Answering Common Questions about Elder Law Attorneys
It can be difficult to navigate the legal system and to know which type of attorney to turn to when we need help. For many True Link customers, Elder Law Attorneys (ELAs) are a valuable resource for navigating life as we age and planning for the futures of a loved one with a disability. If you aren’t familiar with what an ELA does and when you should call on them, this article can help.
What does an Elder Law Attorney Do?
Elder Law Attorneys specialize in legal matters that affect older adults, people with disabilities, and those who care for them. They help families navigate complex laws and regulations related to health care, estate planning, Social Security benefits, end-of-life decision-making and more.
How can an Elder Law Attorney help me?
While each attorney and practice will offer a different selection of services, you can turn to Elder Law Attorneys to help with:
- Wills, trusts, and other estate planning needs;
- Planning for an individual with disabilities, including establishing a Special Needs/Supplemental Needs Trust (SNTs);
- Long-term care planning;
- Social Security and Medicare benefits: advising on eligibility and help with applications, claims, and appeals;
- End-of-life decision-making including power of attorney, living wills, or other advance directives; and
- Guardianship: establishing a guardian-of-the-person and representing the individual in proceedings.
Who should work with an ELA?
Anyone who has legal questions or concerns related to aging, disability, or long-term care could benefit from working with an elder law attorney. But you don’t need to actively be dealing with legal challenges to call on an ELA for help. These attorneys can also provide valuable guidance during the planning when it comes to matters of aging, disability, and long-term care. People who work with Elder Law Attorneys typically fall into one of these categories:
- Seniors and older adults who need assistance with estate planning, public benefits planning, guardianship, and end-of-life decision-making.
- Individuals with disabilities who need assistance with planning for their future to maintain a good quality of life and remain eligible for benefits.
- Family members and/or caregivers who need guidance on issues related to the care of a loved one and want to ensure that their rights and wishes are respected.
When should you reach out to an Elder Law Attorney?
There are a number of situations that may prompt someone to reach out to an Elder Law Attorney for legal advice and guidance. If you can identify with any of the following situations, you might benefit from contacting an ELA.
- You or a loved one has received a diagnosis that could result in diminished capacity. This can include Alzheimer’s and other dementia, ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, etc.
- You have a child that has been diagnosed with a physical and/or developmental disability
- You or a loved one is residing in or transitioning to assisted living, skilled care or nursing facility
- You are planning for your end-of-life and want to understand your options as it pertains to healthcare decision-making, long-term care planning, financial security, and/or trust planning
- You want to better understand public benefits, how to qualify for them, and where they fit in with your larger financial plan
What happens when you reach out to an Elder Law Attorney?
Many ELAs will charge for an initial consultation because they are often providing recommendations about next steps you can take. The more information you are able to provide about your situation and needs, the more personalized the legal advice can be. Prior to an initial meeting, you will likely be asked to submit a lot of personal and financial details to help the attorney answer your questions thoroughly.
What should I look for in an ELA?
Many types of attorneys can provide legal advice on these topics and draft documents like wills and advance directives, but it can be helpful to work with someone who specializes in this type of law. In addition to listing “Elder Law” as a specialty on their website, an experienced ELA will have a deep understanding of public benefits – one easy check is to see if they understand the difference between Medicaid and Medicare or SSI (Supplemental Security Income) and SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance). Additionally, if a new diagnosis is involved, it can be beneficial to work with a lawyer who understands how to plan for people living with diminished capacity.
How do I find an Elder Law Attorney?
A trusted referral is a great place to start; ask your friends, your financial advisor, your accountant, or other professional if they know of an elder law specialist in your community that they’d recommend. You can also contact your state or local bar association to get contact information for lawyers with the appropriate speciality, or use the find a lawyer database managed by the Special Needs Alliance.
Now that you have answers to these frequently asked questions, you’re ready to start your search for a qualified Elder Law Attorney.