Page Reviewed / Updated – July 17th, 2023
Page Reviewed by Dr. Brindusa Vanta, MD

Caring for a senior loved one can be stressful. It might be difficult to balance aiding your elderly family member with your own or immediate family’s demands. To ensure you and your loved one receive optimal support, having a professional team in place for guidance and understanding is wise. In addition to geriatric medical specialists, an elder care attorney is an integral part of this team to help you navigate the challenging and sometimes confusing path of senior care. 

The senior population in America is rising, and planning for the future is imperative for a secure, stress-free quality of life. This not only applies to seniors but their family members as well. Adult children and grandchildren can be directly affected, whether these issues pertain to health care, finances, elderly abuse, living wills or a combination of factors.

Working out solutions to potential problems in one’s golden years can be difficult and time-consuming without the help of an attorney specializing in elder law. This guide outlines 10 ways an elder care attorney may alleviate the strain that family caregivers or guardians frequently bear and helps elders and their loved ones plan for the best, most secure future.

What Is an Elder Care Lawyer?

An elder care attorney offers legal services specializing in issues that pertain to seniors and their caregivers. Will and estate planning and elder abuse cases are popular practices they take on. Other issues may include:

  • Financial issues
  • Probate proceedings
  • Health care 
  • Grandparent rights
  • Securing a power of attorney
  • Long-term care options

Elder care attorneys can create wills and trusts, and they’re invaluable in reviewing and explaining complex legal documents related to these and other issues. These lawyers can establish a support person or persons to make legal decisions on a senior’s behalf if they’re medically unable to do so themselves. 

10 Ways an Elder Law Attorney Can Help You

Whether you are a senior planning your own future or a family caregiver, the following are 10 instances in which engaging an attorney specializing in elder law can be helpful to you.

1. Applying for Senior Benefits

An elder law attorney can walk family caregivers or seniors through the process of applying for benefits and claim appeals. Some government programs that an elder law attorney can help with include Medicare and Medicaid, along with state-specific waivers with special provisions for older adults. Senior law attorneys can direct you toward benefit programs and resources you may not have known about and explain how the programs work and what they provide.

2. Setting Up Long-Term Care Arrangements

Family caregivers or seniors themselves bear the responsibility of setting up long-term care arrangements. An elder care attorney can help you review long-term care options and choose the right one. Your legal professional can also go over all details and contracts related to each care type or facility. For example, an elder law attorney would check an assisted living care plan and resident contract to ensure everything is suitable for your loved one’s needs and budget before signing anything. 

3. Taking Care of Estate Planning

It’s important to take care of estate planning. Elder law attorneys can handle all the red tape and fine print involved with estate planning issues, including property and other assets, along with the disbursement to beneficiaries. Rather than taking on the stress involved with the execution of a loved one’s will, it may be advantageous to hire an elder law professional to take care of things. While there may still be decisions to make and papers to sign, an attorney can simplify the process and resolve estate matters in a timely fashion.

4. Resolving Family Estate Disputes

Unfortunately, family disputes over property and assets can arise. This can occur whether a senior citizen transitions to an assisted living or nursing facility or passes away. An elder law attorney can review the validity of each complaint and resolve any disputes involving the senior’s estate in a peaceful, efficient and legal manner. Doing so may help preserve not only assets but also family relationships.

5. Handling Elder Abuse Issues

When elder abuse is suspected or reported, it’s crucial to include an elder law attorney in the legal process. These lawyers work with local and state law enforcement agencies when necessary to prosecute perpetrators of elder abuse. Plus, they can help ensure the senior is removed from the abusive or negligent environment and placed in a suitable setting — whether that happens to be a nursing home, assisted living facility, their own home or with a family member. 

6. Creating Wills

Writing a will isn’t always straightforward. In many cases, it’s advisable and much easier to have an elder law attorney handle it for you. Your attorney can consult with you virtually via computer or phone, and some elder law attorneys make house calls. A will can be drawn up quickly and with a minimum of time and hassle.

7. Preserving Assets

An elder law attorney can protect property, money, retirement accounts and other assets. This might involve helping the family choose the most cost-efficient nursing home or finding and taking advantage of tax benefits related to senior assets.

8. Setting Up a Living Trust

A living trust is a will made by the senior and designates who receives what upon their death. It can be complex, though, which is why it’s imperative to use the services of an elder law attorney to set up a living trust. There can be a lot of paperwork to wade through, along with legal jargon and fine print. The establishment of a living trust can save a great deal of family strife down the road.

9. Providing Legal Counsel

Sometimes family caregivers of seniors need basic legal advice. Having an elder law attorney ensures a knowledgeable professional is on hand to answer legal questions and provide guidance. 

10. Protecting Against Senior-Oriented Scams

The unfortunate truth is that many scams target vulnerable seniors. Elder law attorneys can educate caregivers and seniors on these scams so they know what to look out for. In addition, an attorney may be able to prosecute fraud and recoup financial losses in court. If you or your senior loved one believe you may have been targeted or victimized by one of these elder-oriented scams, report the incident to your attorney immediately.

How to Choose an Elder Law Attorney

When choosing an elder law attorney, it’s important to plan properly. Here are some things you’ll want to do when looking for the right legal representation:

  • Understand what you need from an attorney
  • Learn what qualifications to look for
  • Read reviews online
  • Ask for referrals from colleagues, friends and family

In addition, here are three steps you can take to find a highly qualified elder law attorney near you:

  1. Visit the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) website and look under the Consumer Resources tab to find an associated lawyer near you.
  2. Search the directory for elder law attorneys at the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) to find lawyers for seniors in your area.
  3. Make a list of elder care lawyers from these directories, and set up consultations with the ones who offer the services you need.