What is an Elder Law Attorney?

May is National Elder Law/Older Americans Month, which serves to emphasize the importance of being prepared, among other things.

You ask yourself: Now what exactly is elder law? You didn’t attend law school but know about criminal law from watching movies and TV shows, and you can’t miss the personal injury lawyers’ billboard when you’re driving on the interstates. But you’re not familiar with this elder law.

Elder law is an area of legal practice that deals with issues affecting seniors and their families, and focuses on the legal issues affecting baby boomers and their elderly parents.

Elder law is a relatively new field; it’s only been around for about 25 years, and it was born out of necessity. According to the 2020 U.S. Census, there are approximately 73 million baby boomers. That’s a person who was born between the years 1946 -1964. With people living longer because of advances in modern medicine, and financial and medical systems getting more confusing each year, it can be difficult to make sense of getting older.

Elder Advisers® is not a law firm; we offer financial advice. We can refer you to an elder law attorney to assist you with your legal needs.

Elder law encompasses many fields of law, with elder law attorneys specializing in numerous areas, which can include:

  • Administration and management of estates and trusts
  • Elder abuse and fraud
  • Estate planning, probate, trusts, wills and other financial documents
  • Long-term care placement in nursing homes
  • Preservation/transfer of assets to avoid spousal impoverishment when a spouse enters a nursing home.

However, the primary reason a family seeks an elder law attorney is because of Medicaid. Medicaid is a maze of complex rules and regulations that most people find almost impossible to understand and navigate, unless they’re elder law attorneys. Even regular attorneys are generally ill-equipped to provide accurate advice about the Medicaid system and the strategies that can properly be used to protect clients’ money, property, or income. Wrong or incomplete advice can cost you a fortune.

Legal issues affecting seniors are governed by complex regulations and laws that vary by state. They’re also multifaceted, often requiring a unique understanding of the personal impacts of aging, which can make a person more physically, financially and socially vulnerable. Elder law addresses the various life decisions and circumstances that arise during this time of life as well as how estate plans will be executed after your death.

Elder Advisers® is not a law firm; we offer financial advice. We can refer you to an elder law attorney to assist you with your legal needs.

Many people erroneously assume that elder law is only a concern for those with complex life situations, such as a disability or special needs, second (or multiple) marriages, a high-value estate, or financially reckless adult children. Although the field is of particular importance to seniors in such circumstances, it’s vital for all seniors to familiarize themselves with elder law and enlist an attorney when needed to protect themselves and their assets from what may befall them in their golden years and beyond.

An elder law attorney is not to be confused with an estate planning lawyer, although the two interests often overlap. Estate planning primarily concentrates on distribution of assets after death, while elder law targets the preservation of assets for personal benefit and care while the person is living. Most often, elder law attorneys are accomplished at estate planning.

A major role of elder law attorneys is that of an educator. An elder law attorney can help family caregivers explore options for their loved one’s current situation and explain how to plan for what could happen down the road, especially when a debilitating illness may necessitate long-term care.

Elder Advisers® is not a law firm; we offer financial advice. We can refer you to an elder law attorney to assist you with your legal needs.

So when would you hire an elder law attorney? Here are some situations in which seniors must seriously consider hiring an elder law attorney.

  • They are entering a nursing home for long-term care, and want to preserve/transfer assets to secure their spouse’s future.
  • They want to file a Medicare or Medicaid claim or a Social Security or disability claim.
  • They are planning to file a claim pertaining to age discrimination in employment.
  • They want to plan their estate (management during their life and disposition on death).

Elder Advisers® is not a law firm; we offer financial advice. We can refer you to an elder law attorney to assist you with your legal needs.

There are several ways that you can find an elder law attorney. As easy as it may be to search the internet for attorneys, this isn’t the route you want to follow. Start by asking for referrals from friends and family, your financial advisor, your accountant, or even your family attorney (if you have one). If you can’t get a referral, contact your local bar association. They can put you in touch with a lawyer who has experience.

While we can’t predict every obstacle or issue that we may encounter as we age, working with a specialized legal professional can help cover the bases. This gives seniors invaluable peace of mind and helps their family members understand and accept their individual roles and responsibilities long before they must act on them. Family caregivers of aging loved ones who do not engage in any legal planning can attest to the many hindrances, unnecessary expense and overwhelming stress they encountered as a result.


Elder Advisers® is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney. We offer financial advice. We can work closely with your existing tax and legal advisors or introduce you to those we routinely work with. Nothing in this newsletter is intended as tax advice, a solicitation for insurance, or legal advice, and is merely provided as general information, and should not be relied upon for anyone’s specific or unique circumstances. Some content of this newsletter may have been developed by third party sources not affiliated with Elder Advisers®. If you would like to discuss your situation, we are delighted to help. CALL (800) 763-7930.