10 reasons to use a Solicitor for the Elderly (SFE) accredited lawyer
If you, or your loved one is elderly, there are many reasons why the services of a particular solicitor may be vital. Not only because of the kind of services that are needed, but also the experience that the solicitor has in helping older people.
Perhaps you are not as familiar as your children with the technology used, or that you are finding these days you need things to be explained a little more than once before you grasp them.
This may be what has prompted you to put your affairs in order. Maybe you have realised that your Will is not up to date, or that you do not have a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) in place, to ensure that your affairs will be looked after according to your wishes should you lose mental capacity to make important decisions.
It is for these reasons why Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE) was set up in 1996 as a membership organisation – to provide help and support for elderly and vulnerable people who are seeking legal advice. Solicitors in practices across the UK can train and qualify to be SFE members, demonstrating that you, as an elderly person, are in safe hands.
SFE also acts as a pressure group on behalf of the legal needs of the elderly and vulnerable. Their activities include working behind the scenes with both the UK and devolved governments, as well as with other organisations such as legal bodies, to promote the interests of this group. They also act as a public platform, interacting with the media.
So why should you use an SFE accredited lawyer?
1. Experts in their field
SFE are very careful about who they accredit as members. If you find an SFE member in a practice, you can be assured that they are fully qualified and insured Solicitors, Barristers or Chartered Legal Executives. They also spend a minimum of 50% of their time assisting elderly or vulnerable clients, so have great experience here.
An SFE lawyer will typically be an expert in a wide range of areas, such as:
- Preparing and executing Wills
- Estate and succession planning (e.g. planning for inheritance tax)
- Trusts and related issues
- Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) and Guardianship
- Arranging for funding of care
- Dealing with issues of abuse
2. Plenty of relevant experience
For you to be confident that you feel safe with the lawyer who is helping you, they need more than just qualifications and knowledge. You will also want a lawyer who has many years of experience, particularly in helping older and vulnerable people.
You can be reassured that an SFE lawyer will have many years of experience in this area of law. While they will recognise your problems as unique, they will probably have encountered issues very similar.
3. Independently accredited
Before a lawyer can become a member of SFE, they must be independently assessed and accredited. This involves receiving extra training in matters concerning older clients to receive the Older Client Care in Practice Award.
This is not specifically about the legal issues, which will normally have been fully covered in the lawyer’s more general training. Instead, the award focuses on issues such as capacity and undue influence in more detail, and the best ways to respond to someone who may be more vulnerable to abuse or undue influence.
4. Follow a strict code of conduct
All reputable lawyers follow a code of conduct, but SFE members follow an additional code that is specially tailored towards the particular needs around supporting elderly and vulnerable people.
This involves ensuring the ways they communicate and interact with clients is calming and reassuring to older people in particular. It also covers aspects like ensuring appropriate access to their offices and that all support staff are aware of how to respond to these clients.
5. Use of plain, simple communication
A good lawyer will do their best to explain legal issues to clients in plain english, but this is likely to be even more vital when communicating with clients who are hard of hearing or have difficulty in understanding.
SFE members are specially trained to avoid legal jargon and make sure that elderly and vulnerable people can understand everything clearly before they are invited to sign any documents.
6. Part of a community of experts
Each SFE lawyer is an expert in the law as it relates to older and vulnerable people, but of course no-one can know everything about the topic. Your situation may be so unusual and complex, that it is outside the lawyer’s personal experience.
In a practice, a solicitor will be surrounded by colleagues with different types of experience whom they can consult. An SFE lawyer, on the other hand, is in touch with more than 1,500 fellow experts they can consult. However complex or unusual your situation is, someone will have the answer.
7. Your interests are paramount
If you, as an elderly and vulnerable person consult a lawyer, you may be concerned that you will be pressured into decisions that would not be your choice. While no reputable solicitor would intend to do so, they may not understand what you experience as pressure.
An SFE lawyer will have the training and experience to know how to put options to you in a way so that you will feel no pressure. At the same time, they will help you to understand all the implications of whatever decision you are making.
8. See the bigger picture
As you get older, the issues that might affect your health, care and family tend to multiply. It is not always very easy for a lawyer to keep up with everything that you have to deal with.
The training and experience of an SFE lawyer means that they are well positioned to understand the full range of issues that might affect how you plan for your later life.
9. Offer outstanding support and care
You will expect your lawyer to be fully professional, of course, but that can result sometimes in them being detached.
While SFE lawyers are as professional as any, they also go the extra mile to understand your individual needs and provide support that is especially targeted at those needs.
10. Ensure you get the best possible outcome
Your ultimate aim as an older and vulnerable person, is likely to be to ensure both you and your family are protected.
An SFE lawyer has the knowledge, experience and commitment to navigate all the different complexities of this area of the law. This will give you the best possible chance of getting you the outcome you want.
If you are an elderly or vulnerable person seeking legal advice, it is recommended that you use a law firm that has a SFE member in the team. At Osborne Morris & Morgan, Rebecca Newman is our Head of Wills & Lasting Power of Attorney, and is proud to be a fully accredited SFE member.
To get in touch with Rebecca and her team, simply contact us to find out more.