As people age, they become more vulnerable with specific legal matters that are much different than the younger population, such as long-term health care, living arrangements, and unique financial needs. Seniors and their family caregivers can find themselves in overwhelming and sticky situations without adequate legal planning. But who can help? Luckily, attorneys are available that practice elder law.
What Is an Elder Law Attorney?
Elder law attorneys are professional advocates that specialize in helping older adults and their family caregivers with legal matters and planning related to aging.
The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) defines Elder Law as, “A specialized area of legal practice that focuses on the type of client served rather than on the specific legal question involved. An Elder Law Attorney has a practice centered around the issues that impact older adults and people with disabilities.”
What Can an Elder Law Attorney Help With?
Most elder law attorneys cover the following major categories of elder law in their practice:
- disability and special needs planning
- long-term care planning
- estate planning and settlement
- protection against elder abuse, neglect, and fraud
Typically, elder law attorneys do not specialize in every area of law, but many cover a range of legal issues.
Per Wikipedia, other legal issues found under the umbrella of elder law include:
- end-of-life planning
- all levels of disability and medical care
- retirement planning
- Social Security benefits
- Medicare and Medicaid coverage
- Medicaid planning (United States)
- consumer protection
- nursing homes and in-home care
- powers of attorney
- physicians’ or medical care directives, declarations, and powers of attorney
- landlord/tenant needs
- real estate and mortgage assistance
- various levels of advice, counseling, and advocacy of rights
- tax issues
How Much Do Elder Law Attorneys Charge?
The cost of hiring an elder law attorney varies. Most legal fees are based upon which services are needed and are subject to the area in which the services are provided (where you live), as well as the level of experience and education the attorney has.
Fee structures also vary amongst attorneys. An initial consultation for estate planning, for example, may be billed at a set fee (perhaps $400.00), and the payment of that fee may be creditable towards additional services if you retain the attorney.
Some attorneys charge a retainer fee and then charge for legal services by the hour.
Some attorneys offer an initial consultation for free. In many cases, however, attorneys do not offer legal advice during a free session. They will listen to you and tell you how they can help you. They will also quote the fees required to handle your case.
Some attorneys offer reduced fees for clients with limited income or assets. If you are in financial need, contact your local legal aid office, or your local agency on aging. They can help you locate an affordable elder care attorney.
One way to keep attorney costs down is to be prepared. Gathering important financial and legal documents is the easiest way to assess what is needed. The more organized you are the smoother the legal process will be. Check out our list of common items to start with at our blog, Planning Ahead – Financial and Legal Considerations.
Remember that legal fees are often worth the cost. Fees paid to an elder law attorney that serves you well may save you thousands of dollars and keep you from suffering future headaches!
How to Find an Elder Law Attorney
Referrals are powerful in any industry, but especially in the legal field. Ask your friends, family, physician, and reputable senior care homes for trusted referrals.
When looking for an attorney, is important to know that more than one organization and school certifies attorneys in elder care.
Elder-law.com explains, “Should you demand that your new lawyer have one or more of the credentials described here? No, not necessarily–though you might ask further questions if he or she does not belong to any of these professional associations. The websites of each may give you some leads to locate experienced and competent practitioners in your area.”
Some important aspects to determine when looking for an elder care attorney are:
- How long has the attorney been in practice?
- Does his or her practice focus on a particular area of law?
- How much of his or her practice is devoted to elder care?
Online searches are a great way to specifically find local elder law attorneys, for example, NAELA offers a free nationwide online search service (by distance). Elder Options of Texas offers a free search option (by city) in the state of Texas.
We Are Here to Help
We understand how important it is to you to plan for the well-being of your loved one with dementia. Here at Sundara, caring is what matters.
Families matter, and we believe in a family approach!
We want to help you with your questions and ease your mind about memory care for your loved one.
If are in the Round Rock, Texas area, and would like to schedule a family visit, or make an appointment, you may do so online, or by calling us at 512-399-5080.