What is an Elder Law Attorney?

January 5, 2005

Elder law attorneys are a unique and specialized group of attorneys who focus on the legal needs of the elderly. The concentration of elder law evolved in the mid 80’s as the number of elders increased and their legal and financial needs became more complex. An Elder law attorney must consider the ever changing federal, state and local laws affecting such programs as: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and SSI when advising the elderly and their families and caregivers. This is an ongoing challenge.

The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys is the profession association representing the 4,000 elder law attorneys. NAELA offers a special certification for elder law attorneys. A certified Elder Law Attorney(CELA) must meet certain requirements, pass a daylong exam and provide references from their peers. Recertification is required evry five years and to date there are only 300 Certified Elder Law Attorneys nationwide. When selecting an elder law attorney, you may reference The National Academy of Elder Law Attorney’s web site, www.naela.com. Under the “Locate an Elder Law Attorney” feature, you will find Davidow, Davidow, Siegel & Stern listed with three CELA’s attributed to our firm. In addition, Lawrence Davidow is the President-Elect of this organization for the 2005 term.

Key Questions to Ask the Attorney
*How long have you practiced elder law?
*What percentage of your practice is devoted to elder law?
*Are you a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys or an elder-law section of the local bar association?
*Are you a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA)?
*Do you make “house calls” or visit your clients in a nursing home?

Ways an Elder Law Attorney Can Help You
*Structure your assets to minimize taxes and avoid the inconvenience of probate
*Develop a plan to efficiently use available health insurance options including Medicare and Medicaid
*Establish trust to protect assets and reduce inheritance taxes
*Organize a house transfer to ensure your family keeps your home
*Develop a management plan to handle your finances including using Power of Attorneys, joint accounts and Trusts
*Complete medical advance directives as applicable to your state
*Coordinate your care team to provide home care, assisted living, or nursing home care.
*Advise you of local, state, and federal programs. For example, the New York State Medicaid consumer directed home care program and EPIC, New York State’s prescription drug program.

Elder law attorneys, familiar with the medical and psychological issues associated with aging, typically work with other eldercare professionals to help you to access additional services to create a team approach. Included in this “care team” might be the person’s doctor, social worker, geriatric case manager, accountant, financial planner and insurance agent. Your elder law attorney can serve as the coordinator of these other professionals all focused on providing you with a personalized plan that best meets your needs.

Source: Current Issues in Elder Law, Vol. 3, Issue 1, Winter 2004