Legal help for seniors and their families

Elder-law attorneys specialize in issues from estate planning to health care to abuse.
By Jennifer Haupt http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0112/p14s01-lifp.html?s=hns

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Understanding older people as well as the law

That’s where elder-law attorneys can be particularly effective, because they have a knowledge of older people that allows them to ignore the myths about aging and competence while empathizing with the challenges seniors face. They also tend to have networks of other professionals – such as social workers – that they can call on.
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“The most appropriate time to find an elder-care attorney is really before a crisis,” says Ginny Rice, an elder-law attorney in Webster Groves, Mo. “We see lots of children of elderly parents who have had a health or financial crisis and don’t know where to turn. By completing a durable power of attorney, naming someone else to take care of your health and financial issues when you’re unable to do it, you can avoid a lot of headaches. Otherwise, you may need to go to court to have a guardian appointed – which is expensive.”
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If networking doesn’t produce results, experts suggest asking a family physician, an organization such as one of the local volunteer groups that deal extensively with the elderly, or the local or state bar association for a list of elder-law attorneys.

Online resources are also available. The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys’ website (www.naela.org) provides a list of members who have passed the stringent Elder Law Association Certification test (CELA), accepted by the American Bar Association as the gold standard of expertise, as well as links to other organizations that focus on senior issues.
FindLaw.com (www.findlaw.com) offers a state-by-state locator of elder-law attorneys.

Once a potential lawyer has been identified, ask plenty of questions, experts advise. People need to see if they think they will be comfortable working with that person.
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