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NELF Fact Sheet
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What is Elder Law

“Elder Law” is the legal practice of counseling and representing older persons and persons with special needs, their representatives about the legal aspects of health and long-term care planning, public benefits, surrogate decision-making, legal capacity, the conservation, disposition and administration of  estates and the implementation of their decisions concerning such matters, giving due consideration to the applicable tax consequences of the action, or the need for more sophisticated tax expertise.

In addition, attorneys certified in elder law must be capable of recognizing issues of concern that arise during counseling and representation of older persons and persons with special needs, or their representatives, with respect to abuse, neglect, or exploitation of the older person, insurance, housing, long-term care, employment, and retirement. The certified elder law attorney  (CELA®) must also be familiar with professional and non-legal resources and services publicly and privately available to meet the needs of the older persons and persons with special needs, and be capable of recognizing the professional conduct and ethical issues that arise during representation.  All the experience, task and examination requirements relate to these areas of law.


What is Certification

The purpose of the certification program is to identify those lawyers who have the enhanced knowledge, skills, experience, and proficiency to be properly identified to the public as certified elder law attorneys


1.     Licensure – The applicant shall be licensed to practice law in at least one state or the District of Columbia.


2.     Practice – The applicant shall have practiced law during the five years preceding their application and must still be practicing law.


3.     Integrity/Good Standing – The applicant shall be a member in good standing of the bars in all places in which they are licensed.


4.     Substantial Involvement – The applicant shall have spent an average of at least sixteen (16) hours per week practicing elder law during each of the three years preceding their application. In addition, they must have handled at least sixty (60) elder law matters during each of the three years with a specified distribution among subjects as defined by the Foundation.


5.     Continuing Legal Education – The applicant shall have participated in at least forty-five (45) hours of continuing legal education in elder law during the preceding three years.


6.     Peer Review/Professional References – The applicant shall submit the names of five references from attorneys familiar with their competence and qualifications in elder law. These person must themselves satisfy specified criteria.


7.     Examination – The applicant shall pass a full-day certification examination.


Certification Exam

Exams are administered twice a year, in the Spring & Fall