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6 Ways an Elder Law Attorney Can Help Family Caregivers

11 minute readLast updated January 17, 2024
fact checkedon January 17, 2024
Written by Rebecca Schier-Akamelu, assisted living writer
Reviewed by Letha McDowell, CELA, CAPCertified Elder Law Attorney Letha Sgritta McDowell is a past president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.
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Caring for an aging parent, spouse, or loved one may come with a variety of planning challenges including health care, finances, housing, and long-term care. However, elder law attorneys can help you create a plan to help ensure your loved one’s care is secure for the future. They can help your family locate care resources, determine eligibility, and navigate applications. They can also provide assistance setting up financial protections and offer advice that can help your family establish legal decision makers for your loved one should they become unable care for themselves.

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Key Takeaways

  1. Elder law attorneys help families plan for the care of an aging loved one. They can offer advice on health care, finances, housing, and long-term care.
  2. Elder law attorneys can offer assistance with Medicaid. Because Medicaid is state specific elder law attorneys can advise families on eligibility and the application process.
  3. As seniors age they can become more susceptible to fraud. Elder law attorneys can help your loved one protect their assets.
  4. When choosing an elder law attorney do your research. Certification ensures an elder law attorney has training and experience to provide advice to your aging loved one.

The benefits of working with an elder care lawyer

An elder law attorney can help family caregivers explore options for their loved one’s current situation and explain how to plan for what could happen down the road, especially if a debilitating illness necessitates long-term care.

Specific ways an elder law attorney can help your family include the following:

1. Develop a plan for long-term care

Families are frequently split on the type of care they want for their parents, says Patrick Simasko, a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) in Mount Clemens, Michigan. Unlike family members who have an emotional connection to their loved one, an elder law attorney can offer an unbiased opinion to develop an objective long-term plan.

“Every parent wants to stay in the home, but sometimes that’s not the best advice. First and foremost, the attorney must recommend strategies that ensure the aging loved one is protected,” Simasko explains.

Elder law attorneys focus on issues that families face as parents or spouses age, says Anthony J. Enea, a CELA in White Plains, New York.

“An elder law attorney goes over what kind of care is required and whether the person is able to stay at home or needs long-term care,” says Enea. “Then we look at steps to protect assets in case of long-term care.”

2. Ensure a durable power of attorney is in place

A condition such as Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia may affect your loved one’s ability to make decisions about their care. It’s important to seek assistance before the condition progresses and an elder law attorney can help your family prepare a durable power of attorney. This allows an appointed person to make medical or financial decisions on your loved one’s behalf should they become incapacitated.

Without a durable power of attorney, if your loved one becomes incapacitated an elder lawyer can help your family begin the process of obtaining guardianship. While guardianship is often considered a last resort, it will allow you or another guardian to manage your loved one’s personal and financial affairs.

3. Help accessing Medicaid

Your loved one’s Medicaid eligibility depends on their financial assets, the cost of the medical treatments they need, and their individual state’s Medicaid requirements. If your loved one qualifies for Medicaid, many of their care services may be covered. You might even qualify for payment as their family caregiver.

Elder law attorneys are familiar with Medicaid programs in their state and can offer guidance on eligibility and the application process. They can provide advice on the right time to enroll in Medicaid and how to manage finances and assets while navigating the Medicaid Look-Back Period.

Read more: Understanding the Medicaid Look-Back Period: 14 Key Questions, Answered

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4. Apply for veterans benefits

Many veterans may not realize they’re eligible for certain benefits through the US Department of Veterans affairs (VA). For example, the Aid and Attendance benefit is one of several benefits that can help veterans pay for long-term care. An elder law attorney can provide guidance and help your senior loved complete an application or provide information about other long-term care benefits for veterans.

5. Protect assets from financial exploitation

Elder law attorneys can help family members identify risky situations that could lead to financial exploitation. When dad and mom slow down or their health declines, a dishonest neighbor has the opportunity to come over and start “helping out,” or an unscrupulous adult child might try to obtain access to financial accounts, says Simasko.

“Protecting their assets from dishonest predators is essential. An elder law attorney can report potential criminal activity or fraud to stop it or advise the children,” Simasko notes.

6. Set up a living trust

An elder law attorney can help guide your senior loved one through the process of creating an estate plan. A living trust is effective tool that is often used to help ensure a loved one’s assets are managed properly if they become ill, disabled or otherwise incapacitated. A living trust can also help protect your aging loved one against elder financial abuse.[01]

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Additional ways an elder law attorney can help you and your family

Elder law attorneys encounter a variety of family financial and medical situations. This experience helps them to provide elder care planning advice in several areas including:[02]

  • Administration and management of estates and trusts
  • Estate planning and probate
  • Trusts, wills, and other financial documents
  • Long-term care placements in senior living communities and nursing homes
  • Medicare and Social Security appeals and claims
  • Elder abuse and fraud
  • The preservation or transfer of assets to avoid spousal impoverishment when a spouse enters a nursing home

“The elder law attorney should listen to the situation and give the advice that is best for the client — not necessarily the advice a family wants to hear, but what’s best, given the situation.” says Patrick Simasko.

Choosing an elder law attorney

If you’ve gotten this far and realized your aging senior may need legal assistance, you’re probably wondering how to start your search for an elder law attorney. After all, not everyone claiming to be an elder law attorney has the requisite experience and knowledge to advise aging clients.

To become a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA), an attorney must have practiced elder law for a certain number of hours each week for a specific number of years. They must also have logged a required number of hours of continuing education. The National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) lists certification requirements on its website.

To find a certified elder law attorney in your state, you can use the NELF search tool. The National Academy of Elder Law attorneys also provides a location specific search tool and more information on elder law attorneys.

If your family has questions about senior living for your aging loved one, A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors can help connect you with local options that include, home care, assisted living, and memory care.


  1. American Bar Association. (2024). The probate process.

  2. Kirtland, M.A. (2019, August 27). What is elder law: And why do you care? American Bar Association.

Meet the Author
Rebecca Schier-Akamelu, assisted living writer

Rebecca Schier-Akamelu is a senior copywriter at A Place for Mom, specializing in topics such as assisted living and payment options. With more than a decade of experience as a content creator, Rebecca brings a person-centered approach to her work and holds a certificate in digital media and marketing from Duke University.

Reviewed by

Letha McDowell, CELA, CAP

The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical, legal or financial advice or create a professional relationship between A Place for Mom and the reader. Always seek the advice of your health care provider, attorney or financial advisor with respect to any particular matter, and do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of anything you have read on this site. Links to third-party websites are only for the convenience of the reader; A Place for Mom does not endorse the contents of the third-party sites.

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