Elder Law: The Basics

What is elder law? Does your loved one need an elder law attorney? If so, how do you find one? Here are some answers.

As the name might suggest, elder law is a facet of law pertaining to the elderly. Often elder law attorneys are a good idea in cases involving seniors because these lawyers deal almost exclusively with the elderly and have a greater understanding of the specific issues and limitations that these individuals face.

  • Elder law attorneys specialize in a variety of areas including:
  • Medicaid or Medicare claims and appeal
  • Social Security and disability claims and appeals
  • Supplemental and long-term health insurance issues
  • Disability planning (i.e., durable power of attorney, living trusts, living wills, etc.)
  • Conservatorships and guardianships
  • Estate planning, including wills, probate, and trusts
  • Administration and management of trusts and estates
  • Long-term care placement
  • Nursing home issues such as patient’s rights and nursing home quality
  • Elder abuse
  • Housing issues (including age discrimination)
  • Employment issues (including age discrimination)
  • Retirement, including public and private retirement benefits and pension benefits
  • Health law
  • Mental health law

To find an elder law attorney, try contacting one of the following organizations:

  • Alzheimer’s Association
  • American Association of Retired Persons
  • Children of Aging Parents
  • Health Insurance Association of America
  • National Citizen’s Coalition of Nursing Home Reform
  • Older Women’s League
  • Other attorneys
  • Social Security Office
  • State Civil Liberties Union
  • State or Local Bar Association
  • Hospital or Nursing Home Social Service Department

When interviewing an elder law attorney, be sure to ask if he or she is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NELF). The CELA certification given by the NELF shows that the attorney has been practicing law in the area of elder law for at least five years and maintains an in-depth, working knowledge of elder law. The certification is given only after a comprehensive exam and is not held by many lawyers nationwide. (It should also be noted, however, that the states of Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada and Ohio do not recognize any certificates, including the CELA.)

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