What Are Elder Law Attorneys and How Do They Help Seniors?

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If you are considering selling your home and moving to a senior living community, you probably need help managing legal and financial issues. Because the senior care industry is complex, seeking the advice of an experienced attorney is often recommended. But it’s important to realize not all attorneys have experience with these specific types of concerns.

Some legal professionals, known as elder law attorneys, specialize in working with older adults and their families. They have expertise in handling issues unique to senior living. These can range from reviewing a contract for a life plan community to helping a victim of elder abuse to locating a credible life settlement company to purchase a senior’s life insurance policy.

Elder Law Attorneys and Senior Care

When an older adult begins to plan for the future, an elder law attorney can help with many of the necessary tasks. They can establish trusts and wills, create powers of attorney, review contracts for the sale of real estate, and more. When it comes to senior care, elder law attorneys are often part of a team that includes an older adult’s physician, a clergy member, an elder care manager, or even a hospital social worker.

Because the aging services industry is so complex, elder law attorneys may specialize in particular areas of senior care, such as:

  • Veterans benefit applications
  • Estate planning needs
  • Life settlement negotiations
  • Mental health law
  • Asset liquidation
  • Medicaid applications
  • Disability planning

There aren’t any licensing or certification requirements for elder law attorneys. Most gain experience by working with seniors and their adult children, and build their practice from there.

Tips for Hiring an Elder Law Attorney

As is true of hiring any type of professional, a good starting point is likely word-of-mouth referrals from family, friends, and colleagues who are pleased with an elder law attorney they’ve worked with. You can also search the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys website for a professional near you.

A few factors to keep in mind as you make this decision:

  • Experience: In an industry as complex as senior care, experience matters. Ask each candidate you are considering how much of their practice is spent serving seniors. Also, find out how long they’ve been working in elder law.
  • Fees: Ask up front about each attorney’s fees. Their hourly rate might be higher than you anticipated. Though talking about money makes many people uncomfortable, it’s important to find someone within your budget.
  • Office location: While you won’t want location to be the leading factor in making a decision, it does play a role. If the attorney’s office is further away than you’d prefer, ask how much of their work can be done via video chat or telephone.
  • Credentials: Once you’ve narrowed your list to a few names, check the American Bar Association website to make sure the candidates are licensed in your state and to see if they’ve ever been disciplined.

One final tip is to ask any elder law attorneys you are considering if they offer a complimentary or discounted-rate consultation. It will give you an opportunity to discuss what you need and ask more questions about their experience with your specific issues.

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