“Should I take elder law advice from non lawyer professionals such as my CPA or financial advisor?”

“Who should I take professional advice from?”

This is a big issue because professionals of all types (doctors, lawyers, financial advisors, CPAs, social workers, etc) and others love to give advice outside their area of expertise.

So what’s the problem with this?

A professional should only advise you on areas that professional is competent in!

Any professional should be competent in his or her area.

A problem happens when that professional lets ego to get to them and they start to believe they are skilled to give advice outsider their area of competency.

Doctors are brilliant.  But they are also well known targets for financial scams because traditionally many doctors have felt they are the smartest people so they don’t need help from a financial advisor.

A CPA should not diagnose your medical conditions.

A lawyer shouldn’t do surgery on you.

Let’s walk through a few examples.

Would you get your prescription filled by a lawyer or ask your CPA how to cross examine a witness in trial?

A lawyer can’t prescribe medicine or tell you what to start taking or what medicine to stop taking.  Only your doctor can and should do this.

Your CPA may be the world’s smartest person, but you would be foolish to let her tell you how to cross examine a hostile witness.

You might remember the Seinfeld episode where the caddy tells Kramer what to do in trial.  Funny (actually very funny!) result in a comedy show — not so funny in real life.

Would you ask a social worker to perform surgery on you?

I hope not!

I’m a lawyer — I don’t give medical advice or tell folks how to invest their money.  I may have opinions on health and financial matters, but that’s not what people hire me for….

Here’s the problem.  You have an advisor you trust and like.  And that advisor says, “Don’t go to a _____ because I know about this and can tell you for free or very cheaply.”

So we hear this quite a bit….

“But I can save money by getting my legal advice from my CPA or financial advisor — they mean well and aren’t charging me extra for the advice.”

Sometimes the most expensive advice is the advice that comes “free”.  Kind of like getting a dog for free — they tend to cost a lot of money.  🙂

The difference is you love your dog — I know my very expensive (surgery bill) “free dog” is spoiled rotten — but when your professional gives you terrible advice, you won’t be loving him or her!

Will your CPA, financial advisor, etc. back up their elder law advice?  If they are wrong — if they commit legal malpractice — will their insurance cover that?

I’ve yet to see any “E&O” coverage (errors and omissions insurance) cover legal malpractice unless it is a lawyer who committed malpractice.

Beyond that, has your CPA or advisor studied elder law in Alabama?

Alabama Medicaid?  VA Pension (Aid & Attendance)?  Do they teach elder law to other lawyers?

Have they successfully handled cases?

We have seen advisors give the wrong advice and this ended up costing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.  So much for that “free” or “cheap” advice!

Do yourself a favor.  Get the right advice from the right advisors….

Get advice from a professional that is in their area of expertise — not outside their area of expertise.

It is fine if someone says, “You may want to think about this” or “You may want to check this out to see if this will work for you” but don’t take that to the bank.

To be clear, this is what I suggest you do:

  • Take financial advice from a good financial advisor
  • Get mortgage advice from a good mortgage expert (broker or banker)
  • Follow medical advice from a medical professional
  • Tax advice should come from a CPA or tax attorney

This will save you a lot of heartache by avoiding bad advice.

If you have questions about elder law issues, and you (or your loved one) lives in Alabama, give us a call at 205-879-2447 or fill out our contact form and we’ll get right back with you.

Thanks and talk to you soon!

John Watts


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