Can you recommend any resources that provide free or low-cost legal services to seniors? I am 68 and need some professional legal assistance, but I have a fixed income.
There are actually a number of free and low-cost legal resources that can help seniors in need. The resources available to you will depend on where you live, the type of legal assistance you need and your financial situation. Here are several options to consider:
Legal Aid: Directed by the Legal Services Corporation, legal aid offers free legal assistance to low-income individuals of all ages. Each community program will differ slightly in income qualifications and the services they offer. Check out Legal Services Corporation’s website, LSC.gov/find-legal-aid, to locate a program in your area.
Free Legal Answers: This is an online program created by the American Bar Association that matches low-income clients with volunteer lawyers who agree to provide brief answers online for free. This service will not answer criminal law questions and may not be available in every state. Visit ABAfreelegalanswers.org to search for a program in your state.
Pro Bono and Senior Legal Hotlines: Usually state or local bar associations sponsor pro bono or hotline programs in the local community. Pro bono programs help low-income individuals find volunteer lawyers who are willing to handle their cases for free.
There are also a number of states that offer senior legal hotlines to seniors over age 60. The hotlines provide free legal advice over the telephone. To find out if these services are available in your state, go to LawHelp.org and click on “Find help near you now.”
Senior Legal Services: Coordinated by the Administration on Aging, legal assistance or access to legal representation to people over the age of 60 may be offered free or at a low cost. Your Area Agency on Aging can tell you what is available in your community. Call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 to obtain the contact information for your local services.
National Disability Rights Network: This is a nonprofit membership organization that provides legal assistance to people with disabilities through their Protection and Advocacy System and Client Assistance Program. If you are disabled, visit NDRN.org to find help in your state.
If you are unable to get help from one of these programs or find that you are not eligible, another option is to contact your state or local bar association, which may be able to refer you to a low-fee lawyer. You may want to consider hiring a lawyer for only part of the legal work and doing other parts yourself. This is known as “unbundled legal services.”
Many bar associations offer public service-oriented lawyer referral services that will interview clients and help identify the problems with which a lawyer could help. If a lawyer can help with your problem, the service will provide you with a referral to a lawyer. If the problem does not require a lawyer, the service will provide information for other organizations in your community that may be able to help. Most of these lawyer referral services conduct their interviews and make referrals over the phone.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.