At Southern Illinois Elder Law, we devote over 90 percent of our time to elder law cases. That includes preparing powers of attorney, writing wills, settling estates, and planning for veterans and Medicaid benefits. We try to devote our remaining time to litigation and business matters we find novel or interesting. Even if your issue is one we don't normally handle, give us a call. We'll refer you to colleagues that we know are the best in that particular area of law.
Has the VA certified the firm to process benefits applications?
Your attorneys at Southern Illinois Elder Law are VA-certified to process benefit applications. By law, attorneys must be accredited to submit applications on your behalf. To maintain our accreditation, we complete continuing legal education specific to veteran’s benefits.
Has the lawyer you're considering successfully submitted VA benefits and Medicaid applications in the past? If so, how many?
In one recent calendar year, our practice's attorneys submitted almost 100 VA benefit applications, plus a couple dozen Medicaid applications. We were successful on each application but two. We expected one to be rejected under current law, but we're appealing and requesting that the law be amended because the guidelines are unfair to wartime veterans' widows. We know our chances of success are slim, but we're willing to try to make this important change.
The only other application denied occurred because a family changed how they held an asset in a way of which we weren't aware when submitting the application. We've since resubmitted it, and we fully expect it to be approved.
Does your prospective attorney know the new rules and qualification limitations for VA and Medicaid benefits?
Not only do we know these rules, we'll help you know them too. Check out our Planning Tools page, or request a planning guide that contains the new Medicaid rules in the State of Illinois, as well as new limits for VA benefits.
Does the lawyer you're considering truly understand the short-term and long-term effects of gifting, adding names to an account or deed, purchasing annuities, and transferring assets?
"The law" is a very big neighborhood. It's nearly impossible to keep current with changes in every possible field. That's why our clients so frequently tell us that their general practice attorney gave them some questionable advice.
Our name says it all — we're elder law experts. We know with certainty how adding children's names to a bank account or a property deed will affect their eligibility for VA and Medicaid benefits. We also know both the short-term and long-term effects of purchasing annuities or transferring assets. And we know absolutely that it's a mistake to assume that Medicaid will never be a possibility for you. If a family lacks $300,000 in assets to pay for long-term care — or a good long-term care insurance policy — the prospect of Medicaid is always in play.
Do other professionals refer their family and best clients to a prospective attorney?
Many local attorneys refer clients and family to us. Sometimes their very own parents! That's because they know we've enjoyed tremendous success in helping families to protect and extend their assets, or obtain VA benefits. Elder law is unique, and we've spent considerable time mastering it. We won't handle your taxes, a divorce, or an adoption proceeding because we don't have expertise in those fields. But we do know elder law — as well if not better than anyone else in the St. Louis metro. That's why colleagues routinely refer elder law cases to us.
Does your prospective elder issues lawyer have the resources and background to get answers on the trickiest and most complex cases?
Most VA and Medicaid benefits planning involves knowing the rules and helping you apply them to your unique family circumstances. Strategies also depend heavily on your goals. How do you know our suggestions will work? We regularly attend seminars with the country's leading elder law attorneys. We also enjoy contacts directly within the Veterans Administration who help us talk through and understand unusual sets of facts.
Does the attorney you contacted belong to and participate in elder law organizations, so they remain completely up-to-date on the latest law and trends?
Southern Illinois Elder Law is an active member in the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, as well as in its Missouri and Illinois chapters. We also belong to Medicaid Practice Systems and Elder Law Answers. These are national groups that provide weekly access to listservs for discussions and updates on what's happening in the field, all across the country.
What do past clients have to say about attorneys you're researching?
At Southern Illinois Elder Law, we're confident enough in our results that we like to give a voice to past clients. Take a look at our Testimonials page. We've received unbelievably kind cards and letters praising our ability to help out their families.
Do other practices you're looking at know elder law so well that they teach these topics to other lawyers?
Lead attorney Rick Gibson has lectured on Medicaid and VA benefits for the Illinois State Bar Association and the National Business Institute. He has also written chapters for continuing legal education guides. Attorneys from both Missouri and Illinois have come to his office just to pick his brain, and learn the systems and strategies in use at Rick's practice.
Does your prospective lawyer actively participate in state and national organizations, fighting for the rights of you seniors?
We were part of the group of Illinois Elder Law Attorneys who advocated on behalf of seniors as Illinois adopted new Medicaid laws. These became effective in January 2012. Our attorneys actively participated in discussion groups and conference calls, discussing past experiences with the State Medicaid office, and assessing the new rules' future impact.
Here's the biggest question: will the lawyer you're talking to listen?
The most important thing we do is to listen to you, and understand your goals for the rest of your life. So our first job is recognizing precisely what you hope to achieve. We'll never try to tell you what you should want. We will offer strategies on what to do to make that happen.