Text Resize

Tuesday November 25, 2014

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Free and Low-Cost Legal Services that Help People in Need

Where can someone turn for free or low-cost legal help? My sister needs some professional legal assistance but she doesn’t have a lot of money.

There are actually a number of free and low-cost legal resources available today, but what’s available will depend on where your sister lives, the type of legal assistance she needs and her financial situation. Here are several resources to check into.

Legal Aid: Directed by the Legal Services Corporation, legal aid offers free legal assistance to low-income people of all ages. Each community program will differ slightly in the services they offer and income qualifications. See lsc.gov/find-legal-aid to locate a program in your area.

Pro Bono Programs: Usually sponsored by state or local bar associations, these programs help low-income people find volunteer lawyers who are willing to handle their cases for free. You can look for a pro bono program through the American Bar Association at findlegalhelp.org or through lawhelp.org.

Senior Legal Hotlines: There are a number of states including the District of Columbia that offer senior legal hotlines, where persons over age 60 have access to free legal advice over the telephone. To find the states that offer this service and their toll free number, visit legalhotlines.org.

Senior Legal Services: Coordinated by the Administration on Aging, this service may offer free or low-cost legal advice, legal assistance or access to legal representation to people over the age of 60. Your Area Agency on Aging can tell you what’s available in your community. Call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 to get your local number.

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 your sister is disabled, she can visit ndrn.org to find help in her state.

Other Options

If your sister can’t get help from one of these programs or she finds that she isn’t eligible, another option is for her to contact her state or local bar association that may be able to refer her to a low-fee lawyer. Alternatively, she may want to consider hiring a lawyer for only part of the legal work and doing other parts herself. 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 a lawyer could help them with. If a lawyer can help with your sister’s problem, the service will provide her with a referral to a lawyer. If the problem does not require a lawyer, the service will provide information on other organizations that may be able to help. Most of these lawyer referral services conduct their interviews and make referrals over the phone.

To contact your state or local bar association, go to americanbar.org and type in “state and local bar associations” in the search field to find their state-by-state directory.

And finally, if your sister is an AARP member, one other discount resource that may be able to help her is AARP’s Legal Services Network from Allstate. This service provides members a free legal consultation (up to 45 minutes) with an attorney along with 20% discounts on other legal services persons may need. To locate a lawyer near you, call 866-330-0753.

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.

Published November 21, 2014

Previous Articles

How You Can Quit Smoking

How to Improve Your Balance as You Age

A Guide to Finding Affordable Dental Care

How Medicare Covers Outpatient Mental Health Services

What to Consider When Choosing a Walk-in Bathtub