What is Elder Law?
Elder Law is broad legal practice area involving the complex problems of older and disabled persons. The clients served by Elder Law attorneys can be among society’s most vulnerable people, often seeking help when they are most in need of wise counsel and advice.
Elder Law attorneys deal “holistically” with their clients by providing advice in planning for long-term health care and financial viability, qualifying for Medicare, Medicaid and other public benefits, legal capacity, surrogate decision-making, estate planning and administration, probate, estate and probate litigation, contested guardianships and elder mediation services.
In addition, Elder Law attorneys must be capable of recognizing issues that arise in abuse, neglect, and exploitation claims. Elder Law attorneys must also be familiar with community resources and services publicly and privately available to meet the special needs of their older and disabled clients.
The Elder Law and Special Needs Planning legal specialty encompasses the following practice areas:
- Preservation/transfer of assets seeking to avoid spousal impoverishment when a spouse enters a nursing home
- Medicare claims and appeals
- Social security and disability claims and appeals
- Supplemental and long-term health insurance issues
- 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
- 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
- Administration and management of trusts and estates
- Long-term care placements in nursing home 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
Why Hire an Elder Law Attorney?
Rather than being defined by technical legal distinctions, Elder Law is defined by the clients to be served, i.e., seniors and the disabled.
An Elder Law attorney:
- Focuses his or her practice on the special legal needs of seniors and the disabled.
- Works with a variety of legal tools and techniques that specifically meet the goals and objectives of the older and disabled client.
- Uses a holistic approach to legal advice, taking into consideration the key issues facing seniors and the disabled: needs for housing, financial well-being, health and long-term care, and autonomy/quality of life.
- Brings to his or her practice a knowledge of the issues facing seniors and the disabled that allows them and their staffs to ignore the myths relating to aging and disability.
- Will take into account and empathize with the physical and mental challenges that often accompany the elderly and disabled population. Understanding the real-life problems of older and disabled people allows Elder Law attorneys to identify physical and mental disabilities of their clients.
- Is tied into a formal or informal system of geriatric care managers, physicians, social workers, psychologists, and other elder care professionals who may be of assistance to clients.
(This blog post is adapted from an article on the website of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). Mr. Vanarelli is a member of NAELA, and was selected for membership in its Council of Advanced Practitioners (CAP).)
For additional information concerning NJ elder law and special needs planning visit:
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