Savvy senior: Elder law is a rapidly-growing area
Dear Savvy Senior:
I need to get some legal help for my 72-year-old mother but am not sure where to turn. A friend recommended I find an attorney who specializes in elder law but I’m not familiar with this. What can you tell me about elder law and where can I find some help?
With the tidal wave of baby boomers growing older, elder law has become one of the fastest growing fields in the legal profession. Here’s what you should know.
Elder law is a legal specialty that helps older citizens and their family members with a variety of legal issues that can include: estate planning (wills, trusts and probate), long-term care planning, Social Security and disability, public and private pensions, Medicare, Medicaid, nursing home issues, durable powers of attorney, living wills, conservatorship and guardianship, age discrimination, elder abuse, fraud, senior housing and more.
Finding an attorney
A good resource to help you find an experienced elder law attorney in your area is the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, a nonprofit professional association that provides a nationwide directory on their Web site at http://www.naela. com. It’s also important to know that most elder law attorneys don’t specialize in all areas of elder law, so be sure to choose someone who has the expertise that matches your needs. Once you get a list of some possible candidates – to ensure you make a good hire – call them and ask a lot of questions including:
— How long have they been in practice?
— What percentage of their practice is devoted to elder law?
— What area of elder law do they specialize in and how much experience do they have?
— Ask them for references and check them!
— Is there a fee for the initial consultation?
— What are the ongoing fees, and what can you expect to pay long term?
— What papers and other information do you need to bring to your first meeting?
Depending on your needs, there are several other legal resources for seniors you should know about, including:
— Senior Legal Hotlines: There are 22 states including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico that offer senior legal hotlines, where all seniors over age 60 have access to free legal advice over the telephone. To find the states that offer this service and their toll free number visit http://www.legalhotlines.org.
— Legal Services for Elderly: Coordinated by the Administration on Aging, this service may offer free legal advice, legal assistance or access to legal representation to people over the age of 60. Contact your Area Agency on Aging to find out what’s available in your community. To get your agency’s number, call (800) 677-1116 or visit http://www.eldercare.gov.
— AARP Legal Services Network: This service provides AARP members a free 30-minute legal consultation with an attorney in your area along with discounts on other legal services you may need. To locate a lawyer in your area visit http://www.aarp.org/families/legal_issues/lsn or call (888) 687-2277.
— Legal Services: Directed by the Legal Services Corporation, Legal Services (also known as Legal Aid) offers free legal assistance to financially eligible people of all ages. Each community program will differ in the services they offer and income qualifications. For more information visit http://www.lsc.gov.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit http://www.savvysenior.org.
– Jim Miller is a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.
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