ElderLaw News — The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. — MD, VA, DC
ElderLaw News

ElderLaw News is a weekly e-newsletter that brings you reports of legal developments and other trends of vital interest to seniors and their advocates. This newsletter is brought to you by The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., William S. Fralin, Esq., President.

What is a CELA?

The CELA program has been good for elder law attorneys. In creating the CELA program, NELF developed a comprehensive definition of elder law.

This definition and the American Bar Association's (ABA) accreditation of the CELA program have helped elder law gain recognition and acceptance with the bar and the public as a recognized legal specialty. The CELA program is also good for the public. De facto lawyer specialization is widespread. Lawyers describe themselves to clients and the public by specialty: "I am a trial lawyer," or "I am a criminal defense attorney." The CELA designation helps the public identify attorneys with an enhanced level of skill in meeting the legal needs of an elderly person or person with disabilities.

In July of 1993, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) assisted in the formation of NELF as a nonprofit organization. NELF's purpose was to develop and improve the professional competence of lawyers in elder law, including special needs law for persons with disabilities. NELF's board decided to identify those lawyers as CELAs who had a sufficiently enhanced level of skill and knowledge to be able to identify all of the client's needs and either take care of them or refer the client to someone else who could. The next step was to define elder law. After defining elder law, NELF developed a certification program and submitted it to the American Bar Association for accreditation. The first exam was given in November of 1994. In February of 1995, the American Bar Association's House of Delegates accredited NELF as the certifying entity for specialization in elder law. Today, there are over 400 CELAs in 46 states and Washington, D.C.

Certification as a CELA is not limited to members of NAELA; it is open to all attorneys who qualify. The applicant must be licensed to practice law and be an active member of the bar in at least one state, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any U.S. Territory. The applicant must be in good standing of the bars of all jurisdictions in which the applicant is licensed to practice, and the applicant must have practiced law five years before applying. Service as a judge or law professor may be substituted at the discretion of NELF.

The applicant must make a satisfactory showing that in each of the preceding three years, the applicant practiced elder law an average of sixteen hours per week. During the preceding three years, the applicant must have provided legal services in sixty elder law matters. Additionally, within the three years preceding the application for certification, the applicant must have participated in at least forty-five hours of continuing legal education in elder law. The applicant must also submit as references the names of five attorneys who are familiar with the competence and qualifications of the applicant in elder law. Three of the attorneys must have devoted a minimum of eight hundred hours to the practice of elder law during each of the preceding three years. NELF may also make additional inquiries about the applicant's fitness to be certified.

The CELA certification process begins with the applicant filing a short-form application. If NELF determines that the applicant meets the initial requirements, the applicant will be sent the long form application, including the notice to take the examination. The long form application documents substantial involvement in elder law, continuing legal education, and peer review. The notice to take the certification examination must be submitted within thirty days before taking this examination. The certification exam is administered two times a year at regional locations. Once granted, certification is effective for five years. At the conclusion of five years, re-certification is not automatic. A CELA who desires continued certification must apply for re-certification.

The CELA certification program has been good for the public because it is helpful in identifying attorneys with an enhanced level of skills in assisting elderly persons and persons with disabilities. It has been good for the legal profession because it has helped develop and improve the professional competence of lawyers in elder law. It has been good for the attorneys who have been certified because it has provided a valuable learning experience, and it has helped them differentiate their practices from other attorneys and service providers.

The attorneys at The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm can assist families with their estate, financial, insurance, long-term care, veterans' benefits, and special needs planning issues.


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The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C.

The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. is an elder law firm. We represent older persons, disabled persons, their families, and their advocates. The practice of elder law includes estate planning, estate and trust administration, powers of attorney, advance medical directives, titling of assets and designations of beneficiaries, guardianships, conservatorships, and public entitlements such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and SSI, disability planning, income tax planning and preparation, care management, and fiduciary services. For more information about The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., please visit our website at http://www.chroniccareadvocacy.com.

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This newsletter is not intended as a substitute for legal counsel. While every precaution has been taken to make this newsletter accurate, we assume no responsibility for errors, omissions, or damages resulting from the use of the information in this newsletter. The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. thanks the law firm of Hook Law Center for their input to this newsletter.

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