By 2030, 19 percent of the U.S. population will be over the age of 65, according to the U.S. Administration on Aging. Elder law is a specialty that focuses on the legal problems of older Americans, covering a vast array of issues including elder abuse, age discrimination in employment, powers of attorney and guardianships. The questions you ask a prospective elder law attorney can help you determine if you are hiring a specialist with the specific experience you need.
Plan the Questions
Prepare a written list of questions before you contact any elder law lawyers. The first questions you ask an elder law attorney should cover your prospective lawyer's general training and experience in elder law. Your next questions should help you determine whether your future attorney has frequently handled the specific elder law procedures that you currently need.
Determining an Elder Law Attorney's Credentials
Prior to making an in-person appointment with an elder lawyer, call or email the attorney's office and ask for information about her general elder law expertise. Typically, the elder law specialist will respond by sending you a law firm brochure and a professional biography describing her credentials in this field, some of the elder law situations she has handled, as well as how many years she has practiced elder law. The attorney's credentials may include membership in the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the American Bar Association's Senior Lawyers Division and similar organizations. The materials may indicate whether your prospective attorney is a Certified Elder Law Attorney, who has passed a certification exam administered by the National Elder Law Foundation.
Reviewing Elder Law Attorneys' Experience
The materials the attorney sends you should show whether she has experience in the specific area of elder law where you need assistance. At your first in-person meeting, ask your prospective lawyer to describe several proceedings in which she successfully completed the type of legal procedure you are seeking. For example, an attorney who has extensive expertise in conducting lawsuits against corporations for age discrimination may have little experience with Medicare and Medicaid claims and appeals.
Client Relationship with Your Attorney
Your next questions should discuss your interactions with the attorney. Questions should include inquiries about how much per hour the prospective attorney charges, the length of time your particular legal procedure is likely to take, an estimated total cost for the entire project, as well as the attorney's charges for items such as postage, photocopies and long-distance calls. Ask the attorney if there are alternative, less expensive ways to handle your particular problem, such as mediation. Finally, ask to have your entire arrangement with the attorney put in writing as an agreement that you both can sign. Review the agreement carefully. If you have any questions about the agreement's provisions, contact the attorney and have her explain the provisions, or possibly change them.
- Stetson University: The Journal of International Aging, Law and Policy: Elder Law in the United States: The Intersection of the Practice and Demographics
- American Bar Association: Senior Lawyers Division
- National Elder Law Foundation: Becoming Certified: Rules and Regulations
- National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc.: Questions And Answers When Looking For An Elder And Special Needs Law Attorney
- Hennepin County Bar Association: The Hennepin Lawyer: Practical Concerns in Elder Law Mediation
- Administration on Aging: Aging Statistics
- Photo Credit diego cervo/iStock/Getty Images
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