What should I look for in an attorney for the terminally ill?
September 11, 2014 4:16 PM   Subscribe

I'd appreciate recommendations and suggestions for (and about) elder care attorneys in Portland, OR. Bonus points: not for an elder, but for someone with a terminal illness.

My sister is in the beginning stages of ALS.

She was only diagnosed back in April; she's still doing great. However, when things start to go south, I'll be in charge of her household; keeping the power on, budgeting, etc.

It's time to start planning for the future, and to get things set in motion.

Answers to my previous question helped me get a general sense of what I'm in for regarding my duties. For some things such as getting the bills paid on time, etc I know what to do. But for others such as will or trust, power of attorney, etc we are in need of an actual attorney, preferably one that that knows about elder care (this is what I was told).

Any experience with specific firms or attorneys in or around PDX? I don't even know where to start. She's in Hillsboro, but anywhere in the metro area, even Vancouver would be fine for the right fit.

Any help or advice is greatly appreciated. I have no idea what I'm doing.
posted by geckoinpdx to Law & Government (5 answers total)
Vermont has a good website about this stuff called Start the Conversation. Some of this stuff is state by state but an awful lot of it is pretty much the same from place to place. The eldercare attorney (I'm sorry I have no local suggestions) is because these folks are generally very good at helping deal with the contingencies of protracted illnesses and long term care and the various things that may go along with them. The guy who did my will was an eldercare attorney (sort of a coincidence but he was great) and belongs to the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys and they've published this page about finding an elder law attorney which has good information about finding an attorney generally, questions to ask etc.

A lot of times you can find an experienced attorney by going to the local advocacy group and/or talking to people through support groups who have first hand experience in your area. There are some ALS groups in your area as well as people in the larger Oregon area who might be worth calling. Not that an elderlaw lawyer isn't a good idea, it totally is, but there may be a special person who is well-versed in the specific needs of younger people with ALS. Note that some of those groups are for caregivers and some are for people with ALS. Showing up at a caregiver group to say "My relative is okay now but I have no idea what the hell I am doing" is totally okay. Showing up to listen is also totally okay. They also have other resources so if you're not connected with them that is a good first step.

So in short, the usual routine is that you and your sister find a lawyer, the lawyer asks you both about your sister's wishes regarding

- will - disposition of her property, final wishes, funeral stuff
- healthcare proxy - if she needs someone to make medical decisions for her, who is that person, what are her wishes
- living will/power of attorney - if she needs someone to take legal action for her, what are the limits of that and who is that person

and then you and your sister have a conversation about how you can work together for the future. This website has an idea of what things she should be thinking about which might be useful in having this conversation. You then go back to the lawyer and they will put something together that ties it all together legally and that will give you certain protections if things start to go south in a hurry, you know that you can act and you are legally (and ethically) able to.

Just being able to have conversations with your sister and being able to plan this far in advance is a caring thing to be doing. Don't worry about this part, it's mostly paperwork and some money.
posted by jessamyn at 4:58 PM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I agree that it would be great to speak with an attorney that is knowledgeable about elder law and/or estate planning. Hopefully someone here will have a recommendation for you. If they don't, I'd give CANHR a call - they run a referral service for elder law attorneys in California. They probably won't be able to refer you to an Oregon attorney, but they may be able to give you some type of lead on an Oregon organization to contact. You could also try the Oregon State Bar referral service.

Also, just FYI, you will most likely need a lawyer who is licensed by the Oregon bar. It's possible that an attorney located in Vancouver, WA will be licensed in both Oregon & Washington, but if they are Washington-only they probably won't be able to take your case.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:58 PM on September 11, 2014

I'm so sorry about your sister.

I live in Portland, OR, and my partner and i are doing financial and estate planning. We have a son who likely will need a special needs trust. Our financial advisor has recommended Donna Meyer for our estate planning needs.
posted by elmay at 5:13 PM on September 11, 2014

Sent you email.
posted by leslies at 5:30 PM on September 11, 2014

One excellent resource for this issue is the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Its web page has a very prominent "Find a Lawyer" button identifies member attorneys in particular cities and areas.
posted by yclipse at 4:41 AM on September 12, 2014

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