How Much Do Elder Law Attorneys Charge? (2024)

Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.

Editor

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If you're approaching retirement or helping an older relative plan for the future, you may have considered consulting an elder law attorney. These legal professionals specialize in issues that affect seniors, including estate planning, long-term care, powers of attorney and medical directives. They can be an invaluable resource, but how much do elder law attorneys charge? Are they worth the cost?

What Does an Elder Law Attorney Do?

Elder law attorneys provide counsel and assistance in many areas that affect seniors, including:

  • Health and long-term care planning
  • Housing
  • Public benefits (Medicaid, disability, public pension, military/VA)
  • Surrogate decision-making (designating powers of attorney)
  • Estate planning (wills, trusts, asset protection and distribution)
  • Tax issues and advising

Elder law attorneys help clients develop financial and legal plans to protect them as their capacities and needs change. Frequently, this includes preparing legal documents such as:

  • Wills and trusts
  • Financial powers of attorney
  • Healthcare powers of attorney
  • Advanced healthcare directives ("living will")
  • Guardianship plans

Elder law attorneys work closely with financial and tax professionals to advise clients about tax considerations and other economic consequences. They can help you understand and comply with Medicaid's complex eligibility requirements. This advice can help clients avoid losing their health benefits and stay in the best possible financial position as they age.

Elder law attorneys regularly handle sensitive topics like elder abuse, guardianship and conservatorship. They can provide legal advice and representation if you or a loved one is experiencing abuse or neglect. If an individual can no longer make decisions or look after themselves, an elder law attorney can help you put a guardianship or conservatorship in place to protect them and ensure they get the care they need.

Attorneys who specialize in elder law can also help you plan for children or dependents with special needs. This plan may include setting up a special needs trust, establishing a future guardianship or conservatorship and helping you understand any applicable benefits such as Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

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How Much Do Elder Law Attorneys Charge Per Hour?

The cost of an elder law attorney varies widely and is based on many factors. These include:

  • Experience and Reputation. Attorneys with many years of experience and knowledge usually cost more per hour for counsel but can provide more efficient and dependable representation. If you need help with complex issues, hiring counsel with many years of experience and an excellent reputation with their peers can be invaluable.

For example, while the national average hourly rate for attorneys was $327 per hour in August 2023, the most senior attorneys at the highest-tier law firms charged an average of $1,400 an hour. In West Virginia, the average was $162 an hour, compared to average partner rates in New York City of over $1,500 per hour.

The cost of an elder law attorney can also depend on the services you need. Complex issues like challenging probate or handling high-value estates may take longer and cost more than common elder law matters.

Elder Law Attorney Fee Schedules

Many elder law attorneys offer a set fee schedule for services like preparing a will or handling Medicaid planning or estate planning packages that include a will, healthcare directives and powers of attorney. They may have a blended package of flat-rate services with an hourly rate for other services. Some offer free initial consultations, while others do not. Before your consultation, ask about any up-front costs.

You may also be responsible for costs and fees, such as filing fees, notary fees, certified copies, postage, delivery and messenger services and other expenses. Some law firms also bill separately for paralegal and legal assistant hours. Ask whether these are included in any flat-fee package, and be sure you understand their fee schedule.

All attorneys must provide a written contract explaining the fees and charges you will be responsible for before they begin representing you. Some may also ask for a retainer (a pre-payment for a certain amount of work). The retainer amount usually depends on how much the firm estimates your case will cost.

Consulting an Elder Law Attorney Cost vs. Benefits

Would you want your children to struggle to organize your account if you are killed in a car accident or lose your battle with cancer? While it can be uncomfortable to consider end-of-life issues, preparing in advance can relieve your loved ones of the burden of making difficult decisions and help them honor your wishes.

Consulting an elder law attorney will give you the peace of mind that your financial and legal affairs are well-organized and tailored to meet your future needs. The security this provides to you and your loved ones is priceless.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Estimating the total cost of your elder law case depends on the specific services you require and the complexity of your situation. To better understand the potential costs, schedule an initial consultation with an elder law attorney. During this meeting, you can discuss your needs and the attorney will provide an estimate based on the scope of work and their fee structure.

  • Many organizations offer reduced-fee legal consultations, elder law clinics and workshops for low-income individuals. Some of these include:

    • Legal training programs, paralegal schools and law schools
    • Domestic violence prevention and response organizations (for elder abuse issues)

    Some elder law attorneys offer payment plans, discounts or pro bono (free) representation in certain circumstances. Don't be afraid to ask if you qualify for any of these programs.

  • No matter your financial situation, it's essential to have a will so that your designated personal representative can close your accounts, pay your creditors and wrap up your estate easily and quickly. An advanced health care directive can ensure that your wishes are respected if you cannot express them, and powers of attorney can give your designated representative the authority to act for you.

    An elder law attorney can prepare all of these legal documents to help you plan for your future and make things as easy as possible for your loved ones. They can also advise you about assistance programs and benefits you may be eligible for, including Social Security, veterans' benefits, and Medicaid.

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