A New Grant to Enhance Free Legal Services for Older Adults

As part of a new initiative announced by the Office of Services to the Aging (OSA), the US Administration on Community Living (ACL) has awarded Elder Law of Michigan a new grant set to go in effect over the next three years. This new initiative is focused on strengthening cooperation amongst providers of legal and human services along with the probate courts and advocacy groups. The goal of the project is to enhance the free legal services available for older adults in the state and to provide cost effective coordination and referrals to quickly and efficiently address legal problems. “We know that the right advice and assistance at the right time will minimize legal challenges for older adults,” said Kari Sederberg, Director of OSA. “We are excited to partner with Elder Law of Michigan, and other leaders in the aging and legal networks to maximize the use of programs like the Legal Hotline for Michigan Seniors and enhance coordination with local pro bono legal services, legal aid programs, and other elder rights organizations like the State Long Term Care Ombudsman and the probate courts.”

Older adults and their families regularly have questions and need information or advice about a wide variety of things such as: guardianship and alternatives, powers of attorney, housing, reverse mortgages, wills, Medicaid, Medicare, pensions, elder abuse, financial exploitation, and planning for care needs. Lawyers, social workers, and ombudsmen offer critical information and ideas to help solve problems and protect the rights of older adults. The new project will ensure that available services are well-known to the public and easily accessible. It will also offer opportunities for more professionals to volunteer their time and talents through legal and human services programs.

A key activity of the grant will be to convene elder rights stakeholders and create an Elder Rights Charter to assess available legal services for older adults in the state. The Charter will also identify gaps in services and create a protocol for effective referrals to get those in need of service to the right organization as quickly as possible. “We have an excellent network of elder rights providers in our state. We expect that the Elder Rights Charter will make this network more visible to older adults and their families and ensure that they know how to access the help they need when they need it. It is about solutions to personal legal problems before people need to go to court,” said Sederberg.

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