What is an elder law attorney?
Elder lawyers are well versed in the language of elder law and can help you understand your rights. They have experience coordinating efforts with other specialists in elderly services and can assist in finding the resources available to you. Elder lawyers can also represent elderly and disabled individuals in cases of abuse and assist in the prevention of abuse, fraud, and neglect.
Elder lawyers are especially important in the area of future planning documentation. This includes powers of attorney, living wills, will and trust planning, capacity definitions, and guardianship documents.
According to the Journal of Retirement Planning, an elder law attorney’s plan for an elderly individual is designed to help their client now, in the future, and at the time of death1.
When do you need an elder law attorney?
If you show early signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s, you should make an appointment with an elder care attorney. All legal documents, including wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and living wills require that the individual signing the documents has the mental capacity and ability to comprehend the significance of the documents.
It is important to sign all legal documents while you maintain mental competence to be prepared for possible advancement of your condition. Any documents that may need to be amended or revoked should also be addressed at this time. According to Generations, the Journal of the American Society on Aging, the four components of capacity that must be met are the ability to understand facts, appreciate the nature and significance of the decision, reasoning the risks and benefits of choices, and expressing the choice2.
If you are trying to qualify for Medicare or Medicaid, you may want to meet with an elder lawyer. These attorneys understand the necessary qualifications for these programs and can help you determine eligibility and apply correctly. If your application is denied for these programs, an elder lawyer can also help you dispute the ruling. Elder law attorneys are aware of and can help explain the different parts of Medicare and what each covers, along with what is not covered and may need to be supplemented by Medicaid, private insurance, or out-of-pocket payment1.
- Veteran’s Benefits
If you are a military veteran attempting to receive veteran’s benefits, you may want to meet with an elder lawyer. Elder attorneys have generally worked with this type of case in the past and can help you understand your benefits and dispute to receive them if you are denied.
- Elder Abuse
If you have been the victim of elder abuse, fraud, or neglect, you should meet with an elder lawyer. Elder care lawyers can help you build your case against abuse perpetrators and protect against future abuse.
- Long-Term Care
If you are new to the world of long-term care, elder lawyers can help you. Elder lawyers can make sure you move in the right direction when it comes to planning for the future and long-term care. They can also help you understand elder rights. An elder law attorney can explain the benefits of long-term care insurance and when to begin planning for long-term care expenses.
Elder law attorneys can help with planning in the following areas:
- Health and personal care planning
- Financial planning
- Family planning
- Capacity and guardianship planning
- Employment and retirement planning
- Will and trust planning
An elder law attorney will help create a plan based on realizing your goals. The attorney will need to review any of your current legal documents, such as deeds, financial records, advance directives, and wills1. According to the Elder Law Report, the plan’s goals will change depending on whether an individual seeks services in crisis or for planning before an emergency3.
How do you choose an elder law attorney?
Many elder care attorneys focus on specific areas of planning and law, and you should be sure to screen any lawyer before choosing their services.
Some questions you should ask when choosing an elder lawyer are:
- Do they focus on a particular area of elder law?
- What is their experience with your specific concern?
- If there is a time constraint, will they be able to work within it?
- What certifications, training, and professional associations does the attorney hold?
- What fees are associated with their services?
While your first thought when you hear “attorney” may have to do with being represented in court, lawyers can offer much more than that. Elder lawyers hold a wealth of information for elderly and disabled individuals and can be a valuable resource to you.
1Okrent, D., & Salazar, C. (2009). Introduction to elder law. Journal of Retirement Planning, 12(1), 13-20.
2Brisk, W. (2012). An elder law attorney’s view of the financial competence of older adults. Generations, 36(2), 88-93.
3Bazar, M. (2014). Life care planning in an elder law practice: How does it work? Elder Law Report, 25(9), 1-3.