Elder law is a rare specialty for attorneys that covers a wide range of practices. Elder law focuses on the needs of senior Americans and the laws which impact their lives. There are lawyers who make elder law part of their practice but with the growing population of aging Americans, it is more important than ever. Elder law is a very focused, specialized practice because seniors tend to have certain needs that the rest of the population doesn’t have.
What does an elder law attorney do?
Elder law attorneys focus on many aspects of the law that impact seniors. These types of attorneys may specialize in one or more of these practices:
- Probate and probate litigation: Probate is the court process of wrapping up the affairs of someone who has died. Many seniors may have difficulty dealing with the affairs of a deceased loved one, especially if that loved one didn’t leave a will or a trust. A good elder law attorney will fight for the senior’s best interests in the probate matter.
- Guardianships, conservatorships, powers of attorney: Planning for dementia and other progressive diseases is a special interest of elder law attorneys. Guardianships (ending a person’s ability to make life decisions) and conservatorships (ending a person’s ability to make financial decisions) require special sensitivity and insight. Elder law attorneys can help file for guardianships/conservatorships or defend a senior from an unwanted action. Elder Law attorneys can also help write durable Powers of Attorney for seniors who want to turn over some of their affairs to trusted loved ones. This includes the ability to make financial and medical decisions.
- Estate planning, wills, and trusts: Many lawyers write wills and trusts, but their work focuses on estate tax planning for Americans who have a net worth of more than $3.5 million. Elder law attorneys are trained to write unique wills, trust, powers of attorney, and living wills (Advance Healthcare Directives) for middle-class Utahns who must consider the high risks of disability and want to avoid the expense of probate and expensive “spend downs” for Medicaid.
- Disability planning: Elder law attorneys can help seniors with claims for Medicaid, Social Security Disability, Medicare, and Social Security benefits. They can also help seniors appeal denied claims for these benefits.
- Elder abuse and financial exploitation claims: Utah seniors are frequent victims of abuse and financial exploitation, usually by family members. Elder abuse and neglect can also occur in nursing homes and other care facilities. An elder law attorney can bring these claims to court and demand justice – including financial compensation – on behalf of the victim.
- Medical malpractice. Because they need more care, seniors face a much higher risk of medical malpractice. Few attorneys in Utah are trained and qualified to file these cases and even fewer are willing to accept elder abuse or nursing home cases. Our firm has successfully prosecuted hundreds of medical malpractice lawsuits since 1982.
- Injuries and accidents: Because of aging bodies, seniors are at a much higher risk of injury from falls and accidents. Many lawyers are unwilling to take on these types of cases but because of Utah laws, seniors who suffer from these accidents may be entitled to compensation, especially if the accident was caused by neglect of another party.
When you need an elder law attorney?
Senior citizens are a vulnerable population. If dealing with abuse, disability, injury, or guardianship/conservatorship issues, it is a good time to consult an elder law attorney.
How do you choose an elder law attorney?
Many lawyers aren’t familiar with the aspects of elder law cases so it’s important to choose an experienced elder law attorney. Many lawyers offer free consultations, so when you meet with a lawyer, you can ask them about their courtroom experience, their track record in winning cases for clients, and their familiarity with personal injury and Medicare laws.
A great source to find an experienced elder law attorney is to check the National Association of elder law attorneys directory. This organization was formed in 1987 to improve the quality of legal services to seniors and people with special needs and is now recognized as one of the best organizations in the country for lawyers who specialize in elder law.
If you or a loved one needs help with an elder law issue, contact me for a free case evaluation today. I have almost 40 years of experience helping senior Utahns get the justice they deserve and will always tell you the truth about your case.