Tips for Finding and Choosing an Elder Law Attorney

Tips for Finding and Choosing an Elder Law Attorney

The process of finding and choosing an elder law attorney begins by identifying that you need an elder law attorney. So the question is: Why would you ever need an elder law attorney?

Do you or a loved one have questions about paying for long-term care?  Do you need information on Medicaid planning? Are your wills and powers of attorney up to date and in compliance with current law?  Do you need advice on what kind of care your loved ones need and what their rights are?  Are you looking to preserve assets for the duration of your illness?  Are you concerned about assets being left for a spouse’s care in the future?  Do you need to pursue guardianship on behalf of a loved one?  If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you may need an elder law attorney.

Once you have identified that you need an elder law attorney, the next step is finding one.  Since laws are different for each state, and since attorneys must be licensed by the state, it is important to find an attorney licensed in the state where your aging loved one lives (or maybe in the state where their property is located, depending on the issues).  Here are some sources for referrals for elder law attorneys in your area:

-The National Elder Law Foundation’s website: www.nelf.org

-The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys website: www.naela.org

-Your local Alzheimer’s Association Chapter: www.alz.org

When evaluating an elder law attorney, here are some good questions to ask:

Is he/she a CELA, or a Certified Elder Law Attorney?  There are only a few more than 400 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the country.  This special certification is the “gold standard” for elder law practitioners.  Selecting an attorney that has been certified as a CELA means that you are choosing an attorney who has gone above and beyond to prove their commitment to seniors. To find out more, visit www.nelf.org.  Richard Courtney was the first CELA in Mississippi.

Does he/she practice more than just estate planning?  An elder law attorney is not the same as an estate-planning lawyer.  Although most elder law attorneys incorporate estate planning into their practice, elder law planning is different from estate planning.  Elder law planning seeks to preserve your money, income and assets, to be used for your benefit and care while you are still alive.  Estate planning focuses on the distribution of your assets, after you die.  Elder law attorneys have a deep understanding of the regulations for public benefits, the rights of seniors, and the unique needs of families caring for an aging loved one.  Make sure the attorney you choose practices more than just estate planning.  At Courtney Elder Law Associates planning group, we practice a full range of elder law, estate planning, retirement planning and special needs planning issues.

How long has he/she been practicing?  Although having years or decades of practice does not guarantee that an attorney will give good advice, it is usually a good idea to work with an attorney that has a good amount of experience dealing with elder law issues.  You do not want your family’s complicated case to be the first one like this your attorney has seen.  Working with an attorney that has some experience will decrease the chance that he or she will overlook something important or be surprised by the details.  Richard Courtney has practiced elder law and estate planning for thirty years.

Does the firm have care coordinators?  Some elder law attorneys hire care coordinators (social workers or nurses) to work with their clients’ complex care needs.  Care coordinators can be there to educate the family and help navigate through the long-term care maze.  As questions arise about nursing homes, home care, assisted living, and end-of-life issues, a care coordinator can be a consistent source of support for clients and families.  Most families that visit an elder law attorney need more than just legal or financial guidance; they need to know how to access the best care possible for their loved one.  Working with an elder law attorney that has care coordinators on staff will help give you the holistic support you will likely need.  Courtney Elder Law Associates employs a certified Care Manager to assist our clients.

If you have any questions about elder law issues, please call our office today at (601) 987-3000 for a phone or in-person consultation. We have experienced Mississippi Elder Law Attorneys to help you with your questions and concerns.