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More Seniors with Legal Needs Require Accessible Elder Law Attorneys
The percentage of U.S. residents aged 65 or older continues to grow. Many seniors are realizing they have pressing legal needs. These legal issues can range from estate planning to guardianship issues. It can include dealing with financial exploitation and other forms of abuse. Sadly, it is becoming harder for seniors to get the help they require.
Elder law attorneys can protect elderly or disabled people from caregivers who steal their money or otherwise abuse them. They can help clients sign up for Medicaid or other public benefits to pay for nursing home care, keeping families from burning through their savings to cover massive bills. Elder law attorneys can write wills and trusts, ensuring that money is properly transferred from one generation to the next, and use guardianships and related legal measures to safeguard people with dementia and similar conditions.
In Illinois, seniors have access to Prairie State Legal Services, an organization that provides civil representation to low-income people. With offices in Bloomington, Illinois, they offer training to lawyers such as access to specialized elder law training and fellowships. Other organizations are taking creative approaches such as offering legal services in hospitals or operating telephone legal hotlines for elders.
Growing Need for Elder Law
There is a growing need for elder law. According to the Administration on Aging, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there were 55.6 million people aged 65 or older in the country in 2020, representing 17% of the population. That share is expected to grow to 22% by 2040.
Many of those senior citizens simply don’t have the money to pay legal fees. An estimated 5 million people aged 65 and above were living in poverty in 2020, and another 2.6 million were “near-poor,” according to a 2021 report from the Administration on Aging. Seniors frequently experience housing, medical or other legal problems that could potentially be resolved with a lawyer’s assistance.
The Legal Services Corporation, the Administration for Community Living and the National Center on Law & Elder Rights banded together this year to launch a webinar training series on elder law, tackling specialized topics such as nursing facility eviction cases and representing clients with dementia or other cognitive problems.