How to Choose an Elder Law Attorney

Kris Maser Attorney at Law

There 4 law schools in the Twin Cities area. This means there are approximately 1,200 new lawyers graduating each year. With the economy as it is today these new lawyers as well as more seasoned lawyers are finding jobs hard to find. Choosing a good Elder Law attorney in these times is no easy task. The area of Elder Law encompasses a number of different areas of the law and some non-legal decisions, some of which are interdependent upon each other. Issues arise with real estate, estate planning and estate taxes, disability planning, income and capital gains taxes, caregiver issues, trusts, long-term care insurance issues, age discrimination, short and long-term disability, hospice care, contracts with caregivers, assisted living facilities, family members, housing options, medical insurance issues, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Veteran’s benefits, both State and Federal, and a myriad of other related health care issues, including how to organize the family to maintain and oversee good care for the elder.

Since the area of Elder Law is complex, choosing an Elder Law attorney who practices and has substantial experience in the Elder Law arena will help you address all the concerns that can impact an elder’s quality of life. Here are some suggestions to help you choose the right law firm and attorney for your needs.

• Make sure that the attorney practices Elder Law. An estate planning attorney traditionally deals with how to distribute your wealth after you have passed away. An Elder Law attorney works in the area from retirement or disability to the end of life and beyond. Minnesota does not have a specific specialty for the Practice of Elder Law. Consequently it is important that you research the background of the attorney. The National Elder Law Foundation certifies Elder Law specialists in the United States. This certification doesn’t guarantee that one lawyer will serve you better than another, but it may be a good place to start. Be mindful of the certification though. This certification is national. Elder Law can and is very State specific. The national certification cannot deal with all the nuances of the laws in each individual state.

• Friends and other professionals are a very good source of information. Tap into these resources and find out who they recommend. If the attorney’s name comes up from different sources chances are the attorney knows what he/she is doing.

• Go to the law firm’s website and read the information about the attorney. There you may find additional information about how long the attorney has practiced in the Elder Law area, what roles the attorney has had in the elder bar and if the attorney participates in other organizations that work in this area. Perhaps you will find out if the attorney has had personal experience in his/her family with caring for a family member. How does the attorney give back to the community? And finally, find out how much of the attorney’s time is devoted to the Elder Law practice. Is it the focus of the firm or is Elder Law just a minor piece of the firm’s areas of practice?

Finding a good Elder Law attorney before a problem becomes a crisis is good advanced planning.

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