Choosing the Right Elder Law Attorney: Essential Tips
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This article provides an overview of the services provided by elder law attorneys and how they can help family caregivers of older adults. It also discusses the cost of hiring an elder law attorney and how to find the right one.
- Elder law attorneys specialize in a wide range of legal issues related to older adults and their families.
- The cost of hiring an elder law attorney varies depending on the complexity of the situation.
- Non-attorney professionals, pre-paid legal insurance plans, and members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) can help with simpler legal tasks.
How Can Elder Law Attorneys Help Family Caregivers of Older Adults?
Elder law attorneys, sometimes called elder care attorneys, help older adults and their families with a wide range of legal issues, from planning for the future to fighting for their legal rights. They understand the challenges facing older adults and can help family caregivers effectively navigate any areas they specialize in.
Elder law specialties include:
- Advance care planning (including power of attorney documents, living trusts, and living wills)
- Long term care planning
- Social security or disability claims and appeals
- Medicaid planning and asset protection
- Medicare claims and appeals
- Health or mental health law
- Conservatorships and guardianships
- Elder fraud or financial exploitation
- Elder abuse
- Age or disability discrimination
- Trust administration and management
- Retirement and pension benefits
- Veterans benefits
- Tax planning
- Estate planning (wills, trusts)
How Much Do Elder Law Attorneys Cost?
The biggest downside of elder law attorneys is their price tag – they don’t come cheap. In 2020, the national average hourly rate for elder law attorneys was $239. However, pricing varies considerably depending on where you live and other factors.
It can be hard to estimate what your attorney fees may total, mainly because it’s often unknown how long your situation will take to resolve.
Predicting the price of more cut-and-dried matters – such as an uncontested guardianship or a basic estate plan – is easier. In fact, some elder law attorneys offer flat rate packages for basic services like these. However, the amount may depend on the complexity of your situation, so you’ll still probably need to contact the office directly for a quote.
Initial consultations are sometimes free, and other times the lawyer will charge a flat rate or hourly fee for the first visit. After they hear the details of your situation they can provide a better idea as to how long your issue may take to resolve – and how much you might end up spending.
If you’re concerned about the cost of an attorney, read: Where to Find Legal Help When You Can’t Afford an Elder Law Attorney
How Can I Find the Right Elder Law Attorney?
If your legal needs are simple and straightforward, you might prefer to save some money with lower-cost legal options or alternatives like these:
- Non-attorney professionals can often help with issues such as advance care planning, Medicaid planning, veterans benefits, and tax planning. Check with your local Area Agency on Aging for recommendations in your neighborhood.
- Pre-paid legal insurance plans, like ARAG, Metlife or Legal Sheild, can help you tackle simpler legal tasks, such as creating a straightforward estate plan.
If you’re looking at a complex legal situation, it’s worth taking the time to ensure you find an attorney with the right experience, skills, and personality to meet your needs.
- Find a few good leads. Look for attorneys who work in your area of need. Most specialize in no more than a few areas of elder law.
- Find elder law attorney service provider profiles in your area on your Olera dashboard.
- Most elder law attorneys are members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). Use the NAELA Directory to find one near you. You can filter results by location, specialty and language spoken.
- Some elder law attorneys are Certified Elder Law Attorneys (CELA). This assures you they’ve had specialized training and experience in elder law matters and they’re bound by a set of high ethical standards. A CELA designation is a good sign, but attorneys without it could also be a fine choice. Find a CELA in your state through the National Elder Law Foundation Directory Search.
- Set up a consultation or two. Interview multiple attorneys so you can compare their responses, work styles, fee structures, and approaches to your situation.
- Ask them:
- How much experience have they had with situations like yours?
- How are your fees structured, and much can I expect this to cost?
- Ask yourself:
- Do I feel comfortable working with this person? Do I trust them?
- Are they polite, respectful, patient, professional, and responsive?
- Ask them:
Check their license is current and in good standing at your State Bar Association’s website before hiring them.
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