Plan Ahead-Selecting an Elder Law Attorney
Many people when they hear elder law attorney think:
- I don’t think I really need one; what are they for anyway?
- An attorney costs too much money.
- My cousin, sister, uncle, friend is an attorney so they will help if I need it.
Sound familiar? Well it’s time to re-evaluate.
Let’s begin with “What is an elder law attorney?”
An elder law attorney specializes in, you guessed it, elder law. “Elder and Special Needs Law are specialized areas of law that involve representing, counseling, and assisting seniors, people with disabilities, and their families in connection with a variety of legal issues, from estate planning to long term care issues, with a primary emphasis on promoting the highest quality of life for the individuals.” Typically, Elder and Special Needs Law attorneys address the client’s perspective from a holistic viewpoint by addressing legal, medical, financial, social and family issues.”-National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.
This is a nice neat definition from NAELA. However, not only do you need to find an elder law attorney, you need to find a good one who actually does “address the client’s perspective from a holistic viewpoint.” They need to really know the many facets of elder law; law changes all the time so you need to make sure your attorney is keeping up and knows the ins and outs.
Yes, lawyers cost money. However, not putting things in place so that your needs can be addressed is much more costly and heartbreaking for your entire family. Commonly, we see elder law attorneys provide estate planning (so one’s hard earned money and assets are given and used as they wish), creating wills and power of attorney, as well as, Medicaid planning and application processing. Unfortunately, those who wait until the crisis hits to seek legal help are faced with fewer options and may lack access to the care they truly need.
Here is what you need from an elder law attorney:
-An elder law attorney who will first listen to your individual situation
-From this information (and potential paperwork), they lay out and explain a plan to protect your assets and promote your highest quality of life
-Follow through with this plan and tie up any loose ends so that in the event of a crisis you don’t need to worry about this aspect.
-Can refer you to a healthcare coordinator and/or patient advocate who can provide healthcare advocacy and navigate you through the system of care.
Tips to find a good elder law attorney for your needs:
-Do they offer presentations on elder law basics? Or free consultations?-This is helpful because many people don’t know how much an elder law attorney can help and this gives insight and shows they may know what’s current in the industry.
-How long have they been practicing ELDER LAW? There are plenty of young, fairly new elder law attorneys who are great. I just suggest elder law attorneys who specialize in elder law alone. It’s the old adage “a jack of all trades and an expert at none”.
-If you know some of your needs, ask the firm how many similar type cases they do annually. And ask if there are general pitfalls with this kind of case.
– (shameless plug alert) A referral from Care Answered or a friend who has used the attorney (for similar needs) with great success is also great. Care Answered only refers elder law attorneys we actually know and are trusted. Remember we only work for you and we treat you like family so we only refer lawyers we would use ourselves.
-Do your homework, just because the nursing home, long term care facility or other healthcare entity suggests a lawyer does not mean they are good. They may even work for the facility or they may have just dropped off their business card.
Stay tuned for more on our Planning Ahead series. And don’t forget to comment or contact us with your questions.