How to Go About Choosing an Elder Law Attorney


 

Updated 2/16/21

There are many details that people need to know when it comes to wills and trusts attorney. A substantial number of people battle with a will and trust-related cases due to the lack of enough knowledge. If you are faced with a similar case, you need to know about the power of attorney. Such would enable you to choose the right attorney to ensure you win the case. A power of attorney over property enables them to offer legal guidance on property-related lawsuits. Therefore, you need to find a law firm that will provide the necessary legal services whenever you find yourself in a similar case. Without legal advice, an individual can make more mistakes that would result in them losing their property.

There are plenty of instances when you need to involve a property attorney. You do not have to involve them only when you have a pending lawsuit. A power of attorney can be special or general, and therefore, it is up to an individual to choose the right attorney. Choosing the right attorney will save you many costs that could have been incurred in solving lawsuits. The attorney’s experience in the field is an important aspect to consider.

The financial and medical issues surrounding getting older can be incredibly complicated. Health care issues, property asset protection, and personal finances are all tough situations a senior citizen must navigate. Elder law can help older adults address these issues to legally protect themselves. There are things you should know if you or a loved one needs help with legal issues regarding elder care. Here is everything you need to know when it comes to choosing an elder law attorney.

Elder Law in a Nutshell

There are personal matters for which an elder care law attorney can provide legal assistance and advice. These attorneys can help with healthcare documents such as a living will, power of attorney, and an advanced medical directive. They can help establish trusts to protect your estate from creditors and minimize taxes after death. If you need public health benefits due to a disability or illness, an elder care attorney can help you establish eligibility. When choosing an elder care law attorney, look for one who specializes in the specific issues you may need help with most.

Trying to figure out all of the available options on the market for healthcare coverage can be frustrating for many older adults. Medicare has strict eligibility guidelines regarding income levels and the handling of assets. The varying plans of healthcare coverage can make it difficult to determine which one covers prescriptions, long term care, hospitalizations, or certain treatment procedures. You may need to purchase supplemental insurance in order to cover all your health needs. An elder care law attorney can help with understanding Medicare enrollment and choosing the best plan for your loved one.

Medicare Coverage and Health Costs

The rising costs of health care can be overwhelming for older adults. Many seniors don’t have enough money or insurance coverage to adequately cover their needs. You may be surprised to learn that the typical Medicare plan doesn’t cover the costs of general dentistry treatments. Medicare Part B only covers dental treatment that’s determined to be medically necessary. If you need medical care that isn’t covered by a Medicare plan, you will need to acquire supplemental coverage from a private insurance company or apply for public assistance.

Depending on your income and assets, you may be able to qualify for Medicaid to pay for things like dentures or teeth extractions. There is also a Medicare Advantage plan that can give you the coverage you need to pay for your out-of-pocket expenses. Choosing an elder law attorney can give you legal assistance regarding your medical care coverage. An experienced attorney is knowledgeable about the different rules and regulations of insurance coverage for both short and long-term care. This legal advice can help you avoid having to pay expensive out-of-pocket costs so you can take excellent care of your loved one’s health.

Protecting Assets

One of the biggest reasons for choosing an elder law attorney for many people is to protect their assets after they die. Your assets can also be protected in a trust if you need long-term care at a nursing home. With a trust, you can protect your gold jewelry and other valuables from being taken by a probate court to be used to pay any debts you may owe to creditors. This will ensure that your final wishes of passing your home to your spouse or custom rings to your children are honored. A standard revocable living family trust can help minimize estate taxes but may not be effective with Medicare nursing home cost recovery.

An elder law attorney can help you craft a customized estate plan to protect your assets. They can help you make adjustments as your goals and needs change over time. You can receive objective legal advice about beneficiaries, guardianship, and situations that can directly affect you. It’s important to have an asset protection plan in place long before something catastrophic occurs to avoid any potential legal or financial consequences. You may not be able to protect your assets by creating an estate plan after you become ill and need nursing home care or you get sued by creditors.

Taking Care of Property

What happens if you are no longer legally able to take care of yourself or your property because of a debilitating illness? That is a very real scenario many seniors face that most people often overlook when thinking about their future. Debilitating illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease or brain trauma from an automobile accident can rob a person of their mental faculties. They can no longer handle being able to pay bills or physically take care of themselves or their home. Making home renovation decisions such as roof repairs may become impossible without help.

By choosing an elder law attorney, you can craft a plan to determine what happens if you become incapacitated for any reason. You can assign a durable power of attorney to someone you trust to make decisions for you. The document becomes effective as soon as it’s signed. The person you assign it to can then collect your benefits, pay bills, deal with your insurance, and hire someone for residential plumbing installation or other repairs. There are also other powers of attorney regarding specific situations that an elder law attorney can advise you about.

Elder Care Abuse

Seniors are vulnerable to physical, mental, and financial abuse from various types of predators. They can become attractive targets because disabilities may impact their ability to report it, and older individuals can have a higher net worth than younger people. For example, a landscape contractor may try to excessively charge a vulnerable senior or steal property. A healthcare provider may neglect a patient which can result in a broken hip from a fall. Family members can take advantage of an older adult’s financial situation for their own personal gain.

Choosing an elder law attorney can help protect a vulnerable loved one from abuse and neglect. The attorney can advise you on ways you can protect yourself or your loved one and what to do when abuse happens. They can help you seek recovery for abuse and fraud. Your estate can be set up to prevent certain types of financial abuse from occurring. Be sure to look for an attorney that specializes in fraud recovery and abuse cases, as not only elder law attorneys handle them.

Finances and Estate Planning

Some people may think that choosing an elder law attorney is only for seniors. However, elder law is for anyone who has assets. Estate planning and finances are one aspect of elder law that you should take advantage of to address future medical concerns. Estate planning involves plans for distributing your assets after you die. These assets can be things like real estate, personal property, financial accounts, and insurance policies. If you don’t have a legal plan in place, these items can be taken and distributed as your state’s government sees fit.

An elder law attorney can help you minimize expenses involved in the distribution of your assets. They can help you transfer business ownership and name guardians for minor children. The attorney can help you choose the right insurance coverage to pay for funeral costs and take care of your loved ones after you die. Your end of life wishes can be documented and enforced regarding your medical care if you become incapacitated. The attorney can help you establish your finances to prepare for retirement as well.

Guardianship and Conservatorship

After choosing an elder law attorney, one of their first objectives will be to get to know everything about your family. The attorney will ask questions about any living spouses or children and any previous marriages. These questions help the attorney understand your family dynamics. The information gleaned is used to determine who in your family may have your best interests during a difficult situation. This helps determine guardianship and conservatorship.

You may need a guardian to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf. The process of guardianship can be complicated and lead to varying outcomes. Medical professionals may need to supply evidence to the court regarding your capacity to care for yourself physically. An assigned conservator differs from a guardian in regard to the added responsibility of handling financial accounts. Each state has different definitions and authority levels for these two roles, so it’s wise to consult with an elder law attorney to help you navigate.

How to Find an Elder Law Attorney

There are a couple of ways you can go about finding and choosing an elder law attorney. You can ask family and friends for referrals. There may be someone you know who has similar needs that can recommend an attorney who helped them through their issues. Financial advisors and accountants often work with elder law attorneys and can refer you to someone they respect. If you already have a lawyer for any other reason, they may know an elder law attorney they can recommend to you. You can also search online for elder law attorneys in your area and research what previous clients said about their experiences working with them.

The second way for choosing an elder law attorney is to visit the website of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. This organization consists of attorneys who specialize in special needs planning and elder law. The website includes an attorney finder to look up attorneys that work in your state. There are also consumer resources available to help you gather more information about estate planning and more. You can get access to state and government resources to assist you in navigating your specific circumstances.

What to Look For

There are certain things you should look for when choosing an elder law attorney. The first thing you may want to do is set up an initial consultation with the attorney. This can help you get a feel for the attorney and if their style of work is something you’re comfortable with. Some attorneys offer free consultations while others charge, so be sure to ask before you book an appointment. During the consultation, you can ask the attorney specific questions about their experience handling cases similar to yours.

Evaluate the attorney’s professionalism with handling customer service. Are they prompt with returning emails and phone calls? Do they take time to explain and make sure you understand the information you’re given? Do they follow through with things they tell you they will do? Before choosing an elder care attorney, check their credentials to ensure they are currently licensed with the State Bar Association in your state.

Understand the Attorney’s Fee Structure

Another thing to consider when choosing an elder law attorney is their fee structure for their services. Some attorneys charge a flat rate, while others charge by the hour. There may be additional fees for incidentals such as court fees, postage, document copies, deposition fees, and other similar out-of-pocket expenses. You may be required to submit a retainer. This is a set amount that is placed in a trust account that the attorney can draw from as they work on your case.

Make sure you understand any potential fees that are involved and get them in writing. Ask the attorney what their billing schedule is and the available options for making payments. Some attorneys bill on a weekly or monthly basis, while others accept payment when the work is completed. You may also want to ensure that the work they provide is clearly defined and stated in the terms of your agreement before signing. Make sure the contract clearly states what the steps are in case you find yourself needing to terminate the contract.

Choosing an elder law attorney is critical for ensuring you or your loved one’s health care and property are protected in retirement and beyond. Trying to handle these issues yourself can lead to costly mistakes. The costs of nursing home care and funeral expenses can be devastating to you and your family. With the right planning and preparation, you can have peace of mind knowing that you can still have some sense of control no matter what comes your way. Start the process of choosing an elder law attorney today.

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