The National Law Foundation defines Elder Law as follows:
Elder law is the legal practice of counseling and representing older persons and their representatives about the legal aspects of health and long-term care planning, public benefits, surrogate decision-making, older persons legal capacity, the conservation, disposition and administration of older persons= estates and the implementation of their decisions concerning such matters, giving due consideration to the applicable tax consequences of the action, or the need for more sophisticated tax expertise. In addition, attorneys in elder law must be capable of recognizing the issues of concern that arise during counseling and representation of the older persons, or their representatives, with respect to abuse, neglect, or exploitation of the older person, insurance, housing, long-term care, employment, and retirement. The elder law attorney must also be familiar with professional and non-legal resources and services publicly and privately available to meet the needs of older persons, and be capable of recognizing the professional conduct and ethical issues that arise during representation. In addition there is growing need for knowledge of domestic relations, age discrimination, negligence/malpractice, end of life decisions, and ethical considerations in the representation of older persons. As Peter Strauss, Esquire, co-author of “Aging and the Law” (Commerce Clearing House, Inc. 1990)described it: “Another important aspect of elder law is the extent to which clients’ needs go beyond the conventional tools of the legal system. The clients’ real need is for a comprehensive plan that will provide for their physical, medical and financial needs. Legal drafting, counseling, negotiation and litigation are important, but not sufficient parts of the plan.”
How to find a true Elder Law Attorney:
1. CELA – Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation only certifying body accepted by Pennsylvania Supreme Court and American Bar Association.
2. National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys – NAELA
1604 North Country Club Road
Tucson, AZ 85716-3102
3. Pennsylvania Bar Elder Law Section
4. Local Bar Association may have committee
Practical Hints for self or your family or who you care fore.
Be sure there is a Durable Power of Attorney in place. If you are reluctant to give power of attorney then make the power effective upon disability only. Also include in the power the ability to do Estate Planning, establish Trusts, apply for public benefits, and health care decision making.
Make sure your other estate documents are up to date – wills, health care directive, Trusts, beneficiary designation on insurance, IRA’s, and Pension.
Do not confuse physical disabilities with mental incapacity. Failing eye sight and hearing can make a person appear mentally incapacitated when otherwise. Change the setting on your computer for larger type.
Be aware of the supports out there (i.e., social and financial) to help such as the Area Agency on Aging, help with in-home care, social services, home health agencies, private geriatric plan managers (again this is where the Elder Law Attorney can be helpful).