Suppose an elderly loved one faces challenges of aging, long-term illness, or disability. In that case, an elder law attorney can help you manage the legal and financial issues created by the high long-term care costs while protecting family assets to the most significant degree possible.
How do you find an elder law attorney? How do you choose the right one? Use this simple three-step process as your guide. Preparation is key when you’re in the market for an elder law attorney. Following this proven process will help you choose wisely.
Step 1: Locate Candidates
The first step is to generate a list of elder law attorneys practicing in your area. Below are tips to make your search more convenient.
Search Senior Directory's extensive elder law attorney directory to search for numerous options in your area.
To locate elder law attorneys who practice Life Care Planning, a form of elder law that incorporates care-related issues into the planning process, visit the Life Care Planning Law Firms Association website at https://lcplfa.org/member-directory.
Ask for referrals. If someone you know has worked with an elder law attorney, find out who they worked with and add that name to your list. Professionals can also be a good source of referrals. General practice attorneys, financial advisors, CPAs, and insurance agents often know reasonable elder law attorneys.
Step 2: Perform Due Diligence
After you have compiled your list of candidates, it’s time to start the vetting process. The due diligence you complete at this stage begins by looking at each elder law attorney’s online presence. Use the following checklist to identify the three best candidates.
Check the State Bar Association website for your state. Look up the elder law attorney by name to verify that they are licensed to practice law in your state. If the attorney has any disciplinary action on their record, you should see it here.
Look at the elder law attorney’s website. Does their website make a good first impression? Read about the attorneys and the support staff. How much experience do they have? How long has the firm been in business?
Check the attorney’s credentials. How many Certified Elder Law Attorneys (CELAs) are on staff? The CELA professional designation is recognized as the gold standard for elder law and special needs practitioners. An elder law attorney with the CELA designation meets the highest qualifications demanded by the National Elder Law Foundation.
Look for free resources. The best elder law firms will offer free educational resources for families on their websites, including blogs, articles, and podcasts. Here is an excellent example of an elder law blog that we find helpful.
Check out their reviews. Google is always a good place to look, but you can also find reviews on sites like Avvo, Lawyers.com, and Martindale.com. Don’t be afraid to dig deep.
Look at their social media presence. The best elder law firms will have a robust online presence on social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
Look for professional education. The best elder law firms provide continuing education to professionals who work with older adults and people with disabilities.
Step 3: Interview the Top Three Candidates
Now that you have identified the three elder law attorneys who look most promising, contact each one to schedule an initial consultation. An in-person meeting will help you understand how the attorney works and whether their style works for you. Here’s how to prepare:
Write a short summary of your needs. What is going on in your life or the life of an elderly loved one that is creating the need? Summarizing your situation will help you best use your time with the elder law attorney.
Contact the firm to schedule a consultation. If there is a fee for a consultation, find out how much it will be.
Meet with each elder law attorney and present the same situation to each. Find out how much experience they have had in situations like yours. Then, you can compare their responses. For example, if your loved one needs a Power of Attorney, and may need Medicaid to pay for long-term care, ask prospective attorneys to describe how they have helped other clients with the same needs.
Assess customer service. Pay attention to how the attorneys and other staff members interact with you during each step in the process. Are they polite and professional? Do they answer your questions? Do they return phone calls? Do they follow through on their promises?
Take notes during the process. This documentation will help you compare each experience when it’s time to make your final decision.
Article written by Takacs McGinnis Elder Care Law