Elder law is the area of law focused on issues that affect the aging population. While estate planning focuses on what happens when the individual passes away, elder law focuses on what happens while the individual is still alive. It is lifetime planning. This can include helping clients with guardianship issues, addressing elder abuse claims, handling discrimination claims, planning for long-term care, obtaining government benefits, and helping with special needs issues.
Many lawyers want to provide services that make people happy. Helping people brings personal satisfaction to the lawyer and betters the community. Tired of litigation or working in an area of law that breeds constant conflict? While elder law is not entirely conflict-free, it is often much less stressful than many other areas of law.
Elder law can also be profitable for the practitioner. Forbes estimates that planning for the “spouse of someone with Alzheimer’s disease who has $1.7 million in” various assets (including the home) would run $8,000 to $16,000. Imagine the extra revenue you could bring into your firm if you incorporated elder law into your practice.
How do you get started in elder law?
- As with any area of law, you are going to need to know the rules. You should read some federal statutes and your state Medicaid eligibility manual. You are going to need to learn about trusts, wills, and powers of attorney. WealthCounsel has bountiful resources at your fingertips. Members can access a plethora of educational webinars covering various topics in elder law, including trust drafting, taxation, and administration. There is a community listserv that can help with planning questions. And Elder Docx, WealthCounsel’s document-drafting software, makes drafting trusts, wills, and powers of attorney simple and time-effective.
- Decide what areas of elder law cases you want to focus on. You can choose to practice in all areas, or just some areas. This decision will involve knowing what skills you have, what types of cases you would like to work on, and the client demographic in your area.
- Figure out how your firm going to charge elder law clients. Will it be a flat fee, by the hour, or hybrid? Some practitioners choose to charge clients with a flat fee for analyzing the client’s case and creating the case roadmap letter (this is the Medicaid Asset Protection Letter in Elder Docx), and then if the client chooses to implement that roadmap, additional fees will be incurred. This way, the attorney isn’t giving advice for free and the client can rest easy knowing exactly how their case will proceed before incurring the larger charges.
- You’ll need a marketing plan. Now that you have the proper knowledge and have decided on a pricing plan, it’s time to let people know about it! Make posts to all your firm’s social media accounts, update your website, send mailers to current clients, contact referral sources, and market to new clients.
Adding elder law to your practice takes some effort, but it can be very rewarding. Instead of referring these types of cases out, you can take them on and keep those clients (and the revenue) in your firm. Indeed, Clio states that elder law is a high-growth practice area, which makes now the perfect time to get started.
WealthCounsel is designed to make the transition to elder law easier for you. Contact us today to learn about membership.