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How to Identify a Real Elder Law Attorney

You might be wondering why you need an Elder Law practitioner. Won't the family lawyer, or Uncle Phil the tax attorney be able to handle mom and dad's paperwork regarding their estate and long-term care? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Although working with someone you already know and trust may be the easier way, it is important to find an attorney who deals daily with the issues that seniors face.

“Fluent in Elder Law”

By Rick L Law,
Lead attorney, Law ElderLaw, LLP
Serving seniors and those who love them
in the Chicago metropolitan area.

I just finished looking at a local county bar association listing of attorneys who call themselves as elder law attorneys. Frankly, I was a little surprised to see that some attorneys who I know are general practitioners, but also consider themselves to be elder law attorneys. I was disturbed when I saw this, because drafting simple wills and trusts does not qualify someone to be an elder law attorney! Wills and trusts may be a very small part of the elder law process - but there is so much more involved than that! What's more, litigating cases that have nothing to do with probate or other issues relating to the elderly does not qualify an attorney to be an elder law attorney.

Will the real elder law attorney please stand up?

When trying to find a truly “elder law”-focused attorney, it's important to understand how elder law differs from traditional estate planning. Estate planning, at its simplest, is what I call death planning. A traditional estate plan is typically designed to do three things:

  1. Minimize estate taxes;
  2. Avoid probate court;
  3. Distribute assets from the deceased to the deceased person's heirs.

Elder law, on the other hand, is death planning plus long-term disability and care planning. The elder law attorney is not only dealing with your estate plan, but must also deal with life care issues in the event that you or your spouse needs long term health care during the course of your lifetime. When there is no long term care asset preservation planning, it is very common to see families spend upwards of a $2,000,000 net worth estate when both a husband and wife have long term care needs. This is a key focus of an elder law attorney.

No one wants to be out of money and out of options before they are out of breath! While it's not possible to guarantee specific results, an elder law attorney works with clients and families to guide them through what is truly a minefield of public benefits, VA benefits, Medicare, Social Security, special needs trusts, powers of attorney, and Medicaid. Our job is to increase the quality of life for our clients, not just plan for a happy post-death asset distribution for their loved ones.

So if you are trying to figure out who is the real elder law attorney, please ask these questions:

  • “How many Medicaid applications do you do in a year?”
  • “How many veterans does your firm assist with the VA aid and attendance benefits per year?”
  • “How many self-settled Pooled Trust plans have you done this year?” 

If you are looking for an attorney to do any of these things, please use someone who can demonstrate that he or she is working in that area every day. The issues are complex, and you deserve to work with someone who is fluent in elder law.

Make Life Better Today

Take a look on www.NAELA.com - that's the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys - to find an elder Law attorney near you.

Make Life Better This Week

Look on the attorney's website. Do they have information that is senior-specific?

Make Life Better This Month

When you go in for your appointment, have a copy of this page with you so you can ask questions of your potential attorney.