For practicing lawyers or professionals interested in improving their skills or for individuals seeking to learn about legal issues that affect the elderly, post-baccalaureate certificate programs or master's degrees in elder law are available online. Many of these programs are available in a hybrid format and may require attendance on campus for some classes. Applying to these programs requires a bachelor's or juris doctor degree. For a fully online alternative, students can pursue a business law certificate at the graduate level.
Online elder law certificate programs are designed for social workers, paralegals, nurses or others who assist the elderly and their families. Master's degree programs are for licensed attorneys.
Elder Law Graduate Certificate
These programs are available online, although they are not widely available. A certificate program focuses on ethical issues and the legalities surrounding the health and rights of the elderly. At some universities and colleges, students may transfer credits from a graduate certificate towards a related master's degree.
Program Information and Requirements
Admission to the certificate program does not require completion of the Graduate Management Assessment Test (GMAT). Students must have a bachelor's degree and minimum grade point average of 3.0. Letters of recommendation are also required as part of the application process.
Elder Law-Related Courses
In these programs, students complete courses that provide an overview of law and the study of aging. Ethics and health decisions and guided study of various topics are also features of online elder law certificate programs. Not all classes are entirely online, these may require that students travel to campus from time to time to complete courses.
Legal Issues related to Elder Health
In this course, students learn through discussions, research and readings about ethical and legal issues related to the health of elderly individuals. Common topics include care options, whether in an individual's home, long-term or hospice facility, elder abuse and age discrimination.
Health and Aging Overview
Health problems and conditions associated with aging are the main topics in this course. Students focus on how elderly individuals cope with aging, disease and disability and explore practices that may improve those individuals' quality of life.
Elderly Individuals and the Law
From estate planning to grandparents' rights, advance directives and guardianship, this course provides an overview of issues of life as an elderly individual. Students explore topics like trusts, prenuptial agreements and social security and other administrative law concepts.
Master's Degrees in Elder Law
The Master of Law (LL.M) is an advanced degree signifying that a practicing lawyer has trained in a specialty like elder law. This degree is often considered a terminal degree, above the Juris Doctor (JD). It may take two to three years to complete the LL.M degree.
Program Information and Requirements
These programs may be offered in a synchronous system, allowing a student with a headset and microphone to communicate with classmates and professors during courses delivered online in real-time. Other programs may be asynchronous, meaning that students don't have to attend classes at any specific time but can work on their own schedules. Some required courses may not be available online and students may be required to travel to campus for several days during their studies.
These programs cover subjects like estate planning, taxes and advanced directives. Students draft wills and trust plans to distribute wealth. Topics included in elder law programs include issues that affect an individual's decisions toward the end of their lives. Some common online courses in elder law programs include fiduciary administration, estate planning and taxation, elder health and the law and guardianship and alternatives.
Estate Planning and Tax
Estate planning courses may include the basics of income taxation for elderly individuals or more advanced concepts and systems, like the federal transfer tax system and taxation of life insurance benefits. Topics explored in this course include capital gains, bequests and inheritances, power of attorney and contracts for wealth transfer.
Will and Trust
Students learn the principles and law behind wills and trust accounts. In these courses, students design and draft wills and trusts to legally move property from the owner to a beneficiary listed in a legally sound last will and testament document.
These courses focus on power of attorney, property management, assessment of mental capacity and the criteria for selecting and appointing a guardian for individuals with dementia, aphasia and other conditions. Students learn about the mediation process and the steps involved ending guardianship for individuals.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were about 778,700 lawyers employed in 2014. One out of five those were self-employed. The BLS reported that most lawyers earned anywhere from $55,870 to $174,280 annually as of May 2015. The field is expected to grow 6% between the years 2014 and 2024. (www.bls.gov)
Certificate-holding students seeking further education in elder law can continue their studies in a Juris Doctor (J.D.) or master of law (LL. M) degree program. These degree programs may be found online.
All lawyers must be licensed, no matter which state they practice in. Most states require that individuals pass the state bar exam and an ethics examination as well, according to the BLS (www.bls.gov). Students must also complete the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, which covers the American Bar Association's professional ethics and judicial responsibility codes.
Online degree programs in elder law are available at the master's level; graduate certificates are also available. These programs are designed for lawyers, social workers or paralegals looking to specialize in work with the elderly, and they typically feature courses on aging, wills and estate planning.