Elder Law - Senior Law

What is Elder Law?

Elder Law refers to the area of legal practice pertaining to issues that affect older people (usually those over 60 years of age). The three primary focuses of elder law include estate planning; medicaid, disability and long-term care; and guardianship.

Estate Planning

As one approaches the end of their life, issues related to what they will do with their belongings once they are gone become a greater focus. For elder law, this includes not only the preparation and administration of a will, but also advising the elder client and his or her family about the tax consequences of different inheritance strategies, including establishing trusts, the use and purpose of a living will, and any other matters that could affect the elder's personal or estate interests at the end of his or her life.

Medicaid, Disability, and Long-Term Care

Another key area of elder law is paying for the elder's medical needs at the end of his or her life. Most medical expenses tend to be incurred at the end of one's life. As a result, ensuring that sufficient coverage is in place to cover these expenses is essential. Moreover, simply having the coverage is often not enough. Many times it is necessary to police the insurance providers to ensure that they are providing the levels of coverage they promised. Beyond the financial considerations, however, it is also important to consider just how far one wishes for medical practitioners to go in extending their life. Leaving behind plans for how this is to be handled, often in the form of a living will, can help prevent family disagreements, suffering of loved ones, and uncertainty about how the elder wished to have their medical treatment handled once they became incapacitated.


The third area of primary focus in elder law is guardianship. This deals with who can care for an elderly person should their mental or physical factors begin to fade with old age (for example, as a result of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or after a stroke). While close family members often serve as guardians, it can frequently be necessary to consider establishing a power of attorney for such person prior to the incapacitation so that the guardian can handle all business and legal affairs of the elder. In cases where there is no family member who can take on the task, laws exist for the appointment of a guardian by the court, including how that person will be paid, what their legal obligations are to the elder, how they must administer and preserve the estate, and so forth.

Other Concerns

Elder law can also touch on many other issues, such as:

Commitment – when an elder becomes too disabled to live outside of a care facility.

Conservatorship – when an elder or those entrusted with the elder's affairs, begin to deplete the assets of the estate, conservatorship seeks to prevent those losses.

Elder abuse, neglect, and fraud – all too often nursing homes do not properly care for those entrusted to them. This can result in malnutrition, bed sores, other injuries, and even death.

Retirement planning – while much of elder law focuses on the very end of one's life, it is worth remembering that Americans are living longer than ever, and a lot can happen after the age of 60. Careful retirement planning can be the key to remaining financially free during those years.

Crimes against the elderly – Unfortunately, many older people become more susceptible to fraud and other crimes as they age. A large and growing body of law pertains to preventing crime against the elderly and enhancing penalties against those who take advantage of these persons. These laws can include consumer protections, nursing home abuse laws, and sentencing guidelines for crimes against older persons.

If you or someone you know has questions about elder law, you can find additional information by visiting the resources below. You can also contact an attorney in your area by visiting our Law Firms page.

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Articles on HG.org Related to Elder Law

  • Proving Damages in a Nursing Home Abuse Case
    One of the elements that a nursing home resident or his or her family must prove in a nursing home abuse or neglect case is that the resident suffered damages as a result of the abuse or neglect. However, it can often be difficult to establish these damages. There are special considerations that must be contemplated.
  • Proving a Nursing Home Neglect Case
    Many nursing homes suffer from understaffing, high turnover rates and other issues that often result in a diminished quality of care. When older adults suffer injury at the hands of the individuals charged with their care, there may be actionable claims against the nursing homes that employ them.
  • 10 Warning Signs of Nursing Home Abuse
    According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately two million elderly individuals reside in nursing homes. While many homes provide quality care to their residents, some permit abuse and neglect to occur. Loved ones must stay vigilant about checking on relatives in nursing homes so that they can spot potential signs of abuse and neglect, such as the following:
  • Can I Sue a Nursing Home for Bedsores?
    Suing a nursing home may depend on the specific matter and surrounding circumstances of bedsores such as possible negligent behavior by staff or management in the facility. Negligence in caring for the elderly within the property could lead to a lawsuit to sue for damages to compensate any additional medical care for the older person harmed by the lack of care.
  • Nursing Home Liability for Injury or Death
    When a family is no longer able to care for an elderly individual, they may make the difficult decision to place him or her in a nursing home. While many nursing homes provide quality care to their residents, some are responsible for causing injury or death. A nursing home abuse lawyer may be able to provide assistance to the family.
  • Minimum Requirements of Nursing Homes
    Nursing homes must comply with specific standards that are promulgated by law. Typically, nursing homes that receive federal funds, such as payment through Medicare, must comply with federal standards. These standards are detailed in the Nursing Home Reform Act.
  • What Is Elder Financial Exploitation?
    Elder financial exploitation targets elderly individuals, often because of a perceived vulnerability on the part of the abuser. Exploitation may be committed by someone close to the elderly individual, such as a relative or caretaker, or it can be committed by a stranger in another country. There may be legal options available to a person who is the victim of elder financial exploitation.
  • Suing Nursing Homes for Abuse or Neglect
    A nursing home can be held legally liable for damages that its residents suffer due to abuse or neglect. Loved ones may be able to file a lawsuit against the nursing home for causing harm to a family member. However, it is important for the family to understand the dynamics involved in this type of lawsuit and the legal basis for claims against a nursing home.
  • Steps to Take After Discovering Nursing Home Abuse
    Sending a loved one to a nursing home is often a difficult decision that often comes after trying other alternatives. When a loved one is sent to live in a nursing home, it is usually with the understanding that a professional organization can provide the proper care for him or her that is not otherwise available to the family.
  • An Over-Medicated Nursing Home Resident Is Docile and More Profitable for the Facility
    Over-medicating, or chemically restraining, nursing home residents to make them easier to manage is a poorly kept industry secret. This practice allows for facilities to house more residents because they pose fewer demands on staff. Often residents without psychiatric conditions are given antipsychotic drugs to sedate them -- sometimes to the point of unconsciousness.
  • All Family Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Family Law including: adoption, alimony, child support and custody, child visitation, collaborative law, divorce, domestic violence, elder law, juvenile crime, juvenile law, juvenile probation, paternity, pre-nuptial agreement, separation.

Elder Law - US

  • ABA - Commission on Law and Aging

    The mission of the ABA Commission on Law and Aging is to strengthen and secure the legal rights, dignity, autonomy, quality of life, and quality of care of elders. It carries out this mission through research, policy development, technical assistance, advocacy, education, and training.

  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967

    The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of age and generally bans mandatory retirement. Covered employers are those engaged in an industry affecting interstate commerce and who employ twenty or more full or part time workers for each working day in each of twenty or more weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. Covered employees are generally those over the age of 40.

  • Elder Justice Act - Elder Justice Coalition

    The Elder Justice Coalition was formally launched on February 10, 2003, to coincide with the introduction of the Elder Justice Act (S. 333), which was introduced by Senators John Breaux and Orrin Hatch.

  • Elder Law - Wikipedia

    Elder law is a legal term coined to cover an area of legal practice that places an emphasis on those issues that affect the growing aging population. There are three major categories that make up elder law: Estate planning and administration, Medicaid, disability and other long-term care issues as well as Guardianship.

  • Elder Law Answers

    Support for seniors, their families and their attorneys in achieving their goals. This site provides the following services: the best information on the Internet about crucial legal issues facing seniors; a network of highly qualified elder law attorneys nationwide, and online practice tools for elder law attorneys.

  • Elder Rights Protection - Administration on Aging

    The Administration on Aging is pleased to provide the following off-site resources to connect older persons, caregivers and professionals to important federal, national, and local programs.

  • Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA)

    The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) is a federal law that sets minimum standards for retirement and health benefit plans in private industry. ERISA does not require any employer to establish a plan. It only requires that those who establish plans must meet certain minimum standards.

  • Justice in Aging

    Justice in Aging is a national non-profit legal advocacy organization that fights senior poverty through law. Formerly the National Senior Citizens Law Center, since 1972 we’ve worked for access to affordable health care and economic security for older adults with limited resources, focusing especially on populations that have traditionally lacked legal protection such as women, people of color, LGBT individuals, and people with limited English proficiency.

  • National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys

    The NAELA membership is comprised of attorneys in the private and public sectors who deal with legal issues affecting seniors and people with disabilities. Members also include judges, professors of law, and students.

  • National Elder Law Foundation

    Elder law attorneys may now be certified in this field by the Board of Certification of the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF), a non-profit organization founded in 1993, and dedicated to the development and improvement of the professional competence of lawyers in the area of elder law. The purpose of the certification program is to identify those lawyers who have the enhanced knowledge, skills, experience and proficiency to be properly identified to the public as certified elder law attorneys.

  • Older Americans Act

    Congress passed the Older Americans Act (OAA) in 1965 in response to concern by policymakers about a lack of community social services for older persons. The original legislation established authority for grants to States for community planning and social services, research and development projects, and personnel training in the field of aging. The law also established the Administration on Aging (AoA) to administer the newly created grant programs and to serve as the Federal focal point on matters concerning older persons.

  • Programs for Older Americans - Chapter 35

    The Congress hereby finds and declares that, in keeping with the traditional American concept of the inherent dignity of the individual in our democratic society, the older people of our Nation are entitled to, and it is the joint and several duty and responsibility of the governments of the United States, of the several States and their political subdivisions, and of Indian tribes to assist our older people to secure equal opportunity to the full and free enjoyment of the following objectives.

  • Senate Special Committee on Aging

    Throughout its existence, the Special Committee on Aging has served as a focal point in the Senate for discussion and debate on matters relating to older Americans. Often, the Committee will submit its findings and recommendations for legislation to the Senate. In addition, the Committee publishes materials of assistance to those interested in public policies which relate to the elderly.

  • Senior Citizens' Resources

    Information for Senior Citizens

  • Social Security Act

    The Social Security Amendments of 1965 was legislation in the United States whose most important provisions resulted in creation of two programs: Medicare and Medicaid. The legislation initially provided federal health insurance for the elderly (over 65) and for poor families. While President Lyndon B. Johnson was responsible for signing the bill, there were many others involved in drafting the final bill that was introduced to the United States Congress in March 1965.

Elder Law - International

  • AARP International

    AARP International aims to help people live longer, healthier, more financially secure and productive lives by identifying the best ideas and practices on key policy issues. We convene international opinion leaders and policy makers to share their expertise and develop research on health and long-term care, livable communities, older workers and retirement income.

  • Global Action on Aging

    GAA carries out research on critical emerging topics and publishes the results on its website. GAA staff and interns research aging policy and programs, both in the US and worldwide: income support, health access, and human rights.

  • International Federation on Aging

    The International Federation on Ageing (IFA) is an international non-government organization (NGO) with a membership base of NGOs, the corporate sector, academia, governments and individuals. Founded in 1973, the IFA is a point of connection and a platform for knowledge exchange for those representing the needs and interests of millions of older people across the world.

  • International Institute on Aging

    An autonomous body under the auspices of the United Nations, the Institute holds a number of training courses for persons from developing countries, carries out research projects, hosts conferences and offers consultative services.

Organizations Related to Elder Law

  • Administration on Aging

    For over 35 years, the AoA has provided home and community-based services to millions of older persons through the programs funded under the Older Americans Act. Whether you are an older individual, a caregiver, a community service provider, a researcher, or a student, you will find valuable information provided in a user-friendly way.

  • HelpAge International

    HelpAge International has been working since 1983 to improve the lives of disadvantaged older people, through a global network that today spans more than 70 affiliate organisations in 50 countries.

  • International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, Inc., (INPEA)

    NPEA is an organization, founded in 1997, which is dedicated to the global dissemination of information as part of its commitment to the world-wide prevention of the abuse of older people.

  • Leadership Council of Aging Organizations

    The Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO) is a coalition of national nonprofit organizations concerned with the well-being of America's older population and committed to representing their interests in the policy-making arena. Recognizing that the strength of the coalition lies in the diversity of its membership, the purpose of the LCAO is to foster communication and resource sharing among its member organizations, to serve as a source of information about issues affecting older persons, to initiate joint advocacy strategies as appropriate, and to provide leadership and vision as America meets the challenges and opportunities presented by its aging society.

  • National Academy on an Aging Society

    As a non-partisan public policy institute, the Academy actively conducts and compiles research on issues related to population aging and provides information to the public, the press, policymakers, and the academic community.

  • National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA)

    The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) is an association of researchers, practitioners, educators, and advocates dedicated to protecting the safety, security, and dignity of America's most vulnerable citizens. It was established in 1988 to achieve a clearer understanding of abuse and provide direction and leadership to prevent it. The Committee is one of three partners that make up the National Center on Elder Abuse, which is funded by Congress to serve as the nation's clearinghouse on information and materials on abuse and neglect.

  • National Council on Aging (NCOA)

    Founded in 1950, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a nonprofit organization with a national network of more than 14,000 organizations and leaders. Our members include senior centers, area agencies on aging, adult day service centers, faith-based service organizations, senior housing facilities, employment services, consumer groups, and leaders from academia, business, and labor.

  • National Institute on Aging

    NIA, one of the 27 Institutes and Centers of NIH, leads a broad scientific effort to understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active years of life. In 1974, Congress granted authority to form NIA to provide leadership in aging research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs relevant to aging and older people.

  • UN Programme on Aging

    The UN Programme on Ageing is part of the Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD), United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). It is the focal point within the United Nations system on matters related to ageing. Its primary action is to facilitate and promote the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, including designing guidelines for policy development and implementation; advocating means to mainstream ageing issues into development agendas; engaging in dialogue with civil society and the private sector; and information exchange.

Publications Related to Elder Law

  • Aging Today - American Society on Aging

    Aging Today, ASA's bimonthly newspaper, covers developments in public policy, research, practice, media and programming in the field of aging. A four-page pullout section, "In Focus," is devoted to in-depth coverage of a single topic.

  • Elder Law Journal - University of Illinois

    The Elder Law Journal is an academic publication published twice annually by the students of the University of Illinois College of Law. The Elder Law Journal is the oldest scholarly publication in the country dedicated to addressing elder law issues. The Elder Law Journal publishes manuscripts that not only address policy decisions, but also serve as guides to attorneys practicing in the field. T

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