When and How to Hire an Elder Care Lawyer
You may be familiar with lawyers specializing in various areas of the law, like corporate, family, and environmental issues. But did you know there’s an entire field of attorneys who have specialized knowledge and expertise in issues that impact seniors?
Seniors face an often-complicated world of special laws, guidelines, rules and procedures that can be confusing and daunting. Add to that possible physical and mental challenges that may appear later in life, or emotionally charged situations involving family, you may find yourself in great need of professional guidance.
That’s the perfect time to turn to an elder care lawyer. While elder care law is not a formal field of law, some attorneys offer special knowledge and experience in issues that can be helpful to seniors of those caring for them. Elder care lawyers can be a huge help when making decisions involving:
- Documentation of a living will, power of attorney, last will and testament, etc.
- Social security, Medicaid, and Medicare claims and benefits
- Age discrimination in the workplace, retirement benefit, pensions
- Estate planning, conservatorships, and guardianships
- Rights for nursing care residents
- Elder abuse or fraud recovery
As with any service provider, it’s important to research the potential attorney carefully. Take time to review his or her past work track record, and note the number and types of cases that relate to your situation. Take advantage of any free initial free consultations to ensure the attorney’s experience lines up with your specific needs or questions. Not every attorney is right for every client, so interview and consider the range of services offered, including special knowledge of veteran services or specific health issues. Another added benefit of hiring an elder lawyer is his or her knowledge of your specific state’s laws relating to senior issues, which can vary from state to state.
One of the best places to start your search for an elder care lawyer is the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc. (NAELA). This organization offers a directory of members who have all committed to uphold a set of “Aspirational Standards” aimed at ensuring the highest level of service is delivered to seniors and their loved ones. You can also get referrals for elder care lawyers from local associations (like the Alzheimer’s Association, AARP, etc.) or local trusted attorneys or bar associations.
NAELA also provides a list of questions to ask your elder care attorney once you have selected him or her, and encourages clients to be organized and prepared to explain the situation. Bring any related materials to the initial consultation and ask questions like:
- What will it take to resolve this situation?
- Are there any alternate courses of action? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
- How many attorneys are in the office?
- Who will handle my case?
- Has that attorney handled matters of this kind in the past?
- If a trial may be involved, does the attorney do trial work? If not, who does the trial work? If so, how many trials has he or she handled?
- Is that attorney a member of the local bar association, a health advocacy committee, or trust and estates committee?
- How are fees computed?
- What is the estimate of the cost to resolve your problem and how long will it take?
Taking the time to research and hire an attorney specializing in elder issues can save you resources and headaches in the long run, as you leverage the knowledge and experience specific to senior agencies, rules, and challenges. Making the most of trusted resources can help you find solutions and success in situations that can be particularly difficult to navigate, and hiring an elder care attorney is often worth the energy and effort.