What is Elder Law?

 In Legal & Financial

What is Elder Law?

M

any people have recently heard of an area of the law called “Elder Law,” yet few understand exactly what the term means. Let’s take a little quiz, shall we?

  1. True or False:  You have to be elderly to be a client at an Elder Law firm.
  2. True or False:  Elder Law firms will handle any type of case, so long as the client is considered “elderly.”

One of the most common questions that we hear in my office is “What is Elder Law?” The word “elder” implies our only clients are elderly. Also, we receive several calls a day as follows: “I need to make an appointment, I’m eighty-five and I need to file a bankruptcy,” or “I need a divorce lawyer, and I am seventy-nine years old.” While the name “Elder Law” seems to imply that our only clients are the elderly, or that we can handle any legal issue so long that our client is elderly, this is simply not the case.

One of the most common questions that we hear in my office is “What is Elder Law?” The word “elder” implies our only clients are elderly. Also, we receive several calls a day as follows: “I need to make an appointment, I’m eighty-five and I need to file a bankruptcy,” or “I need a divorce lawyer, and I am seventy-nine years old.” While the name “Elder Law” seems to imply that our only clients are the elderly, or that we can handle any legal issue so long that our client is elderly, this is simply not the case.

“Elder Law” is a legal term coined to cover an area of legal practice that places an emphasis on those issues that affect the growing aging population. Rather than referring to the specific age of our clientele, it refers instead to the issues that our firm is equipped to practice. While many of our clients are elderly, we also represent their families, or people who are not elderly but are facing some of the same issues that an elderly person may face such as disability or the need for public benefits. So, in case you were curious, the answer to both of the questions posed above is FALSE!

Issues that are encompassed under the field of “Elder Law” are:

  • Estate Planning (Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Living Wills)
  • Probates and Trust Estates
  • Guardianships and Conservatorships
  • Medicaid and other entitlement programs (eligibility and appeals)
  • Special Needs Trusts and Miller Trusts
  • Assorted Tax, Real Estate, and Financial issues

When Elder Law began, there was no real name for it. In the last few decades, it has evolved into a thriving area of the law. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), a national group of over four thousand attorneys across America provides workshops, seminars, and forums for attorneys from all over the country to connect and learn more. Last year, I attended a conference in Seattle hosted by NAELA in order to stay on the cutting edge of Elder Law. NAELA also sets the standards for calling themselves an “expert” in Elder Law. An attorney can apply to be a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) which means that he has been qualified as an expert by NAELA and has kept up with the standards required to keep the certification.

So, let’s try another quiz:

  1. Can an Elder Law attorney assist a twenty-five year old with creating a will?  Answer:  YES!
  2. Can an Elder Law attorney represent a ninety-year-old in a criminal action?  Answer: NO! (unless, of course, the attorney is comfortable with criminal law matters as well as Elder Law matters)

I hope that this article has shed some light on what Elder Law attorneys can do, and how they can help you, your friends, and family in the future.  If you or a friend or family member need assistance with an estate planning, probate, Guardianship and Conservatorship, or public benefit issue, contact me at 208-754-3595, kate@wytychakelderlaw.com and I will be answer your questions.

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment

Ask Us!

What are you seeking? How Can we help? We will contact our experts for answers. Watch our Facebook for replies*. @thewiseguideonline *We will not post any names/email addresses/or contact information. We will also carefully edit questions and answers to protect your privacy.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search