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6 Things an Elder Law Attorney Can Do to Help Family Caregivers

Deb Hipp
By Deb HippJuly 12, 2019

If you’re a caregiver for a parent, spouse or senior loved one, an elder law attorney can help you and your family navigate the legal landscape of aging.

Learn more from this list of six things that an elder law attorney can do to help family caregivers.

Top 6 Ways an Elder Law Attorney Can Help Family Caregivers

Elder law attorneys work primarily with seniors, taking a holistic approach to legal issues that people commonly face as they age, especially with health, housing, financial well-being and long-term care.

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However, an elder law attorney can also 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 when a debilitating illness may necessitate long-term care.

According to the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, elder law encompasses many fields of law, with elder law attorneys specializing in numerous areas, which can include:

  • Administration and management of estates and trusts
  • Elder abuse and fraud
  • Estate planning, probate, trusts, wills and other financial documents
  • Long-term care placements in life care communities and nursing homes
  • Medicare and social security appeals and claims
  • Preservation/transfer of assets to avoid spousal impoverishment when a spouse enters a nursing home

Whether you’re trying to figure out a current long-term care situation or plan for a possible future scenario, here are six things an elder law attorney can do to help family caregivers:

1. Advise what is best for the client.

Families are frequently split on the type of care they want for their parents, says Patrick Simasko, a certified elder law attorney in Mount Clemens, Michigan. However, an elder law attorney can advise what is best without emotions influencing decisions.

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

2. Develop a plan for long-term care.

Because an elder law attorney sees nearly every type of financial and medical situation that seniors and their families may encounter, he or she has a good idea of what may lie ahead, especially with diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia or chronic illnesses.

Elder law attorneys focus on problems and issues that families face as parents or spouses age, says Anthony J. Enea, a certified elder law attorney 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 may need long-term care in a nursing home,” says Enea. “Then we look at steps to protect assets in case of long-term care.”

3. Ensure that a durable power of attorney is in place.

If there is no durable power attorney in place to allow an appointed person to make financial or decisions about your loved one if he or she becomes incapacitated, an elder law attorney can work with you and your loved one to prepare the documents.

If the person is already incapacitated and has no durable powers of attorney, an elder law attorney can commence guardianship proceedings to allow you or another guardian to handle your loved one’s financial and personal affairs.

4. Help with accessing Medicaid.

A certified elder law attorney is typically familiar with Medicaid and can assist you and your loved one on how to become eligible and apply for benefits.

Elder law attorneys can also provide information about veteran’s benefits and additional government resources.

5. Protect assets from financial exploitation.

Elder law attorneys can identify and alert family members to financial exploitation they might otherwise have missed. When Dad and Mom slow down or their health declines, that gives a bad neighbor the opportunity to come over and start ‘helping out’ or an unscrupulous adult child to obtain access to financial accounts, says Simasko.

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

6. Provide accurate answers.

An elder law attorney provides accurate answers to questions family caregivers have when a loved one who needs help, says Simasko.

“The family has already gotten hundreds of answers from attorneys, financial advisors, family and friends,” says Simasko. “The elder law attorney has to listen to the situation and give the advice that is best for the client. Not [necessarily] the advice they want to hear, but what’s best, given the situation.”

Ways to Choose an Elder Law Attorney

Not everyone professing to be an elder law attorney has the requisite experience and knowledge to advise aging clients.

However, a certified elder law attorney (CELA) must have practiced elder law for a certain number of hours each week for a specific number of years and participated in a required number of hours of continuing education, according to the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF).

Search the National Elder Law Foundation or the NAELA to find a certified elder law attorney in your city or state. You can also visit the NAELA for more information about elder law attorneys.

What has an elder law attorney done to help you and your family? We’d like to hear more about your experiences in the comments below.

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Deb Hipp
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