How to Select an Elder Law Attorney
If your family is facing the need for long term care at home, or the immediate crisis of a nursing home placement, one of the first things that comes to mind, is do you need an elder law attorney. The variety of programs for homecare and the qualifications to receive Federal, State, or veteran benefits, often results in a jig saw puzzle that leads to confusion and frustration. A true elder law attorney will devote most or all his 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, ethical, and caring. Ask them how they were treated. Were questions and phone calls answered or were they ignored? Were staff members courteous and helpful or was the client ignored? 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. The attorney should have knowledge of estate planning, probate, living trusts, and long term care insurance issues. He should be thoroughly knowledgeable about how to protect the family home and how to avoid spousal impoverishment if one spouse enters a nursing home.
Third, check with the Connecticut Bar Association or other attorneys to learn if the attorney has been reprimanded in a grievance, or has had a client law suit decided against him. Or check with the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (www.naela.com), the Alzheimer’s Association, or Area Agency on Aging, or the Connecticut Bar Association Elder Law Section to see if the attorney is a member. You can also go on the website at lawyers.com, findlaw.com, or martindale.com 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, or hemming and hawing.
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 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.