Posted by Positive Aging SourceBook on 01/10/2020

Elder Law - What is elder or special needs law?

Elder Law - What is elder or special needs law?

Legal issues that affect people as they age and people with special needs are growing in number. Our laws and regulations are becoming more complex, and each state has different laws. Actions taken with regard to a single matter may have unintended legal outcomes.

It is important for attorneys working with seniors, people with special needs, and their families to have a broad understanding of the laws that may have an impact on a given situation to avoid future problems. Elder and Special Needs Law encompasses many different fields of law. Some of these include:

•    Preservation/transfer of assets seeking to avoid spousal impoverishment when one spouse enters a nursing home

•    Medicaid

•    Medicare claims and appeals

•    Social Security and disability claims and appeals

•    Supplemental and long-term health insurance issues

•    Tax planning

•    Disability planning, including use of durable powers of attorney, living trusts, “living wills” for financial management and health care decisions, and other means of delegating management and decision-making to another in case of incompetency or incapacity

•    Access to health care in a managed care environment

•    Conservatorships and guardianships

•    Estate planning, including planning for the management of one’s estate during life and its disposition on death through the use of trusts, wills and other planning documents

•    Probate and administration of estates

•    Administration and management of trusts

•    Long-term care placements in nursing homes and life-care communities

•    Nursing home issues, including questions of patients’ rights and nursing home quality

•    Elder abuse and fraud recovery cases

•    Housing issues, including discrimination and home equity conversions

•    Age discrimination in employment

•    Retirement, including public and private retirement benefits, survivor benefits and pension benefits

•    Health law

•    Mental health law.


Find an Elder Law Provider

Use our step-by-step guide:

Step 1 – Know Your Needs

  •     Organize and outline all the information pertinent to your situation.
  •     If you are calling on behalf of a loved one, make sure that you have as many specific details as possible.

Step 2 – Call Attorneys and Ask

  •     How long has the attorney been in practice?
  •     Does his or her practice emphasize a particular area of law?
  •     How long has he or she been in this field?
  •     What percentage of his or her practice is devoted to Elder or Special Needs Law?
  •     Is there a fee for the first consultation, and if so how much is it?

Step 3 – Initial Consultation

When you have found a prospective attorney, make an appointment to see him or her. After you have explained your situation, ask:

  •     What will it take to resolve it?
  •     Are there any alternate courses of action?
  •     What are the advantages and disadvantages of each possibility?
  •     What is the estimate of the cost to resolve your problem and how long will it take?

Step 4 – Discussing Fees

  •     Do you bill weekly, monthly, or upon completion of work?
  •     Do you charge by the hour? Are there different hourly rates for work performed by attorneys, paralegals and secretaries?
  •     Is there a flat fee for this service?
  •     Will there be any out-of-pocket expenses (charges for copies, postage, messenger fees, court fees, deposition fees and other such costs)?

Step 5 – Make It a Good Experience

    Once you decide to hire an attorney, ask that your arrangement be put in writing. A positive and open relationship between an attorney and a client benefits everyone. The key is communication.

Source: National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys

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Aging Life Care & Elder Law