We know: All About Laws and the Elderly

What is Elder Law?

Elder law is a growing legal field which deals with issues affecting people who are aging and their families. It focuses on such things as planning your estate, long term care in case of illness, how to pay for major medical bills, abuse, Medicare, Social Security, retirement planning and durable power of attorney.

Are there lawyers who specialize in these issues?

Yes. It's not necessary that a lawyer be certified in these areas to assist you, but many attorney's are. This is a good question to ask to help determine if the lawyer you choose is familiar with these issues.

What are some of the issues I might want legal help with?

Here are some examples:

  • Durable Power of Attorney - This is the grant of legal rights and powers to someone who can act on your behalf in financial, business and other matters. You may want to plan ahead and decide who will act for you in case you are unable to make these decisions yourself.
  • Estate Planning - This is the means by which you pass your estate (the things you own) on to the next generation. There are lots of ways to pass on your assets (wills, trusts, beneficiaries), but you can get into trouble if they're not coordinated.
  • Healthcare Directives - These documents allow you to help control the kind of healthcare you will receive should you become ill or debilitated. For instance, a health care proxy is a document giving another person the authority to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to communicate.
  • Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security Planning - Lawyers and others can help you determine what kind of medical coverage you may need in addition to Medicare and help you with such issues as whether you can legally transfer assets to establish eligibility for Medicaid. They can also help with questions related to working while drawing Social Security benefits.
  • Nursing Home Rights - What can you do about abuse? Do you have the right to leave a home?

Before I hire an attorney, what kinds of questions should I ask?

If you can, talk to more than one lawyer. Here are some questions to consider asking:

  1. What is the lawyer's experience?
  2. Is the lawyer certified in the area of Elder Law and by what organization?
  3. What kinds of services the lawyer offers?
  4. State you problem or areas of concern quickly and clearly and ask what the lawyer recommends.
  5. How much does the lawyer charge for particular tasks, such as drawing up a power of attorney?
  6. Ask if some of the work my be handled by a paralegal or junior lawyer in order to say money.
  7. What fees, such as copying and delivery of documents, will you be charged for and are there any of those tasks you can perform to help save money?
  8. How does the lawyer expect to be paid? And how often?

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