Whether you seek legal counsel for yourself or a loved one, elder law attorneys have a wide range of expertise and services that you will require at some life stage, whether in your 40s, 50s, and beyond. Actions you take in one part of your life may have unintended legal consequences in others. Without the benefit of elder counsel, you can put yourself in a disadvantageous position. Many legal issues affect people as they age: estates, guardianships, veterans benefits, housing, asset protection, powers of attorney, disabilities, and more.
As an example, the percentage of people with disabilities in the US, according to the CDC, is one in four. That is 61 million Americans with a disability impacting their life activities in a major way. Proactive long-range planning and preparation of appropriate legal documents will put you in far better stead as you meet aging challenges. You don't just need an elder law attorney in preparation to die; you need one for how you live today.
Special needs law covering disability factors is one facet of the broader law fields that encompass elder law practice. Other specializations include:
- Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Disability claims and appeals
- Disability planning, durable power of attorney, living trusts, and living wills
- Preservation and transfer of assets to avoid spousal impoverishment
- Long-term care and supplemental health insurance considerations
- Access to health care in varied managed care settings
- Tax planning
- Guardianships and conservatorships
- Estate planning management during life and disposition using trusts, wills, and more after death
- Administration of probate and estate
- Lifecare in long-term care community placement or nursing homes
- Housing issues such as home equity conversions or discrimination
- Age discrimination regarding employment
- Elder abuse and fraud recovery
- Health and mental health law
- Retirement planning including public and private retirement benefits, pension benefits, and survivor benefits
- Dementia life strategies
Because elder law is so diverse, it is most beneficial to have a clear idea of your issue and that it is a legal need that warrants hiring an attorney. Before seeking out an elder law attorney, discuss your matter with your family, clergy, or a trusted friend to identify it is a legal issue rather than a social service or medical one. Often the lines between problems can blur, but you should be clear about the specific type of help you need. Find an attorney in the state you live in or where the problem exists as laws and regulations vary from state to state.
There are many ways to identify an elder law attorney in your city or state to help you. Some of the groups you can contact for referral include:
- The National Council on Aging (NCOA)
- American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
- Alzheimer's Association (ORG) or other support groups for specific diseases
- Children of Aging Parents (CAPS)
- The Social Security Administration (SSA)
- Local hospital or nursing home social services
- Your state or local bar association
You can also ask reputable, trustworthy friends if they know of a suitable elder law attorney. If you know any attorneys, ask them for a proper referral. Once you have a good list of candidates, take the time to interview them. Your client/attorney relationship needs to be built on mutual trust and understanding.
Though most elder law attorneys have a specialty, they still have an overarching understanding of the legal issues that impact your aging. Things you may have never considered as significant can have a major impact on your senior years' success. Once you have identified an elder law attorney that you can establish a good relationship with, you will find your attorney can help you navigate the complex legal world of aging successfully. If you would like to discuss your elder law legal matter please contact us at our South Carolina law office.