You might have worked with a variety of attorneys throughout your life. Perhaps you hired a family law attorney to handle your divorce or child custody issue. Maybe you worked with an estate planning lawyer to write a Will when your children were born or a real estate attorney when you bought or sold a house. If you own a business, you have likely consulted with a corporate attorney. You might have even needed a criminal defense attorney at some point for your or a family member’s legal troubles.
While you might have forged good relationships with these attorneys over the years, none of them has the knowledge and experience you need as you age and face the possibility of incapacitation and needing a nursing home. That knowledge comes from an attorney who practices in an area we call elder law. These specialists manage a range of legal issues and are invaluable when you are looking for help as you get older.
What Does an Elder Law Attorney Do?
Attorneys who specialize in elder law focus their practice on clients who are facing the challenges of getting older. More than just meeting the legal needs of seniors, an elder law attorney is a counselor and consultant on a variety of issues that come up for older people. These issues include things like estate planning, finding a quality nursing home, paying for long-term care, qualifying for government and Veterans benefits, and remaining independent for as long as possible. At Ross & Shoalmire, our experienced team takes a proactive approach to anticipating our clients’ needs and avoiding some of the financial and healthcare challenges that can be tragic for older people.
7 Tips for Choosing an Elder Law Attorney
When you are looking for an elder law attorney for yourself or an elderly parent, you want someone you can trust. The issues you are dealing with can be emotionally charged and very difficult, and you need someone who will be sensitive to your feelings but also skilled in finding solutions. To find a legal team that is a good fit for you, we recommend doing the following:
- Ask people you trust for recommendations. Many of our clients find us through word of mouth, and we think there’s no better starting point than making a list of attorneys recommended by friends and family members. A Google search will not give you the same level of personal input.
- Talk to several law firms before choosing. Once you have several suggestions from friends, make appointments to talk to each of them. You want to like the lawyers you will be entrusting with these important legal matters, so if you don’t feel a connection when you meet, you should probably move on to another firm.
- Make sure they specialize in elder law. Any estate planning lawyer will probably be willing to handle elder law issues when they arise, but elder law attorneys have the experience to anticipate and prevent problems. They are also committed to helping with non-legal matters such as finding long-term care facilities and accessing community resources to help families.
- Go to a free seminar. Many Estate Planning and elder law firms hold free seminars to educate people about their legal options. This is a good way to get a feel for the personalities of the attorneys and to find out about the services they offer.
- Ask tough questions. Who will be handling your matter—the attorney you met at a seminar or a paralegal in the office? How quickly can you expect a response to your questions? What will specific services cost? Use your time with the attorney to get all of your questions answered.
- Read testimonials. You can learn a lot about how a law firm operates by reading client testimonials. This is a great way to see what services are offered, what kind of relationships clients form with their attorney, and how certain problems have been resolved.
- Check out their website. You want the law firm you choose to have an up-to-date, informative website. If you can’t talk to an attorney right away, you should be able to get questions answered on the website. A stagnant, outdated website is a good indicator that the firm is either overwhelmed or is not detail-oriented—both attributes you want to avoid in a law firm.