Clients of a certain age tend to be “old school” in terms of values. Trust is vital.
While cost is, of course, always important, elder law clients tend to look for professionals –
doctors, accountants, lawyers – as longer-term trusted advisors to guide them over a number of years.
They are less transactional, less focused on changing from supplier to supplier, and more focused on developing a relationship of trust, integrity, and familiarity. Elder years are no time for mediocre decisions or advice.
The internet is not a panacea for knowledge on all the issues that elder clients may encounter. Specialist advice, mindful not only of the law, but also the client needs, is essential.
Elder lawyers need to be focussed on the same old school values of their clients and offer the reliability and comfort of knowing that every phone call is not being billed, every event is not recorded on a time sheet, and that a global, rather than transactional approach is taken to inquiries.
The role of the elder lawyer is akin to the traditional GP role – service is offered for a fee, but the relationship is intended, on both sides, to be long term, so billing and advice occurs in that context.
Issues faced at this time of life include wills, estate management, retirement village purchases, aged care contracts, granny flats, loan agreements with children, elder abuse and financial coercion, and property sales and transfers.
Elder clients are not files, not numbers – they are people who are entitled to be treated with the dignity and respect accorded those who have built this country and are simply embarking on another part of their life journey.