While the University of Hawaiʻi Elder Law Program (UHELP) does provide some limited legal services on Oʻahu, older persons and caregivers may benefit from the services of a private practice lawyer who practices in the field of “elder law.”
Rather than being defined by technical legal distinctions, elder law is defined by the client to be served. In other words, the lawyer who practices elder law may handle a range of issues but has a specific type of clients–seniors. Elder law attorneys focus on the legal needs of the elderly, and work with a variety of legal tools and techniques to meet the goals and objectives of the older client.
Under this holistic approach, the elder law practitioner handles general estate planning issues and counsels clients about planning for incapacity with alternative decision making documents.
The attorney should also be able to assist the client in planning for possible long-term care needs, including nursing home care. Locating the appropriate type of care, coordinating private and public resources to finance the cost of care, and working to ensure the client’s right to quality care are all part of the elder law practice.
The legal needs of the elderly are many and diverse:
- Age Discrimination
- Durable Powers of Attorney
- Elder Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation
- Estate Planning and Probate
- Financing Long-Term Care
- Guardianship and Conservatorship
- Health Care Decisions, including end-of-life decisions
- Health Care Quality Issues
- Independent Living Options
- Medicare, Medicaid and Other Public Benefits
- Trusts and Wills
Seldom do these issues occur in an elderly person’s life in isolation. Yet the traditional boundaries of legal specialties have often led seniors to attorneys whose practice is limited to one or two of these areas. Recognizing the legal needs of the elderly, many attorneys have developed practices specifically designed to serve the elderly client.