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Elder Law Pathway

Find your pathway!

As the aging population spirals and people live longer, an elder law practice can be very diverse. Since Elder Law is a holistic practice area (one more defined by the type of client than specific areas of law), elder law attorneys help elders and their families prepare for crises associated with aging and, when they occur, help them select the best way to carry out difficult transitions.  Many elder law attorneys focus on helping clients obtain public benefits (usually Medicaid) to pay for long-term care.  In addition, elder law attorneys often prepare legal documents for families to help them prepare for incapacity, such as durable powers of attorney and health care proxies to nominate surrogates in case they were later needed.

Elder law practitioners also need to know a great deal about conveying real estate, creating estate plans, understanding estate and personal income tax, Medicare, supplemental health insurance, housing options, and other issues regarding health (including guardianship and end-of-life decisions). A successful elder law attorney needs to customize legal forms efficiently and appropriately. In many cases, he or she may have to mediate disagreements within a family. A growing number of elder law practices are also expanding services to include litigation—especially to resolve disputes over authority and transfers of assets but sometimes over who should speak for an elder no longer able to speak for herself. Knowledge of and sensitivity to issues of aging have become prerequisites for those who seek to offer particular value to their clients. Not surprisingly, an initial question facing every elder law attorney with virtually every prospective case he or she considers taking is “who is the client?”

A successful elder law attorney needs to customize legal forms efficiently and appropriately. In many cases, he or she may have to mediate disagreements within a family. A growing number of elder law practices are also expanding services to include litigation—especially to resolve disputes over authority and transfers of assets but sometimes over who should speak for an elder no longer able to speak for herself. Knowledge of and sensitivity to issues of aging have become prerequisites for those who seek to offer particular value to their clients. Very often, in addition to the elder, members of the aging client’s family will come to the meeting with the lawyer and, therefore, an initial question facing every elder law attorney with virtually every prospect he or she interviews is “who is the client?”

When selecting from the Elder Law Pathway, it is useful to consider the type of practice you hope to have in guiding your course selections.  For example, if you plan to focus on Estate and Medicaid planning, you would want to take Wills, Estates, and Trusts, Personal Income Tax, and Administrative Law.  Additionally you may want to consider courses from other pathways such as Trusts and Estates and or Civil Litigation. 

Many elder law attorneys are solo practitioners or work in small practices.  Some mid-sized general practices include elder law as one of their areas of practice.  If you are planning on opening up your own practice or working in a small practice, it is recommended that you also take Law Practice Management.

Elder Law Faculty