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15 May 2010

Legal Help for Seniors

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May 15, 2010 Category: Seniors Posted by:

Dear Savvy Senior,

What do elder law attorneys do? My parents need some legal help with an insurance problem and a long-term care issue but have limited funds. What can
you tell us and where can we find help.

Legally Gray

Dear Gray:

When it comes to specialized areas of law, most people are more familiar with corporate, criminal or even divorce law than they are elder law, but elder
law has become one of the fastest growing fields in the legal profession. Here’s what you should know.

Elder Law

Elder law is a sub-specialty within the practice of law that focuses on the issues specific to older citizens, as well as people with disabilities and
their families. Some of the areas that fall under the umbrella of elder law include: estate planning, wills, probate, trusts, management and administration
of estates; long-term care, nursing home or assisted living issues; claims and appeals for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, SSI, disability, pension
and insurance; end-of-life planning including durable powers of attorney, living wills, advanced directives, conservatorships and guardianships; and elder
rights including age discrimination, elder abuse and fraud.

If you do decide to go with an elder law attorney, keep in mind that most don’t specialize in all areas of elder law, so you’ll need to choose someone who
has the expertise that matches your parent’s needs.

To help you locate an elder law attorney in your area, try the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys which provides a national listing on their Web site
at When you do your search, look for the CELA (Certified Elder Law Attorney) designation after their name. This indicates enhanced knowledge and
experience in the field.

Free Legal Help

If your parents can’t afford to pay attorney fees, there are a variety of other resources available that offer free or low-cost legal help to seniors and
people with limited means. Here are some to check into:

• Senior Legal Hotlines: There are 27 states including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico that offer senior legal hotlines, where all seniors over
age 60 have access to free legal advice over the telephone. To find the states that offer this service and their toll free number visit

• Legal Services for Elderly: Coordinated by the Administration on Aging, this service may offer free or low-cost legal advice, legal assistance or access
to legal representation to people over the age of 60. Your Area Agency on Aging (call 800-677-1116 to get your local number) can tell you what’s available
in your community.

• Pro Bono programs: Usually sponsored by state or local bar associations, these programs help low-income people find volunteer lawyers who are willing to
handle their cases for free. You can look for a pro bono program at


• Legal Aid: Directed by the Legal Services Corporation, legal aid offers free legal assistance to financially eligible people of all ages. Each community
program will differ in the services they offer and income qualifications. See to locate a legal aid program in your area.

• AARP Legal Services Network: This service provides AARP members a free legal consultation (up to 45 minutes) with an attorney in your area along with
discounts on other legal services you may need. To locate a lawyer near you, visit or call 866-330-0753.

Savvy Tip: The American Bar Association also provides a nice listing of state resources on their Web site ( to help you find legal
assistance in your area.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy
Senior” book.

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