What is elder law?
Elder law is a rapidly-growing practice emphasis for many lawyers who choose to represent older clients and handle the kinds of issues commonly faced by the elderly and disabled.
Is elder law a recognized legal specialty?
State Bar Associations or Supreme Courts in some states (including Arizona) have formally recognized elder law as a legal specialty. In those states lawyers may be able to advertise that they specialize in elder law if they have met specified qualifying criteria, which usually include a written examination and evidence of extensive experience in the area.
Are there any other credentials an elder law attorney might demonstrate?
Other than an active case load of elder law clients, the only formal way an Arizona attorney can demonstrate specific familiarity with elder law issues is to be certified by the National Elder Law Foundation as a Certified Elder Law Attorney. Fleming & Curti partner Robert Fleming has secured that certification, as have a handful of other Arizona attorneys.
What are the legal practice areas in which elder law attorneys engage?
Although the legal problems of the elderly span the entire gamut of legal issues, a handful of topics arise for seniors more regularly than others. Most lawyers who consider themselves elder law attorneys are familiar with (and work in) guardianship and conservatorship, Medicaid and long-term care planning, estate planning and probate. Some elder law attorneys may also be familiar with age discrimination, medical care issues (including advance directives and the “right to die”), grandparent visitation and custody rights, Medicare benefits, and a host of similar issues.
Are there legal practice areas that elder law attorneys are uniquely qualified to handle?
As with other professional specialty areas, the ability of individual elder law attorneys to handle specific matters will vary with the experience, competence and credentials of the individual lawyer. Some of the topics that are not as widely understood by lawyers other than elder law attorneys might include Medicaid and long-term care planning, special needs trusts, estate planning for disabled family members and advance directives.
How can I find an elder law attorney in my area?
The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys provides an online resource for locating a member of that organization. NAELA is the only national organization of elder law attorneys, and has over 3,000 members hailing from every state (and a few U.S. territories and foreign countries). As with other legal practice areas, the best method of locating a competent elder law attorney is probably to solicit suggestions from friends, relatives and colleagues, and then to question each prospective attorney about his or her specific experience, training and interests.