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5 Questions to Ask an Elder Lawyer

elder lawyer

Navigating the legal landscape can be daunting at any age, but seniors face unique complexities calling for specialized legal support. Elder law is a nuanced field at the intersection of legal and compassionate care, dealing with issues such as estate planning, long-term care, and advocacy for aging adults. Understanding when and how to engage an elder lawyer is not just beneficial—it’s crucial.

Individuals and their families should feel empowered to secure legal assistance that caters to their distinct needs, and we want to help. Our Franklin Park® Senior Living team is spotlighting the top five questions you should ask when seeking the counsel of an elder lawyer.

Why Speak with an Elder Lawyer?

Elder law attorneys are well-versed in the unique needs of older individuals. By specializing in this field, they can provide a breadth of services that range from end-of-life planning to addressing elder abuse. Engaging an elder lawyer can provide legal clarity, protect assets, and offer solutions for complex familial and financial matters.

From ensuring your estate is distributed according to your wishes to managing a guardianship or conservatorship, the right lawyer can guide you through the legal intricacies of aging. Proactive legal preparation can bring peace of mind, safeguarding a dignified future.

Questions to Ask an Elder Lawyer

1. What Areas of Law Do You Specialize In?

The first question you should pose to a potential elder lawyer is straightforward—what are their areas of expertise? An attorney who specializes in elder law should be well-versed in various legal facets that commonly affect seniors. This includes:

  • Estate Planning and Administration: Drafting wills, trusts, donor-advised funds, and power of attorney while guiding clients through probate laws and administrating estates after a loved one’s passing
  • Guardianships and Conservatorships: Establishing and contesting legal authority to make decisions on behalf of incapacitated individuals
  • Long-term Care Planning: Navigating Medicaid, Medicare, and other programs to ensure seniors receive appropriate care without depleting their savings
  • Elder Abuse and Neglect Cases: Protecting the rights of seniors who have experienced physical, emotional, or financial harm

By being clear on their specialties, you ensure the attorney has the expertise your unique situation requires.

2. How Long Have You Been Practicing Elder Law?

Elder law is not just about legal knowledge; it’s about experience in dealing with the practicalities of aging. A seasoned elder lawyer should have a track record of successfully handling cases similar to yours. Experience can be an invaluable asset, offering insight into nuanced legal strategies and precedents.

Inquire about the lawyer’s experience with different scenarios, such as complex Medicaid applications or contested wills. Understanding their history can help you gauge their ability to handle your specific concerns and any potential challenges that may arise.

3. How Do You Keep Clients Informed Throughout the Legal Process?

Effective communication is paramount. Elder law often involves emotional, personal, and high-stake matters, from last wishes to significant property arrangements. A good elder lawyer should not only be legally astute but also possess a knack for clear and empathetic communication.

Ask potential lawyers how they typically keep clients in the loop. Do they offer regular updates? Are they responsive to emails and calls? This can often make the difference between a confusing legal encounter and a supportive, informed process.

4. What Are Your Billing Rates and Payment Terms?

It is important to have a good understanding of the cost of legal services. If you are working with an elder lawyer, there are generally three billing methods that they may use to charge for their services. 

The first billing method is an hourly rate, which means that the lawyer will charge you for each hour they spend working on your case. 

The second billing method is a flat fee, meaning you will be charged a set amount for the entire case or a specific service that the lawyer provides, such as creating a will or trust. 

The third billing method is a contingency fee, typically used in personal injury cases. This means that the lawyer’s fee is a percentage of the compensation you win from your case.

Be clear on their billing method and discuss payment terms. Many elder attorneys understand the financial constraints that can come with aging and may offer payment plans or accept insurance types specifically for elder care.

5. Can You Provide Examples of Cases Similar to Mine That You Have Successfully Handled?

Nothing gives confidence like a success story. Requesting examples of cases that mirror your own can provide insight into the lawyer’s abilities and potential outcomes. Positive references also indicate a lawyer’s commitment to their clients and can serve as a powerful testimonial.

Experience and good outcomes share a symbiotic relationship—more often than not, one can lead to the other. A successful lawyer-client relationship in the past is a strong indicator of what you can expect of them.

Seeking the assistance of an elder lawyer is a powerful step toward securing a stable future. By asking the right questions and being selective in your choices, you are not only ensuring legal preparation but also peace of mind for you and your loved ones. Engaging with an attorney who possesses the legal acumen and the compassion to understand the unique needs of aging adults is an investment in your comfort and security.

Throughout all of our senior living communities in San Antonio, our team is here to provide guidance to individuals and families who are ready to navigate their unique journey. Contact a member of the Franklin Park® Senior Living team to learn more about what we have to offer.