Retirement can be great, but it also can be overwhelming. Tax rules are constantly changing. Estate planning is complicated. And it’s nearly impossible to figure out your health insurance. There are government programs like Medicaid, Medicare and Veterans Pension that can greatly improve our lives, but not we are unaware of their benefits or don’t know how to qualify.
Planning ahead is so important - but it is difficult if you don’t have the best information and expert guidance. How do you find answers to complicated questions like the following:
- What should you do now to avoid being a burden on your family later?
- How can you best provide for your family when you are gone?
- If illness strikes, how do you get the care you need at a price you can afford?
- If you end up in an assisted living facility or nursing home, how can you prevent your children from being personally responsible for the costs?
Above all - how do you know that you are getting the best information so that you can make the right decisions?
To get the planning help with later life legal issues like these you should remember these four words: Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA).
In Pennsylvania, a CELA is a lawyer who has been certified by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as having the experience and training required to provide the expert advice and assistance needed by seniors.
For a retiree who doesn’t have the opportunity to “start over” mistakes can be particularly costly. So it makes common sense to seek the guidance of a lawyer who is a certified expert in ever-changing field of elder laws and planning.
The key is to look for the word "Certified." Any lawyer is legally allowed to say she practices any kind of law, including “elder law.” No special knowledge is required. To deal with this problem and help retirees find a lawyer with special skill in elder law, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court established an elder law certification program.
To be certified, a lawyer must have extensive experience in elder law, be recommended by other experts in elder law, and prove their knowledge by passing a difficult CELA examination. The test is tough. Most lawyers who take the CELA exam fail it.
Only lawyers who have met all of the Supreme Court’s requirements are allowed to state that they have attained CELA status and are certified specialists in elder law. It is unethical for a lawyer to state that they are a CELA or specialist in elder law if they have not met the certification requirements.
So, when you are looking for legal help during retirement, you need to ask – are you CERTIFIED in elder law.
If you are a retiree and need help with estate planning, protecting your assets from nursing home costs, or other legal issues, choosing an elder lawyer may be one of the most important decisions you will make – both for you and for your family. To help ensure that you will get the best possible legal care, make sure you remember those 4 important words - choose a Certified Elder Law Attorney.
I’m proud to say that at my law firm, Marshall, Parker and Weber, Tammy Weber, Matt Parker and I are all CERTIFIED Elder Law Attorneys.
Tammy Weber, Matthew Parker and Jeffrey Marshall have been Certified as Elder Law Attorneys by the National Elder Law Foundation, under authorization by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The National Elder Law Foundation website has a list of Certified Elder Law Attorneys in each state.