Sometimes seniors face problems that they cannot resolve themselves. At these times, they often need legal assistance from a trained attorney. Not all seniors can afford their own attorney or even know where to turn to find one. A number of legal resources are available in Florida to help seniors with legal issues.
Senior Legal Helpline (1-888-895-7873)
The Senior Legal Helpline provides free legal advice and brief services by telephone appointment to eligible Florida residents age 60 and older, for civil (not criminal) legal problems. The Senior Legal Helpline – 1-888-895-7873 – also makes referrals to state and local regulatory agencies and, when it is determined that court representation is necessary, helps seniors find legal providers in their communities.
Eligible callers are scheduled for a free telephone consultation with an attorney or paralegal who will call them on the day of their appointment. Most callers will receive answers to their legal questions during their initial telephone appointment. Clients may also qualify for referrals to providers who offer free legal services in the clients’ local communities. These providers work in partnership with the Senior Legal Helpline and the Department of Elder Affairs to ensure that low-income and other vulnerable elderly Floridians have equal access to legal remedies.
To conduct the Senior Legal Helpline program around the state, the Department partners with Bay Area Legal Services, Inc., of Tampa. The helpline is available each weekday.
Older Floridians Legal Assistance Programs
Title III of the Older Americans Act makes funds available specifically for legal assistance to the elderly, 60 years of age and older. The Title III Legal Services provider for a particular area can be identified through the local Elder Helpline, which seniors can reach by calling 1-800-96-ELDER. Given the limited resources available, legal aid programs cannot provide services to every senior who requests assistance. Therefore, it is imperative these programs target services to those seniors with the greatest economic and social need and set program priorities accordingly.
Legal Services Program
Legal services for Floridians who would not otherwise have the means to obtain a lawyer are provided by a network of federal, state and local grants and the courts. The client eligibility standard for legal assistance providers in Florida is 125 percent of the federal poverty level. However, some individual provider programs often have special grants that enable them to serve certain populations with incomes that exceed the general eligibility standard, such as the elderly and victims of domestic violence. Therefore, it is important to contact the provider program directly to determine possible eligibility for assistance.
Lawyer Referral Service
The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service and local bar association lawyer referral services assist consumers in contacting an attorney. You can reach the statewide service toll-free at 1-800-342-8011, or you can find the number for your local bar association in your local phone directory. Under the Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service, lawyers charge clients $25 (local bar-sponsored program charges range from $20 to $50) for the initial half-hour office consultation. The Bar has four specialty panels: Low-Fee, Elderly, Disability and AIDS. If your personal circumstances qualify you for referral to one of these specialty panels, you will receive a free initial 30-minute office consultation. After the first 30 minutes, fees are negotiable, based on the client’s ability to pay.
Elder Law Practitioners
Elder law is a recognized area of practice in Florida. Attorneys specialized in elder law are familiar with the special needs and problems facing elders and can be located in the yellow pages of the phone directory under “Attorney – Elder Law.”
“Certified” Elder Law Practitioners
Attorneys who are certified by the Florida Bar in “Elder Law” can be located on the Bar’s website at https://www.floridabar.org/public/lrs/. You may also phone the Florida Bar at 850-561-5600 and ask for the certification staff. Certification is not required to practice elder law.