SELECTING AN ELDER LAW ATTORNEY
It may seem very easy to open a phone book or search the internet for a name of an elder law attorney; however, finding the RIGHT one that fits your needs actually will require some research.
Over a cup of coffee, I met with a friend and colleague to discuss how exactly do you chose the right Elder Law attorney. According to Elder Law attorney, Ed Smith of Southwest Florida Estate Planning, (www.southwestfloridaelderlaw.com), there are some key factors involved in selecting the right elder law attorney. These include:
Seek a referral/recommendation. Talk with your friends, your financial advisor, your accountant, your family attorney and your anyone else that may know of an elder law attorney.
Evaluate the credentials. Attorneys must be licensed in the state that they are practicing law and must be registered by the Bar Association of that specific state. In addition, Elder Law attorneys can be members of National Elder Law consortiums, such as ElderCounsel (www.eldercounsel.com) or NAELA (www.naela.org) which can be a resource to use for credentials and overall information. Attorneys can also become Board Certified or maintain other awards which can assist with learning about the attorney’s credentials.
It’s all about the relationship. Utilizing the services of an elder law attorney is very personal. It is important that you trust that your attorney is looking after your best interests. Many attorneys can provide you the end result, however a good elder law attorney will present you with a number of options to help solve your situation. Empathy is an important consideration as well. Your attorney should truly understand your situation and have a genuine interest in helping you.
Understand the fee structure. Some attorneys will charge hourly while others will charge a flat rate. It is important to know this upfront and be comfortable with the arrangement. A flat rate might appear a bit high at first, however you won’t be nickel and dimed for every 5-minute phone call you make. The scope of work should be defined as well terms should be clear should you want to terminate the agreement.
There are many types of attorneys, however an Elder Law attorney specializes in Medicaid and Long term planning, veteran benefits, and other special need and government assistance planning. An Elder Law attorney is not a financial planner but should be willing to work with your financial planner and CPA to help you develop a solid plan for your future.
A good elder law attorney should help understand your current status and have an open discussion about what you want to accomplish in the end. You and your attorney should openly discuss goals, objectives, as well as pros and cons of certain approaches.