An elder law attorney helps you navigate through the issues of life that arise simply because of age. An elder lawyer can be of great help as they provide you with legal guidance and counseling on a host of factors. These include matters like preparing for long-term care, choosing retirement plans, settling your estate, and a host of other issues that older adults face including filing a complaint if there are problems with home care agencies.
At some point in our life, we begin planning for our retirement future, and planning the estate settlement before our death, so seeking counsel from an elder law attorney is highly advised. Attorneys who practice elder law are knowledgeable in matters that are relevant to senior citizens.
Elder law attorneys are thoroughly learned about the relationship between estate planning, Veterans’ Benefits, long-term care planning, Medicaid, and retirement planning.
Of course, we understand that your first instinct may be to go to the internet or to your family lawyer, who may be able to provide you with an appropriately drafted will or trust. However, the reason we insist on approaching an elder law attorney is that a regular lawyer may not understand that the plan they drafted does not protect your assets from a
Medicaid spend-down, or that your assets have not been appropriately positioned for you to qualify for VA benefits in the future.
An elder law attorney has the knowledge needed to provide you with a specialized plan that works for your unique situation and accomplishes your specific goals.
Here, we are giving you a set of guidelines to help you find an elder law attorney who has the knowledge and experience to help you in your legal complications.
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Ascertain Your Needs
Are you looking for help with estate planning or drafting a will?
Most elder lawyers are specialists in a particular area, like estate planning or health care. It’s essential that you outline your requirements before thinking of the initial consultation. This makes it easier to select an elder law attorney who understands your specific requirements in detail.
The issues faced by the elderly are diverse, and so are the lawyers who specialize in tackling these issues; so, to find the right elder law attorney for your needs, first determine what services you require.
Get Referrals from Friends and Family
If you are on the hunt to find a good elder law practitioner, we suggest that you start by asking friends, family, and professional resources, like your financial advisor, accountant, or other attorneys, for referrals.
People who are are closer to you in age will most probably have consulted with a certified elder law attorney and getting their advice would be a smart choice.
After gathering some referrals, you can consider continuing or narrowing your search online. Search directories and browse reviews to gather information and opinions.
Create a shortlist of elder lawyers to contact for an initial consultation. Keep in mind that a good elder law attorney might charge for the initial consultation, so be sure to ask about the fee beforehand.
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Type of Attorney
As we already mentioned, the branch of elder law is vast and diverse. As a senior who needs legal help, you might need to think about the type of attorney that best fits your needs. For instance, in addition to an estate planning attorney, you may wish to consider an elder mediator.
If you are wondering what elder mediation is, it is a form of alternative dispute resolution, which provides a more collaborative way to resolve challenges. It is especially valid in dynamic family situations where you might face some hostility and the chance of disputes are high.
Meet the Elders Law Attorney
When you meet with an elder law attorney, bring a checklist of questions to make sure you get the information you need.
Documents include will outline, the estate planning documents, any papers regarding a living trust, estate guardianship papers, etc.
Also, think about what information the attorney may need from you, and bring any identification papers and proof-of-relation documents that may be needed.
It’s important that you are comfortable with the personality of the lawyer, and that he/she fits your idea of advisor just as well as he/she does on paper!
Finally, when you’ve found the right provider for elder law services, finalize your arrangement in writing. This may consist of a formal contract or a letter and should include the services your elder lawyer will provide and the fee structure.
Again, ask a friend or family member to review the contract, and make sure you understand its content before signing.
Now, read to get a gist of some important questions you may want to ask your law attorney before signing a contract with them.
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Questions to ask the Elder Law Attorney
What Is the Amount of Experience You Have in Elder Law Practice?
The more the experience, the better. You should make an inquiry as to how long the attorney has been practicing this area of elder law since being well-seasoned can help with all areas of practice, especially if the practice area overlaps with elder law.
What Percentage of Your Law Practice Is Elder Law?
The information you are looking for here is whether he/she is only superficially involved in elder law practice. the reason why it becomes important is that matters like real estate and litigation can come into play on the periphery of elder law, and a lawyer may claim that he/she has experience with elder law based on the aforesaid experience alone.
But the reality is that without spending enough time and effort on multiple cases, an attorney will not be fully up-to-date with the latest developments and lack the thorough knowledge required to support your case.
What Are Your Charges?
The lawyer or the firm from which you hire the elder law attorney needs to give you the estimate.
In most cases, lawyers can’t provide an answer without a full consultation because the work involved needs to be clarified.
But the firm should be able to give you a range of fees that can be expected for the services.
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Will You See Me and My Family Through the Entire Process?
Many attorneys, even though they do advance long-term care planning in terms of setting up trusts do not assist with applying for benefits. It is not that they are laid back about the process, many of these attorneys have good referral networks and can connect their clients with qualified counsel.
The appointed counsel is fully qualified to take on further representation, but, you might prefer to know in advance if someone else is going to look into matters.
What Is Your Policy on Home Visits?
If you are dependent on others for getting to make it to your doctor’s and lawyer appointments, you can ask whether the attorney does home visits. If so, we suggest that you check whether there are extra costs for the home consultations.
Will I Work With You or Someone Else in the Office?
Some clients will feel more comfortable knowing that their lawyer is on top of everything. Others, once they get to know the other members of the lawyer’s team, will be happy working directly with them, especially if they are more responsive and less costly than the over-committed team leader—the attorney. But ask so that you know ahead of time how the law firm works.
How Long Does It Take You to Return Phone Calls and Emails?
Do ask about how much time they will take to answer your emails or texts. Many people expect immediate responses to their phone calls and especially, to their emails. Of course, it is hard to respond immediately to every query online, but it is only fair that you know what to expect.
Sometimes the response will be that we received the message with an estimate of when we will be able to provide a substantive answer. This type of policy may or may not be sufficient for you as a client and it’s something you should know going into any legal representation.
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What Will Happen to My File When You Stop Practicing?
Okay, so you need to accept the fact that unexpected events can happen that negates the lawyer-client relationship. Anyone can be struck by an illness or worse at any time, including your attorney. What we are saying is that you need a contingency plan.
In larger firms, the contingency plan is built-in, since the other attorneys in the practice will fill in to fulfill the duties and responsibilities. This transition may be temporary or permanent. But, in the case of an independent practitioner, make sure that they have made an arrangement with another lawyer or firm to take over ongoing cases and files of completed matters in the event of incapacity or death.
This issue is less important if the legal representation is short-term and transactional. But if you are anticipating longer-term ongoing representation, for instance in special needs planning and trust administration the necessity of a backup plan becomes even more crucial.
We hope that the information provided in this article has been informative to you. Do let us know if you have any additional information or suggestions for us in the comments below!