1. What Is Elder Law?

Elder law focuses on legal issues commonly faced by today’s senior citizens. Lawyers in this area specialize in estate planning, conservatorships, Medi-Cal/Medicaid planning, SSI benefits issues, elder abuse, evictions, and power of attorney issues.

  • Estate Planning focuses on the drafting of wills and trusts. Attorneys here provide a range of service from the simple (preparing a holographic will) to the complex (developing estate plans that reduce tax liability) Lawyers in this area have a firm knowledge of the California Probate Code and the local, state, and federal tax codes.
  • Conservatorships: A conservatorship is a legal relationship where one individual is given control over another who the court deems to be incapable of caring for themselves. The amount of control depends on the individual facts of each case. In some cases, the conservator has limited control over the conservatee’s finance. In other cases, the conservator is charged with the daily care of the conservatee. Typical legal issues include 1) whether a conservatorship should be created; 2) whether a conservator acted outside the scope of the conservatorship and should be replaced; and 3) whether the conservatorship should be terminated.
  • Seniors look to Medicare and Medical for help paying medical expenses. Elder attorney represent seniors when there is a dispute as to whether a treatment or individual is covered.
  • Elder attorneys also represent individuals who are threatened with the loss of their Social Security Insurance.
  • Elder abuse by family members, care takers, and senior living facilities is a persistent problem. Elder attorneys help to stop it by obtaining restraining orders and filing civil suits against the abusers.
  • Non-profit law firms work to stop landlords from evicting seniors who are behind on their rent. They also help these seniors find affordable housing.
  • A power of attorney is a document which grants one person the power to make decisions for another. Seniors frequently have attorneys draft power of attorney letters that give a relative or close friend the power to make medical decisions in the event the senior becomes incapacitated.

Elder law is likely to become a growing field for two reasons. First, the proportion of Americans over 65 is set to increase as the Baby Boom generation approaches retirement. Second, the Baby Boom generation is expected to live longer than previous generations. This large population will face new issues regarding SSI benefits, managed care, power of attorney, and insurance coverage. Furthermore, litigation regarding the quality of care and possible abuse of nursing home residents will increase as the number of senior living facilities is expected to grow.

2. Where is Elder Law Practiced?

Elder law is largely practiced by solo practitioners or small firms. These firms frequently practice in a number of areas of the law in addition to elder law. There are also some non-profit law firms, such as SALA, that deal specifically with elder law issues.

3. What Courses Should I Take?

Primary Courses

Secondary Courses

4. What timeline should I be following?

Taking Elder Law and some estate planning courses during your second year will help you land a law clerk position at the end of your second year.

When looking for summer positions don’t narrow your search to elder law practices. Look into firms that focus on estate planning as well. This experience transfers easily into firms specializing in elder law.


5. What resources are there for people interested in elder law?

Being able to demonstrate your interest in elder law to potential employers is critical to landing a job. Visit the websites below to familiarize yourself with the issues facing senior today.

What SCU professors have experience in elder law issues?

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