Elder law is a relatively new and fast growing field of law that deals with specific legal issues faced by the elderly population. It is important for attorneys dealing with the elderly to have a unique understanding of the laws that may have an impact on their situation. Elder law combines elements of estate planning, trusts, wills, conservatorships, guardianships, healthcare planning including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, supplemental and long-term insurance policy issues. In addition they focus on disability planning including use of durable powers of attorney, living trusts, living wills and other means of delegating management to another in case of incompetency or incapacity. Under this holistic approach, the elder law practitioner brings a knowledge and understanding of the elderly that works to ensure the elder's right to quality care.
Ask a lot of questions before selecting an Elder law attorney as most do not specialize in every one of the specific legal areas. Some questions might be "How long has the attorney been in practice?" and " What percentage of his/her practice is devoted to elder law?" and "What elder law matters he/she has handled in the past and currently?" It is important that you hire an attorney who regularly handles matters in your area of concern and knows about the other areas of law that might impact this decision. It is also equally important to choose an attorney who you are comfortable talking with and who seems to share an empathy of the elder's real life problems.
Elder law attorneys have a broad understanding of the laws that may have an impact on your situation and may help you to avoid problems in the future. They bring an expertise in an area of law and an understanding of elderly concerns that allows for appropriate planning. They are tied to other professionals such as social workers, psychologists, and eldercare specialists who may benefit you as well.
The method for charging fees will vary widely among these attorneys. Some charge by the hour, others have a flat fee, and still others might use a combination of these billing methods. In addition, most will charge you for out-of-pocket expenses and some may ask for a retainer which is money paid to the attorney prior to working on your case and then placed in a trust account for later expenses. Whatever the fee plan decided upon with the attorney you are hiring, ask that your arrangement be put in writing.