What Is Elder Law?
Elder law is different than many other areas of the law. Rather than focusing on legal procedures, it mainly looks at the client, the older adult whose needs are often different than those of the general population.
On a grander scope, seniors need to be concerned about financial and estate planning so that they can protect their ability to remain financially solvent and make their wishes known about how their assets should be divided after their deaths.
But attorneys in an elder law practice also handle the legal details of their clients’ lives, such as seeing that they are receiving proper care at a nursing home or assisted living facility and advocating for them if abuse or mistreatment is suspected. They are also equipped to handle emotional situations that present themselves as physical and/or mental limitations become more apparent, and they need to consider whether or not assigning a guardianship or power of attorney is appropriate.
In general, elder law attorneys are usually straightforward when it comes to their billing practices, and they make it clear what services are billed by the hour and which are billed as a flat fee, such as filing documents with the court.
For many seniors, retaining control of their lives for as long as possible and not relying on their adult children more than necessary are important issues. By working on various legal matters before any questions arise regarding their mental capability, seniors can increase the chances that their wishes will be taken seriously when it comes to things such as end of life or estate planning. Helping clients draft a living will is another way an elder law attorneys can contribute to seniors’ peace of mind during their golden years.
Building an Attorney/Client Relationship
One of the advantages that older adults receive when they work with a lawyer who has focused his or her practice to align with the needs of seniors is that they are able to work with the same person even when they face a wide variety of situations and still be confident that the lawyer is knowledgeable in each area. For example, the issues that a 30-year-old faces with retirement planning will be different than those faced by someone who is 68 years old.
The process of hiring an attorney should be approached with great care, much like choosing a physician, accountant or other licensed professional. Getting referrals from people you know who have worked with a particular attorney is a good place to start, but it is important that seniors ask plenty of questions. There may be several issues with which they can foresee needing legal help, and it is important to ask a new attorney questions regarding his or her experience in those areas, even if they do not need help in those areas yet.
An initial consultation is not just about explaining why you believe a lawyer can help in a specific situation, but it is a chance to get a chance to know the lawyer, too. It is a time to get a sense of the lawyer’s values and determine if this is a person who should be considered trustworthy by your own standards. Finding that is not always easy, and once you do, it is beneficial to keep such a person in your life, especially during times when it is important that someone has your back.
At Wright Probate, a good portion of our practice is devoted to elder law and the specific legal needs of seniors. If you’re looking to work with an attorney on these important matters, contact us to set up a consultation.