In this ABA Journal article, SLD Chair Marvin Dang shares his insights on the increasing need for elder attorneys and what the profession can do to support this growth.
Between baby boomers reaching senior citizenship, declining birthrates and longer lifespans, the United States will become a lot grayer over the next few decades. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2035, for the first time in American history, there will be more adults age 65 and older than children. By 2060, nearly a quarter of Americans will be age 65 and older, while the number of people age 85 and older will triple.
“As the American population grays, the need for attorneys who understand the unique aspects of planning for the elderly and people with special needs will grow,” says Michael J. Amoruso, president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. According to him, the NAELA has seen a significant increase in membership in anticipation of this boom.
Elder law encompasses a variety of specialties, including estate tax, wills, trusts and probate, special needs and disability trusts. Although these categories may be part of an elder law practice, they are also legal issues that affect younger people, as well.
“Some of the areas of practice that have traditionally been considered a part of elder law actually impact people regardless of their age,” says Marvin S.C. Dang, a Honolulu attorney and chair of the ABA’s Senior Lawyers Division. “For example, it’s not just the elderly who need protection from financial exploitation or who need custodial care. And it’s not only senior citizens who require a guardian after they have a stroke, early onset of Alzheimer’s disease or ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).”