Should You Hire an Elder Law Attorney?

As people age, a number of new issues arise that can be confusing for them and their families. These include issues like how to ensure there will be enough money to pay for needed care, how decisions will be made if the individual loses the ability to make prudent decisions, and what to do when family members disagree about a parent’s care. An elder law attorney can help a family navigate these issues and prepare for an unknown future.

Elder law attorneys can do much more than create a will and other estate-planning documents. Their expertise includes long-term care planning, applying for Medicaid and veterans’ benefits, guardianship and/or conservatorship issues, advance planning for those with special needs, and the like.

Is it time for you to hire an elder law attorney? Here are some reasons it might be a good idea:

You Have Health Issues That May Become Debilitating
Do you know how you want to be cared for if you become unable to care for yourself? Elder law attorneys understand the options – which range from independent living, to in-home care, to assisted living, to skilled care – and can help you think ahead about what will be best for you.

You Are Concerned About Your Financial Resources
It’s natural for you to be concerned about outliving your resources. However, there are proactive steps you can take ahead of time to ensure that this won’t happen. Your elder law attorney can ensure that you receive the help you need without impoverishing yourself or your family.

You Want to Ensure That Your Wishes Will Be Carried Out
Who will make decisions for you if you become cognitively impaired or otherwise unable to make choices? Before this happens, you need to think about appointing a health care agent and power of attorney. Sometimes, family members disagree about the best course of action. Your attorney can act as a mediator and problem-solver when questions arise, and can advocate for you so that your wishes are honored.

You Have Questions About Available Benefits
Elder law attorneys are well-versed in the current laws regarding public benefits that may help pay for long-term care and senior housing. Applying for Medicaid or veterans’ benefits, if appropriate, can be arduous and confusing. A good elder law attorney can handle the paperwork for you and make sure it is done correctly the first time.

How do you find the right elder law attorney? Look for someone who is a member of National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (www.naela.org), which sets standards of professionalism and ethical behavior for its members. You also want someone who specializes in elder law (rather than this being a small part of a broader practice).

Ask questions before engaging an elder law attorney: How many cases like yours has the attorney handled? Can the attorney provide references from the local business community? Does he or she have testimonials for current or former clients?

Also be sure to inquire about fees. Does attorney offer an initial consultation at no charge? Will you pay a flat fee or an hourly rate? What services are included in the fee? Will you be given an estimate in writing?

The issues that you and your loved ones will face as you age can be unpredictable. Your elder law attorney can help you to be proactive in planning for your future.

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