Elder law is a specialized legal area. Elder law incorporates elements of estate planning and protecting assets both before and after an individual passes away, but it also considers a broader perspective such as medical concerns and other issues facing older adults.
Elder law and estate planning attorneys focus on specific needs such as:
Having the essential legal documents in place, like those listed above, gives you peace of mind and helps provide the best care for you throughout your life and at its end. That’s why it’s so important to find an expert lawyer that you trust to help you navigate the aging experience.
But finding a professional you trust can be tough. Here are five tips for selecting an elder law attorney that is right for you.
Meet for an initial consultation and get square on fees
If you can, meet with a few lawyers and present the same situation to each. Then, you can compare their responses. That helps you confirm that the overall approach is legitimate and prompts you to ask questions about any differences in advice.
An in-person meeting helps you get a feel for how they work and if their style works for you. If you summarize your needs in advance, many lawyers will be willing to meet for 15 to 30 minutes at no charge. Make sure you understand the fee, if there is one, for the first meeting and subsequent meetings and legal services.
That said, don’t expect a lawyer to quote you a fee or even an estimate before an initial meeting. Instead, ask exactly how your fee will be calculated. Every lawyer charges differently. Some lawyers charge hourly, others charge a flat fee which is a set amount for a specified task. Some lawyers charge consultation fees; others charge none.
Before you hire the attorney, it’s common practice to have a signed agreement that puts the free structure into writing based on the scope of the work needed.
Find out how much experience they’ve had with issues similar to yours
Every person and family’s experience is unique. A good elder law attorney has seen a diverse set of circumstances that comes with years in practice. Explain your situation and find out how many of those types of situations they’ve dealt with in the past. For example, if you need a Power of Attorney, long-term care planning, and estate planning, ask prospective attorneys to describe their experience with each one of those areas.
Or if you aren’t quite sure what you need, your resources, family structure, and preferred care setting are important aspects to discuss during the planning process. Describe each of those areas and ask the attorney how many situations like yours they have dealt with and what they might recommend for you.
Evaluate their customer service and find someone you like
Working with someone who is professional and responsive is important. After speaking with a lawyer, ask yourself:
- Are they polite and professional?
- Do they return calls or emails in a timely manner?
- Do they take time to explain things to make sure you have a good understanding?
- Do they follow through with things they’ve said they’ll do?
It’s also important that you also like the attorney you choose. They should be knowledgeable and professional, but also treat you with respect, answer your questions simply and honestly, and generally make you feel valued regardless of the size of your estate.
Take plenty of notes
To help you remember what each lawyer said and how you felt about them, be sure to take plenty of notes during the meeting about how the attorney answered your questions or about the advice they gave you. Afterward, it’s also smart to write down how the meeting went from your point of view. For example, did you feel comfortable discussing the details of your life with the attorney? Are you confident in his or her ability to address your needs? Later, you can review your notes to help you make the final decision.
Check their credentials
Ask about the attorney’s areas of expertise and specialization and whether the attorney is board-certified in elder and special needs law. Also ask if the elder law attorney has any warnings, reprimands, disbarments, or sanctions against them in your state or other states. You can also check the Florida State Bar Association website. Look up the attorney’s name or Bar number to make sure they’re actively licensed to practice law in your state.
Located in Miami, Mortellaro Law is Florida’s highest-rated elder law and estate planning firm. Call us today: 813-551-0923 to find out how we can help you and your family with all of your estate planning and elder law needs.