A Caregiver's Guide to Elder Law Attorneys

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What they do

Some elder law attorneys concentrate on one particular area of legal expertise. But in its broadest definition, the field of elder law encompasses the wide range of legal concerns particularly likely to affect older clients and their families -- from financial and benefit planning to property management and distribution after death. Elder law even covers some aspects of criminal law, such as fraud and physical and financial elder abuse.

How they help

Depending on their particular practices, elder law attorneys may offer a large range of services, from drafting legal documents to advising on available options for care to making appropriate referrals to other experts. Specifically, they may be able to help with the following:

  • Disability planning -- drafting advance directives, durable powers of attorney, and other means of delegating management and decision making in case of incompetency or incapacity; also arranging conservatorships and guardianships

  • Estate planning -- including planning for property management during life and disposing of it at death through trusts, wills, and other arrangements

Asset preservation and management, including retirement benefits, Medicaid planning, and home equity conversions

  • Benefit entitlements, such as Medicare and Social Security claims and appeals

Supplemental and long-term health insurance issues

  • Residential care counseling, including questions of residents' rights and quality of care

  • Age discrimination in housing and employment

  • Probate issues, including administering and managing wills and trusts

What they cost

Elder law attorneys' fees vary widely, depending on locale, the complexity of the situation, and the individual lawyer's experience. Some charge by the hour -- an average range is $300 per hour for work on documents such as wills and trusts to $500 per hour and upward for litigation -- with different hourly rates for work performed by attorneys, paralegals, and secretaries.

How to get started

If possible, get a list of names of lawyers from sources you respect, such as friends or associates who have had similar problems. Some people who provide healthcare and services -- such as discharge planners, geriatric care planners, patient representatives, and ombudsmen in care facilities -- may also be able to help you identify lawyers to consider hiring.

Barbara Kate Repa

Barbara Kate Repa, a lawyer and journalist, has devoted her career to editing and writing about legal issues for consumers. See full bio

7 months, said...

I have a brother that is on disability, he has borrowed money from my parents for years. he only came around to borrow money. My family and I were very close to my parents. Both my parents came down with dementia about the same time. My brother his wife and my step aunt all three swooped in and took over. My step aunt got power of attorney first, she also would borrow money. Then my brother talked my dad into signing power of attorney. He also was getting money from them at the time, I turned him into the State. I took him to court, proved he, his wife, his son, and my step aunt had taken money, in the mean time he had turned my parents against me, that's what lost the case for me. I felt very betrayed by the court, I feel he should have at least give it to a third party. During this time my brother has also convinced my stepmom to sign everything over to him. They had helpers coming it and would chart their meds, I noticed they quit giving my dad his medicine, I called the state again, they just belittled me. I don't know if it was cause my sister in law worked for meals on wheels and they knew each other. So my dad ended up in the hospital, my brother had my stepmom lie to me about it, I waited till the next day and called and asked her, she admitted he was in the hospital. The doctor said he either had to much or not enough medicine. They were advised not to give him anything. I sat there by my dad's side for a week, I would have to bring my step mom up to be able to see him. My brother was busy buying a new car, he didn't even come to the funeral. I feel like the lawyer is just as much to blame, my lawyer told his lawyer to tell my brother to back off and let me see my parents, he would not. He took and sold everything, which I don't mind if it goes to my stepmom's care, but this lawyer even sent me a letter that he wrote in it my brother was the owner. That's not how they had the will written up. When the will did come out my so and his son were executors, they didn't even notify my son, so he called and was told my brothers son had already volunteered, and they didn't need him. The so called one that volunteered was one we proved had taken money. My brother used my parents money to fight me with, I used my money and could only afford a lawyer that had just passed the bar a week before. Is there a way for me to turn this around. I have turned the lawyer into the board, I have thought about going back to court to defend myself, but am kind of afraid to. Can you give me any advise, I don't have money to keep fighting it, I just want justice now.

over 4 years, said...

I really need legal advice on what two of my family members are doing to my father but I cannot afford one and my father doesn't want to believe that what I'm telling him is really going on so he isn't going to talk to a lawyer cause he doesn't want to make any of them mad, please help me

about 6 years, said...

Good info on where to start thanks