What is an Elder Law Attorney?

If your aging loved one is facing legal or financial problems or has questions about the sale of a home, a move to senior living, preserving their assets, or managing their estate, you may look into hiring an elder law attorney.

Attorneys often work in specialized fields. An elder law attorney specializes in issues facing older adults, from elder abuse to guardianship. You may want to retain an elder law attorney to help get your aging parents’ affairs in order before a move to senior living or assisted living, to help navigate the maze of healthcare options, or if you aren’t sure of your loved one’s rights in legal, medical, or financial matters.

Elder Law Attorneys: Not All the Same

Whatever your reason for hiring an elder law attorney, it’s important to realize they are not all the same. Some specialize in understanding a patient’s rights under Medicare or Medicaid insurance. Others may specialize in social security and disability law. Some are experts in the field of elder abuse and fraud recovery.

Other fields of specialty may include:

  • Mental health law
  • Health law
  • Estate planning
  • Disability planning
  • Moving to senior living

Elder law attorneys require no special licensing or certifications, but should be licensed to practice law in your state. Rather, elder law attorneys are defined by the type of clients they serve, and the specialized knowledge and skills they possess to serve this client base.

A Holistic Approach to Legal Concerns

Elder law attorneys typically employ a holistic approach to your aging loved one’s situation. For instance, they understand the mental, physical, and emotional difficulties older adults face, and will act with care and empathy when communicating legal situations and advocating for their client. They put their client’s quality of life at the forefront of every decision.

They also have the capacity to gauge a client's mental and physical abilities in order to help advocate for the best action. This will give your aging loved one autonomy and the best quality-of-life possible.

Elder law attorneys often work with a team of social workers, psychologists, doctors and senior care managers to help them determine the best decisions for their clients.

What to Consider before Hiring an Elder Law Attorney

Select an elder law attorney specializing in the areas of law you need help with now. If an aging loved one is moving to senior living, you may want someone with expertise in financial planning, real estate and housing issues, and long-term care.

At different times, you may wish to call on different elder law attorneys to assist with different needs and legal issues. A larger practice may have teams of elder law attorneys on staff that can assist in various ways. A boutique legal practice may be able to offer a referral to another lawyer in the area to assist with specific issues.

When in doubt, it’s better to call an elder law attorney for a free consultation rather than to try to represent your aging loved one yourself.

Caring for an older adult can be a full-time job, as it is. If you can afford it, hiring an elder law attorney is one of the best ways to protect your senior loved one and their assets.