The population of older Americans (defined as age 65 and older) has increased at an historic rate in recent years. In fact, experts predict that older Americans will outnumber their younger counterparts (age 21 and younger) for the first time in history by the year 2050. With the explosion of seniors has come a corresponding increase of products and services aimed at appealing to them. Even the legal field has taken note of the unique needs of the elderly with the advent of a relatively new area of the law known as “elder law.” If you are a senior, or you are the caregiver for one, there is a good chance that you will need the assistance of an elder law lawyer at some point. With that in mind, the elder law lawyers at Sandoval Legacy Group, A Professional Law Corporation, explain what type of legal issues fall under the purview of elder law.
The History of Elder Law
Although the elderly have always needed legal representation, the combination of a burgeoning elderly population and an increase in the unique legal needs of the elderly resulted in the founding of the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) in 1987. The original goals of NAELA were focused on creating a national network of attorneys who practiced elder law as a way to share information. As membership in NAELA grew, and the need for lawyers knowledgeable in areas of the law that impact seniors became more apparent, the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) was founded.
CELA – Certified Elder Law Attorney
Attorneys who wish to gain certification in the area of elder law may do so through a rigorous and selective certification program recognized by the American Bar Association and administered by NELF. To gain CELA status an applicant must:
- Be licensed to practice law in at least one state or the District of Columbia
- Have practiced law during the five years preceding their application and must still be practicing law.
- Be a member in good standing of the bars in all places in which they are licensed.
- Have spent an average of at least 16 hours per week practicing elder law during the three years preceding their application. In addition, they must have handled at least 60 elder law matters during those three years with a specified distribution among subjects as described in section 18.104.22.168 of the rules and regulations.
- Have participated in at least 45 hours of continuing legal education in elder law during the preceding three years.
- Submit the names of five references from attorneys familiar with their competence and qualifications in elder law. These persons must themselves satisfy specified criteria.
- Sit for the certification examination within two years of filing the short form application.
Riverside elder law attorney Dennis M. Sandoval is the only law in California who is a CELA as well as a Certified Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law Specialist and Certified Elder law Specialist. He is also one of less than 100 elder lawyers nationwide who has been designated as a Fellow by NAELA.
What Types of Legal Matters Does an Elder Law Attorney Handle?
Unlike most other areas of the law, an elder law attorney does not focus on gaining an expert level of knowledge in a very narrow area of the law, such as a copyright attorney right do. Instead, an elder law attorney focuses more on the numerous and varied legal needs of seniors and on how different legal issues impact the elderly specifically. Examples of situations wherein you might need an elder law attorney include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Petitioning for, or objecting to, a conservatorship
- Creating or revising an estate plan
- Denial of state or federal benefits
- Long Term Care Medi-Cal planning (long-term care planning)
- Veteran’s Aid and Attendance and other Veteran’s pension and disability benefits
- Caregiving in the home
- Transitioning to an Assisted Living Facility, Board and Care (RCFE), or Skilled Nursing Facility
- Advocating for improved health care for the senior
- Appealing adverse health care and rehabilitation decisions
- Monitoring seniors for out-of-state children
- Retirement planning
- Disability planning
- Advanced health care directives, HIPAA Authorization forms, and POLST
- Will and Trust Contests
While many of these legal issues may involve parties of any age, they frequently impact the elderly in unique ways. An elder law attorney understands the legal problems of seniors as well as the special ways in which otherwise common legal disputes can affect the elderly and those who care for them.
Contact California Elder Law Lawyers
If you are a senior yourself, or the caregiver of one, and you have an elder law legal issue, question or concern, contact the experienced California elder law lawyers at Sandoval Legacy Group, A Professional Law Corporation by calling (951) 888-1460 to schedule an appointment.
Have a question? Ask Dennis.