Today, Elder and Special Needs Law are recognized as distinct and specialized practice areas. Legal challenges faced by the elderly and those with disabilities are wide-ranging. Specific practice areas include:
1. Long-term care planning, including advice concerning long-term care insurance and the potential availability of Medicaid;
2. Access to benefits administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, including aid and attendance and pension, for veterans,
and surviving spouses;
3. Guardianship of the estate and person;
4. Estate and tax planning;
5. Probate, including will contests and trust administration;
6. Drafting of planning documents, such as financial power of attorney and advance directives;
7. Providing for care of elders and their children with disabilities, including drafting and administering special needs trusts;
8. Access to public benefits, such as Medicare, Medicaid and North Carolina Special Assistance;
9. Nursing home and assisted living rights and procedures, including discharge, quality of care, and patient's rights to privacy; and
10. Elder abuse, exploitation of elderly clients and efforts to recovery lost assets, and fiduciary litigation.
Select an Elder Law attorney carefully. The National Elder Law Foundation conducts a certification process and awards the designation Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA). The program has been accredited by the American Bar Association. CELA certification requires a minimum of five years of practice and 16 hours per week devoted to elder law practice handling at least 60 elder law matters during the three years immediately preceding application, and successful completion of a six hour certification exam. In addition, a CELA must pass a peer review process and have completed at least 45 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) in the three years immediately preceding certification. There are fewer than 500 CELAs currently practicing in the United States.
Wyles Johnson is a CELA, as well as a Board Certified Specialist in Elder Law by the North Carolina State Bar Specialization Board.