You do not need a lawyer to create an advance directive, living will, or health care proxy. However, you may want legal assistance if you have unusual needs or there are disagreements among family members. You should consult a lawyer to obtain a power of attorney document that appoints a trusted individual to make decisions about your finances.

Elder law attorneys

Elder law attorneys focus on the legal needs of older people. Elder law is a broad field that encompasses estate planning, Medicare law, Medicaid law, insurance issues, nursing home issues, and planning for future health needs. You may want to get help from an elder law attorney if you are creating documents for your future care needs. You should make sure the lawyer you choose has experience and is willing to focus on the issues that are most important to you. Some lawyers will be certified, which means they have achieved a certain level of knowledge and training in elder law. That said, certification is not necessarily a sign of quality.

You may want to ask your family and friends for elder law attorney recommendations. The following organizations may also be able to help:

  • The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) assists lawyers, bar associations, and others who work with older clients and their families. Their website offers referrals, tips, and resources for finding an elder law attorney.
  • The National Elder Law Foundation certifies elder law attorneys and can help you locate certified attorneys in your area.
  • The American Bar Association (ABA) website has a Lawyer Locator tool that allows you to search for specialty lawyers in your area.
  • State bar associations may offer legal information and referrals.
  • Your Area Agency on Aging (AAA) may be able to provide guidance around legal issues and finding an attorney.

If you have limited resources, you may be able to get free or low-cost legal help:

  • Legal aid societies offer free or low-cost help to qualifying older adults. You can find them in the phone book by searching under legal aid, or on the internet. Federally funded programs are listed on the website of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC).
  • State bar associations may offer reduced or free (pro bono) legal services.
  • The Administration on Aging lists hotlines you can call to get legal help regardless of your finances.