As we age we face issues, dilemmas, predicaments that too often our life experiences haven’t prepared us for. This includes issues related to health care, long term care planning, guardianship, retirement, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and other important matters. Elder law attorneys specialize in dealing with life’s entanglements especially the ones facing us as we grow older.
Any lawyer can call themselves an elder law attorney. But that doesn’t mean the lawyer has the training, knowledge or experience to provide quality elder law services. The complexity of this area of law as well as the significant financial and legal rights involved requires a level of expertise that a general practitioner is unlikely to be able to provide.
How can you be confident that your lawyer has the requisite skills?
Be sure to hire a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA®). CELAs® are recognized as having an enhanced level of skill as well as substantial involvement in issues concerning elders. The National Elder Law Foundation is the only organization in the United States allowed by the American Bar Association (ABA) to certify elder law attorneys. The National Elder Law Foundation awards the CELA® designation. The CELA® designation has been referred to as “the gold standard” for elder law and special needs practitioners. There are only about 500 CELA® in the United States and only about 23 CELA® in Massachusetts (as of May 2019). If your lawyer is a CELA® you can be confident that you have an exceptionally qualified attorney.
So, what makes a CELA® so special?
- Proven Expertise: In order to become a CELA® an attorney must pass a rigorous, day long exam on a broad range of topics relating to seniors, government benefits, disability planning, etc. In fact, the testing is so rigorous that the average rate of passing is below 50 %.
- Experience: An attorney is not allowed to apply for certification until they have practiced law for at least five years and participated in at least sixty elder law matters. Here at Surprenant & Beneski, we have over 30 years of combined elder law experience in hundreds of cases.
- Concentration: A CELA® must have substantial ongoing involvement in elder law and special needs matters. Your CELA® is working with elder law client’s everyday solving complex problems. Since Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. practices exclusively in the areas of estate planning, elder law, and special needs planning, you can feel confident that we can assist in achieving your family’s goals.
- Ongoing Education: Did you know in Massachusetts Attorneys are not required to take any ongoing legal education classes? A CELA® must complete at least 15 hours of ongoing legal education every year because the law is constantly changing. Without ongoing education, it would be nearly impossible to competently advise clients. At Surprenant & Beneski, P.C., we are continually keeping ourselves on the cutting edge of elder law in order to serve our clients in the best possible way.
- Peer Review: In order to be certified and to maintain certification a CELA® is reviewed by peers and colleagues. The review focuses on the lawyer’s reputation for ethical and competent representation in elder law and special needs planning matters.
- Required Recertification: Becoming a CELA®is not a one and done situation. Recertification is required every five years. Doing so ensures that CELA® maintain their exceptional knowledge and experience.
Your lawyer should be a CELA® — It is your surest method of independently confirming that your lawyer is more than just qualified. After all, don’t you and your family deserve the best legal representation available?