attorneys can help with this, ensuring their clients enroll in the coverage they need, on time. Further, it’s common for Medicare users to run into coverage issues, like with many insurance plans. In some instances, it’s helpful to have an attorney with the appeals process, should it be needed.
Medicaid provides medical care benefits to more than 4 million people in the U.S. and can also provide assistance with custodial care or nursing home expenses. Seniors must qualify for the program, though, and this process can be tricky, as qualification relies on income and assets. An attorney familiar to the needs of seniors can help their clients determine if they qualify, and how to access benefits.
In the U.S., more than 500,000 instances of elder abuse are reported every year, and this abuse can be physical, mental or emotional. If elder abuse is present, it may not be clear what to do next, but an elder law attorney can help leverage the legal system to ensure loved ones are protected.
Why should seniors consider an elder law expert?
Many families find that working with such an attorney provides additional benefits, beyond legal services. For example:
They can offer long range planning that is tailored for seniors
Elder law attorneys consider their client’s physical and emotional condition, their familial relationships, their retirement goals, their diverse assets and many other factors when providing legal counsel. This in-depth knowledge ensures these attorneys can create detailed, long-term plans that work for their clients both now and in the future.
They are familiar with seniors’ unique needs
Experienced attorneys work with clients that have a diverse range of physical and mental care needs, so they know what will and won’t work for any particular client.
They can become trusted advisors as needs change
Even the most detailed plan may need to be altered from time to time. Establishing a trusted relationship with an attorney means you’ll always have an expert on hand who can make those needed alterations.
They are part of a larger network of experts
Elder law attorneys usually surround themselves with other attorneys and experts that also work with seniors. Financial advisors, real estate agents and psychologists are some examples.
How can seniors find an elder law attorney they trust?
The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) is the professional association for these legal experts. Reputable attorneys can be located through the NAELA on its website. Referrals can be helpful when looking for a reputable legal expert.
Many attorneys will offer an initial consultation for no charge, and during this consultation, seniors can determine if the legal expert is the right fit. If the attorney has the proper credentials (good standing with their state’s Bar Association), the right temperament and experience with similar clients, they could be a valuable legal advisor.
Seniors are eventually faced with making major decisions about their care, their living arrangements and their estates. Elder law attorneys can provide clarity and planning, ensuring every important decision is given the consideration it deserves.