What is Elder Law?

What is elder law and how do I find an elder law attorney?

Elder law is a focused practice for lawyers who choose to handle issues commonly faced by elderly and disabled individuals. Attorneys may advertise that they specialize in elder law if they have met specified qualifying criteria, which usually includes a written examination and evidence of extensive experience in the area.

Like any other person, an older adult may need assistance with many types of legal issues, but an elder law attorney focuses his or her practice to meet these needs. Most lawyers who consider themselves elder law attorneys are familiar with Medicaid and long-term care planning, Medicare benefits, guardianship, estate planning and probate.  Elder law attorneys also are likely to be familiar about special needs trusts, advance directives and estate planning for disabled family members.

In New Hampshire, the only formal way an attorney may demonstrate a specialization in elder law is to be certified by the National Elder Law Foundation as a Certified Elder Law Attorney. Ann Butenhof has secured this certification, as have a handful of other New Hampshire attorneys.   You may find a list of Certified Elder Law Attorneys at www.nelf.org.   Another good resource is the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. www.naela.org which provides an online resource for locating members of that organization.  NAELA is the only national organization of elder law attorneys.  As with other legal practice areas, the best method of locating a competent elder law attorney is to speak with friends, relatives and colleagues, and then to interview the prospective attorney about his or her specific experience and training.