What Are Elder Law Attorneys and How Do I Choose One?

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Elder law attorneys handle the wide array of legal matters that affect older or disabled people. This includes concerns like care planning, guardianship, retirement, Medicare, taxes, living wills, estate planning, and housing issues among others. This is a new concept to many people, and it’s actually a fairly new category in the legal field. If you’re new to the idea, you might wonder why finding someone to represent your or your loved one is important.

Who Are Elder Law Attorneys?

They have to be licensed to practice in one or more state, practicing for five years or more, and have finished 45 hours of continuing education in this area during the last three years in order to be certified by the National Elder Law Foundation for this kind of practice. They also have to pass a certificate examination.

Do I Really Need One?

Elder law attorneys are good for people who need help navigating the extreme complexities of federal taxes, property matters, Medicare/Medicaid, and social security. Your lawyer can help advocate for the best next step, and they can also make sure you’re taking that next step legally. They can also be a compassionate, but not overly emotional, advisor, helping prepare trusts, wills, and plans for end-of-life.

How do I Choose the Right Person for My Needs?

If you or your loved one has a specific case matter, like age discrimination, disability, mental health issues, social security, or an abuse case, may want to consider hiring someone who has expertise in your area. If you’re looking for more overall service, ask whether or not they’ve had similar clients to you or your loved one. Ask them what outcomes can be expected if you hire them, or how other cases similar to yours have turned out. You should also make sure that they are very familiar with the statutes in your state, which, usually, change all the time. Finally, find out if they are members of any organizations that are specifically related to your needs.

How Much Will This Cost Me?

Fees can be assessed in many different ways. Ask up front about how much and how often you’ll be billed. Some will expect payment biweekly, others monthly, and still others will ask for payment at the end of the work. Some charge a flat fee, while others will want to be paid by the hour and may also bill for paralegal or research hours. Also, ask about any incidental costs you may be assessed, for things like copies, postage, or court fees.

Once you choose one of the available elder law attorneys to represent you or your loved one, make sure you get your arrangement in writing so that your expectations of each other are clearly spelled out. This is important because of the type of work he or she will engage in. You should feel comfortable with the person you’ve chosen to help navigate these difficult waters.

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