NELF Fact Sheet

What is Elder Law

“Elder Law” is the legal practice of counseling and representing older persons and their representatives about the legal aspects of health and long-term care planning, public benefits, surrogate decision-making, older persons’ legal capacity, the conservation, disposition and administration of older persons’ 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, 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 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 be capable of recognizing the professional conduct and ethical issues that arise during representation.

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 – Attorney must be licensed to practice law in at least one state or the District of Columbia.
  2. Practice – Attorney must have practiced law during the five years preceding their application and must still be practicing law.
  3. Integrity/Good Standing – Attorney must be a member in good standing of the bars in all places in which they are licensed.
  4. Substantial Involvement – Attorney must have spent an average of at least 16 hours per week practicing elder law during the three years preceding their application. In addition, they must have handled at least 60 elder law matters during those three years with a specified distribution among subjects as defined by the Foundation.
  5. Continuing Legal Education – Attorney must have participated in at least 45 hours of continuing legal education in elder law during the preceding three years.
  6. Peer Review/Professional References – Attorney must 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 – Attorney must pass a full-day certification examination.

Certification Exam

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