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Could anyone advise me what to look for? What to ask?


How do I know if I'm speaking to a good Elder law Attorney who really cares of my needs to care/help my family with Alzheimer's/dementia?

Kimberlitas, check your PMs.
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Read Dr. Sam Sugar’s book
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Firstly, most who enter Elder Law work do truly care about their expertise, their chosen reputation; that isn't to say some are not better than others. Try to get personal recommends. Sometimes Doctors have a recommend, as they often deal with elders without family who need protection of the state. Do check to see if there are any actions against the license of someone you choose from a search engine that lists lawyers in your area. There are ways within the State to check the license of Lawyers functioning in your State. Feel free to call the office and request how long the Lawyer has practices in this specialty. Ask for a consult in office to decide if this is the right person. Sometimes what you want is a specialty of Trust and Estate rather than Elder Law. This is a matter of simply checking the best you can if you don't have a personal recommendation. If you are familiar with ANY lawyer either as friend, acquaintance or past work for you, ask for a recommendation. Realy Real is correct. Many will allow for an interview at low cost or free of cost. You will be able to say what you need, if you want someone to direct you, to help you, or to act for you. Everything makes a difference.
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I recommend going to www.nelf.org and finding certified elder law attorneys in your area and interviewing every single one of them.

You will know when you find the right one.

Create a list of questions and make notes while you are interviewing the attorneys. Then update your questions as you learn things from your interviews.

Most attorneys will offer a free consultation, I won't pay one for me to interview to decide if I want to hire them. Remember, they work for you and you should feel completely comfortable with whomever you choose.

Good luck finding a good attorney that meets your needs.
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I'm partial to utilizing resources of the local and state bar associations.   Typically there will be groups of attorneys in medium or large sized law firms who also form affiliations for common practice areas, such as real estate, elder law, landlord-tenant, etc.    These often are attorneys who are very active in their practice area.    Some publish newsletters or, in the case of my experience decades ago, also provide lectures on their fields of specialty at state bar meetings. 

Your profile doesn't provide a location, so I can't offer any help there.  

The Michigan Bar Association (my state) lists the names of firms with which attorneys are affiliated.   I check out the firm to see what other practice areas exist, which can help since attorneys assist each other.  E.g., an elder law attorney may need real estate assistance, and vice versa, so the client doesn't need to find two separate firms.   Practice areas are often complimentary.

W/i an estate planning group, there may be some who focus on Living and/or Irrevocable Trusts.  Others focus on specialty trusts that are less common.  There might be one who includes probate litigation in his/her practice area. 

Review the credentials of attorneys in the elder law, and/or estate planning firms in your area (again, search the local or state bar directories).   Most will indicate specialties.  Then contact the firms, speak with the attorneys and ask the questions that bring you to seek legal counsel.   

Your question on how to determine who's a good attorney is a very valid one.   An attorney should explain how he/she operates, whether a retainer is necessary, how many visits would be required to address your issues, and what his/her plan of action would be.   Hourly billing rates or flat rates for services should be discussed.   

Ask questions specific to your needs, such as dementia issues.  Create a generalized list of your concerns, i.e., home assistance, legal issues of cognizance, documents to prepare now if possible, etc.   Attorneys appreciate people who come prepared with lists of issues.

If you're interested in asset management for your family, be prepared to provide a list of assets, such as real estate, stocks, and other things of value.


Addressing Alva's comment on background checking, the State Bar maintains lists of attorneys who have been subject to client complaints or other action.   The State Bar Disciplinary Action section (or called something similar) is the entity that typically pursues actions against misbehaving, dishonest, or other unacceptable attorney actions.

Post back and indicate what state you live in and it'll be easier to offer some direct resources.
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kimberlitas Aug 17, 2020
Hi, thanks GardenArtist, great advice. I had an appointment with a well known EC attorney (Ruth Phelps), went through all the hoops then appointment was rescheduled. During the waiting time I reconsidered going to her as it was going to cost $700 for 90 minutes. What are your thoughts on the price? I'm in Southern California.
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Elder Law Attorneys (not elderly as that just means he's OLD) advertise in your area, and you will find them on google. You can look them up to see if there are any actions against their license but I forget how to do that. Google "checking attorney law license" and add your state. Unless you know someone who used and can recommend one you are pretty much on your own. Most will interview you to see if they are right for your needs, so you may want to see more than one to see if that one is right for you if this is anything complex.
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