What is Elder Law?

What is Elder Law?

Elder Law is broad legal practice area involving the problems of older and disabled persons. Elder Law includes counseling and dispute resolution in a variety of areas including health and long-term care planning, identifying and accessing sources of financing for long-term medical care, nursing home issues, qualifying for Medicare, Medicaid and other public benefits, legal capacity, surrogate decision-making, estate planning and administration, including tax consequences, trust creation and administration, probate, retirement benefit disputes, estate and probate litigation, contested guardianships and elder mediation services.

In addition, an Elder Law attorney must be capable of recognizing issues that arise in abuse, neglect, or exploitation claims, insurance issues, housing rights disputes, and employment matters. An Elder Law attorney must also be familiar with community resources and services publicly and privately available to meet the needs of older and special needs clients, and be capable of recognizing the ethical issues that arise during representation.

The Elder and Special Needs Law specialty encompasses the following practice areas:

  • Health and Personal Care Planning, including giving advice regarding, and preparing, advance medical directives (medical powers of attorney, living wills, and health care declarations) and counseling older persons, attorneys-in-fact, and families about medical and life-sustaining choices, and related personal life choices.
  • Pre-Mortem Legal Planning, including giving advice and preparing documents regarding wills, trusts, durable general or financial powers of attorney, real estate, gifting, and the financial and tax implications of any proposed action.
  • Fiduciary Representation, including seeking the appointment of, giving advice to, representing, or serving as executor, personal representative, attorney-in-fact, trustee, guardian, conservator, representative payee, or other formal or informal fiduciary.
  • Legal Capacity Counseling, including advising how capacity is determined and the level of capacity required for various legal activities, and representing those who are or may be the subject of guardianship/conservatorship proceedings or other protective arrangements.
  • Public Benefits Advice, including planning for and assisting in obtaining Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Veterans benefits, and food stamps.
  • Advice on Insurance Matters, including analyzing and explaining the types of insurance available, such as health, life, long term care, home care, COBRA, medigap, long term disability, and burial/funeral policies.
  • Resident Rights Advocacy, including advising patients and residents of hospitals, nursing facilities, continuing care retirement communities, assisted living facilities, adult care facilities, and those cared for in their homes of their rights and appropriate remedies in matters such as admission, transfer and discharge policies, quality of care, and related issues.
  • Housing Counseling, including reviewing the options available and the financing of those options such as mortgage alternatives, renovation loan programs, life care contracts, and home equity conversion.
  • Employment and Retirement Advice, including pensions, retiree health benefits, unemployment benefits, and other benefits.
  • Income, Estate, and Gift Tax Advice, including consequences of plans made and advice offered.
  • Counseling about tort claims against nursing homes.
  • Counseling with regard to age and/or disability discrimination in employment and housing.
  • Litigation and Administrative Advocacy in connection with any of the above matters, including will contests, contested capacity and guardianship issues, elder abuse (including financial or consumer fraud), fiduciary administration, public benefits, nursing home torts, and discrimination.

What Makes Elder Law Unique?

Elder Law is the only area of law defined by the elderly and disabled clients served rather than the area(s) of law in which the attorney practices. Elder Law attorneys deal “holistically” with their clients by providing, among other services, advise in planning for long-term health care and financial viability, and discussing family dynamics, medical decisions, personal values and personal preferences.

What is a Certified Elder Law Attorney?

Donald D. Vanarelli, Esq. has been board-certified as an elder law attorney since 1998.

Elder Law is a legal specialty which has been formally recognized by New Jersey’s Supreme Court through the American Bar Association’s accreditation of legal specialties program. To be certified in Elder Law, an attorney must have practiced Elder Law for at least five (5) years, had substantive involvement in the practice areas that make up Elder Law, passed a full day written exam, and received references from five (5) Elder Law attorneys. In addition to knowing about Elder Law generally, a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) must be capable of recognizing issues of concern that arise during counseling and representation of older persons and special needs clients or their representatives. There are over 400 CELAs in 48 states. Only about 50 attorneys in New Jersey have attained the level of expertise required to be board-certified as Elder Law attorneys.

Donald D. Vanarelli, Esq. has been board-certified as an Elder Law attorney since 1998. Certified Elder Law Attorneys have an enhanced level of knowledge, skill and experience in the practice areas encompassed by the Elder and Special Needs Law specialty, coupled with the competence to identify the needs of the older or disabled client, and the capability to solve client problems.

What is the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys?

National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys

The practice of elder law came into its own in 1988 when a group of attorneys formed the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, a professional association concerned with improving the availability and delivery of legal services to older persons. There are now more than 4500 NAELA members in the United States.

What Is the National Elder Law Foundation?

 National Eldeer Law Foundation

The National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) is the only national organization certifying practitioners of Elder and Special Needs Law. NELF’s purpose is to develop and improve the professional competence of lawyers in Elder and Special Needs Law. NELF was founded in 1993 by the Board of Directors of NAELA. NELF is a non-profit organization, dedicated to the development and improvement of the professional competence of lawyers in the areas of Elder and Special Needs Law. NELF created the Board of Certification to implement and administer a system to certify Elder Law attorneys. The board of certification and its committees are made up of persons working in the Elder and Special Needs Law field as private attorneys, in the public sector, and as professors teaching Elder and Special Needs Law and related fields in law schools. The American Bar Association approved NELF as the certifying entity for specialization in Elder Law in February 1995.

Additional Information

For additional information regarding Elder Law, call us at 908-232-7400 or click here to contact us online.

Credentials: Highest Rating for Legal Ability and Ethical Standards >