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How to Choose An Elder Law Attorney

How to Choose An Elder Law Attorney

If your family is facing the need for long term care at home, or in a nursing home, one of the first things that comes to mind is do you need the help of an elder law attorney. The big concern is what kind of care is needed. The second is can care be at home, in an assisted living facility, or a nursing home. The third is “how are we going to pay for that care?” The variety of programs for homecare, assisting living and nursing home care, and the qualifications to receive federal, state, or veterans benefits to pay for that, often results in a jig saw puzzle that leads to confusion and frustration. A bonafide elder law attorney will devote most or all his or her practice to elder law issues, and will have staff that understands the problems faced by families, and the solutions. So how can you select a competent elder law attorney?

First, ask friends, social workers, hospital discharge planners, and your own long time lawyer who they would recommend. If several people all have favorable experiences, that is your most reliable indicator that the person is competent and caring. Ask them how they were treated. Were questions and phone calls answered or were they ignored? Were staff members courteous and helpful? Were they given all options available? Did they have a successful outcome? Would they use the attorney again?

Second, when calling the elder law attorney, ask what percentage of the practice is directly elder law related, such as Medicaid (Title 19) planning, Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders experience, VA benefits, nursing home placement, familiarity with assisted living facilities, and knowledge of companies providing home care services. Not all companies are approved by the state for state and federal payments. The attorney should have knowledge of estate planning, probate, living trusts, and long term care insurance issues. He or she should be thoroughly knowledgeable about how to protect the family home and how to avoid spousal impoverishment if one spouse enters a nursing home or needs long term care at home.

Third, check with the Connecticut Bar Association or other attorneys to learn if the attorney has a long track record of handling elder law matters. Or check with the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (, the Alzheimer’s Association, or an Area Agency on Aging, or the Connecticut Bar Association Elder Law Section. You can also go on the website at,, or to see if the attorney has the Martindale AV rating by peers for top quality and ethical standards.

Fourth, in the initial contact, does the attorney seem to have a complete grasp of the care needs for your loved one, and the programs and services to serve those needs? Anyone who is a full time elder law attorney will be able to answer typical questions without extra research. For example, in Connecticut, it may be possible to have Medicaid pay for a live-in caregiver at the person’s home, or in an independent living facility. The key questions are whether or not the caregiver paid by Medicaid can get at least 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night and if the caregiver has a designated space in which to stay.

Last, what are the skills and background of the attorney’s staff? Do they have direct experience with elder care issues, care providers, and government programs such as the Connecticut Homecare Program for Elders (CHCPE) and Title 19? Have prior clients found them capable, compassionate and thorough? If so, that is a strong indicator that you will receive the same competent care and representation. Over many years of attending national conferences on elder care issues, two things stand out. First, Connecticut has eligibility rules that are about the strictest in the nation. But second, Connecticut, unlike many states, has good programs and fairly good
funding if the family can meet the rules for qualifications. Different facilities offer different services and you want one that meets the needs of your loved one. You also want a facility near family, so visitation is easy. Elder care coordinators are staff members who deal with placements in facilities all the time, and they know which ones accept Medicaid, and which do not. Being able to get thorough and timely advice is critical when long term care is needed.
Attorneys Stephen O. Allaire (Of Counsel) and Halley C. Allaire are partners in the law firm of Allaire Elder Law.
Attorneys Stephen O. Allaire (Of Counsel) and Halley C. Allaire are members of the National Academy of Elder Law. Attorneys, Inc.
Allaire Elder Law is a highly respected, and highly rated law firm with offices in Bristol, CT.
We can be contacted by phone at (860) 259-1500 or by email.

If you have a question, send a written note to us and we may use your question in a future column.




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PH:  (860) 259-1500
Fax: (860) 259-1502

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