Q. Why hire an elder law attorney?

Elder law attorneys advocate for the senior community and their loved ones. They handle a wide range of legal matters affecting older or disabled persons that includes traditional estate planning, lifetime planning, long term care planning, guardianship, Social Security, Medicaid, VA benefits, special needs planning, and other important matters.

Elder law attorneys are specialists because of their focus on the needs of older adults, which are often different and more specialized than the needs of younger adults. Not only can they handle important financial and estate planning matters, they also give advice affecting the actual care of seniors, such as assisted living and nursing homes.

Q. How can an elder law attorney help me?

Elder law attorneys can help with any one of the following:

• Discuss the importance of Wills and traditional estate planning, probate administration, and litigation

• Create powers of attorney for finances and health care

• Financial planning including, housing opportunities and planning, income, estate, and gift tax matters

• Guardianship/Conservatorship: help with the selection and appointment of a legal guardian

• Help locate long term care facilities, and manage assisted living cost

• Medicaid and VA benefits planning

Q. How do elder law attorneys bill for their services?

In most cases, elder law attorneys charge flat rates, quoted in advance based on the type of planning, such as traditional estate planning and asset protection planning. For other work, particularly that which may include litigation, they generally charge by the hour.

Q. What questions should I ask an elder law attorney?

Most elder law attorneys do not specialize in every area of law affecting the senior community, so it is important to hire an attorney who has experience in your particular area of concern. Also, before selecting an elder law attorney, you should feel comfortable that he or she will represent you or your loved ones in a sensitive and understanding manner.

Here are some questions you should ask:

• What percentage of your time is devoted to elder law?

• Do you have a particular emphasis on a certain area within elder law?

• What information should I prepare for our first meeting?

• How are your fees computed?

There are numerous ways to find a qualified elder law attorney. Referrals from friends and family or online research may be a good start.

Brian T. Treacy is an elder law and estate planning attorney, and owner of Elder Law & Estate Planning Center in Bluffton. hiltonheadelderlaw.com