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Hi; I'm new here. I'm so glad I found you folks! I am learning so much already -- I didn't even know about durable powers of attorney before I came here. Anyway, I've searched the threads for advice on finding a good elder care attorney and I still feel like I'd like some of your thoughts. I saw the recommendation for http://www.naela.org/ and I did check their site, but they give very little info on the attorneys in my area. Is them just being listed there a good sign of quality? I did check Yelp and found a highly rated office in my area, but I could use a little guidance on a good path: Do I meet with a few lawyers first? Should I prepare questions ahead of time? Do they usually charge for the first meeting? (Background: My mom is 78 and still active, but we're close, and I have agreed to do whatever I can so she can stay in her home for the rest of her life. She's only now starting to have issues with her driving getting worse, forgetting things, falling, etc., but she's still pretty independent, and we want to make sure everything's easiest for us both if she gets ill or incapacitated. I moved into an apartment on her property 3 years ago to be closer, because she's having more hospitalizations, etc., in the last few years. She has a living will and is leaving me the house, but I don't care if I get anything as long as she is happy and safe in her home.) Thanks for any help you can give me.

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Good for you. Get to work. Keep in mind it's quite common to cover some of the same care/end of life issues already in living wills with POA language as well. That way, no questions, interpretation problems etc. Belt and suspenders......
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Thank you all! These are good starting points for me. Gardenartist, I should have said my mom has both an advance directive/living will and a revocable trust leaving me the house. I will start doing my attorney research ASAP. With any luck, we've got time to get this all taken care of, but I'd rather get it all done while we feel this way than in a hurry some day.
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Windy makes a good point about getting a POA that's a Durable one to give you authority regardless of whether competency is an issue.

The only time I actually used my father's to make decisions was when he was fully competent, but was on a respirator b/c of pulmonary issues, and was in a medically induced coma, so he couldn't make decisions during that period.
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I chose my legal attorney because my husband worked with an attorney in another city who recommended an old class mate of his. The class mate happened to be a leading elder attorney in our area and he thought she would be the best we could do. Turns out she and her partner wrote a column for a local newspaper so I was able to learn quite a bit from her columns and also her website which listed all her credentials and awards.
I already had documents, DPOA, Wills, etc. so I took them in for her to look over. She charged me a flat fee and gave me quite a bit of information. I doubt the documents I took her were exactly as she would have prepared them but she didn't require me to redo any of them. I've met with her twice over the years and felt better for it and confident to move forward with actions needed.

To me you need an attorney who understands medicaid laws in your area whether you think you will need medicaid or not. I've never needed to work with medicaid for my parents or in-laws who have passed but I make all my decisions for my aunt as if I will need them.

So check with friends and professionals in your life to see who they recommend. Some attorney's have packages for all the basic paperwork needed. My aunts original attorney will even make changes in her will, etc. free of charge. I had a secondary DPOA set up for her should I not be able to take care of her. The secondary died. She had to have another DPOA prepared naming someone else for secondary. No charge, which was nice. The elder attorney would have charged me for that I'm sure. But as she had already looked over the original DPOA and blessed it, I felt comfortable going back to aunts original attorney to make the changes for free.

Don't put this off. These type of documents can be needed overnight.
When you make your appointment, you will be told what to bring in (or should be).
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Serene, you may also ask around, friends, neighbors, family. Many folks our age (55 , 65 or so) have dealt with elder legal issues and might recommend an attorney or advise against so and so.

A little off topic but The most important thing for you and mom now is a good POA. You can research info on this site and elsewhere.  And yes, use an attorney not some on line form.

You mom is in pretty good shape now and cooperative.  Do this now! Structure the POA to be durable and give you the power to take care of medical, end if life, nursing care/facilities and all financial matters.
You want this document to allow you to handle things while mom is competent (with her approval) and after she is no longer mentally competent.
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I should add a caveat, just in case you want to be extra careful. Check the State Bar's list of grievances to ensure that an attorney is not on it.
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You're wise to ask about what to look for in selecting counsel. Too many people don't, have expectations that aren't met, misunderstandings occur, and the individual ends up being very dissatisfied.

It was easy for me since I chose a law firm for which I had worked. I knew and respected the attorneys, not only for the way staff and clients were treated, but because they served clients with a range of financial abilities. One thing you probably don't want is a law firm that caters to individuals "of high net worth", unless you're rich.

What I suggest is to go online to your state's bar association website and look for "practice areas." These are the specialty areas in which an attorney and/or firm practice. A county bar may also have attorneys categorized in the same manner. Search for estate planning, elder law, and/or Medicaid if you think that might be an issue.

If you want to be thorough and get an attorney in a firm with multiple practice areas, I think that's a good idea. The firm I chose also had litigation, real estate and other practice areas. When I needed some quick real estate advice, I contacted one of the RE attorneys and got the advice over the phone. Not all attorneys would do that.

The advantage is that real estate usually factors into estate planning, so there's already a practice area within the firm to which the attorney handling your succession issues can consult if the need arises. You don't need to go outside the firm and find another attorney.

List the areas that would be addressed besides the standard documents (Trust or Will(s), POAs, conveyance if a Trust is involved, etc.), portfolio management, etc.

List the types of assets involved (mutual funds, stocks, real estate, 401Ks, other pension types [i.e., governmental] ), etc. This information will help your attorney advise how to best manage the assets and transfer them, if a trust is involved (called "funding" the trust). If you do get a trust, ask if the attorney prepared the funding documents, which would include a deed transferring the property to the trust. Sometimes a bill of sale is included to transfer the general and miscellaneous household assets into the trust.

If you have significant real estate assets, including those that generate income, look for a firm that has a real estate as well as an estate planning and/or elder law practice area. Taxation levels are different (and steeper) when trusts are involved, so you'll want to address any income producing assets.

Back to your post: you state that your mother has a living will and will be leaving the house to you. You might want to check this document, as my understanding of a living will is a medical directive rather than an asset based directive. The LW would define your authority to make decisions for someone in the event of various types of medical situations. It wouldn't convey property, unless things have changed since I've been working.

Then start online searching for firms with practice areas you want. Review the attorney's profiles; even w/i a practice area they have different specialites.

Then start calling, asking whether fees will be hourly or a flat fee for an entire estate plan. If you're considering any kind of guardianship or conservatorship, either for you or for someone in your family, ask whether the attorney handles those proceedings, or if someone in the firm does. If a trust won't be involved, address probate proceedings and learn in advance whether or not the attorney will handle this entirely, or if he/she will provide guidance to you so you can handle as much as possible.

Take copius notes on the firms and the initial conversations. If someone doesn't want to discuss fees over the phone, move on. Then take some time to digest all this and either short list the firms or select one. Then set up an appointment.

Good luck!
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