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This month, I get the honor of guest-editing the Elder Law issue of the Contra Costa Lawyer, a point of great pride for me. Elder law attorneys are an amazing bunch and I get to talk a bit about what they do for this community.

I realize not everyone wants to practice in the Elder Law arena. It can be a very overwhelming and unnerving area of law. Nonetheless, all attorneys need to know something about this vital area of law – even if it is just a phone list of resources. Everyone – every single person I know – knows someone with an elder law issue. As soon as I tell someone that I do elder law, the next thing I hear is: “My mom/neighbor/friend has a problem, and I have no idea what to do to help them…” The worries of an elder living alone, dementia, conservatorships, long term care planning, VA benefits and financial elder abuse touch almost everyone in some way.

Kathy Schofield

If it hasn’t happened already, one of these days you are going to get a call from a family member, a friend or a client that needs elder law assistance. The goal of this issue is humble: to give attorneys who have no intention of ever practicing elder law a baseline ability to field that call – even if it is just to point the caller to someone else.
To that end, we have chosen to highlight the resources a local lawyer has at his or her disposal. This county has numerous essential legal resources available to elders, many at low or no cost. We are highlighting some of the core programs for you here, along with additional resources you should know about with articles from the following people:

  • Samantha Sepehr, director of the Law Center’s fledgling Elder Law Center;
  • Virginia M. George, who has spent the past year as Judge Pro Tem in the Probate Department and is the prior director of the JFK Elder Law Clinic;
  • Judge Joyce Cram of the Contra Costa Elder Court (interview by Nick Casper);
  • Verna Haas, Director of Contra Costa’s Senior Legal Services and Senior Self Help Clinic;
  • Barbara Proctor, Director of the Elder Mediation program at the Center for Human Development;
  • Tina Olton of the Contra Costa Senior Peer Counseling Program;
  • Arlene Segal, Chair of the CCCBA Elder Law Section (spotlight by Craig Nevin);
  • Ron Mullin, past President of the CCCBA and Elder Law practitioner; and
  • Jay Chafetz, CCCBA Board member and Elder Law practitioner.

These are just a few of the people who are committed to serving this county’s elders – I wish I could give a nod to all of the amazing attorneys and community members who do this important work. There are so many and only so much space. Our local attorneys are committed to trying to get elders the help they need; and most are happy to answer questions from other attorneys. Including me.

If you are confronted with an emergency elder issue – criminal or physical, you should always call the authorities – Adult Protective Services (925) 646-2854 or the local police. The County also has a great phone number to call that helps get you to local elder services when you don’t know what you need or what exactly to ask: (800) 510-2020. That number isn’t good just for Contra Costa, either; it will work for Alameda, Solano, or whichever county you call from.

Whether you practice elder law or not, YOU are a vital link in the chain connecting elders to much-needed services. Hopefully this issue will help you navigate a little more easily through the elder law issues you are confronted with in your practices.


- Kathryn Schofield, owner of the Schofield Law Group, focuses her practice on Elder Law , Conservatorships, Estate Planning and Probate/ Trust Administration – www.schofieldlawgroup.com

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