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Legal Notes

Free legal services for elders

LifePath supports Community Legal Aid (CLA) in providing free legal services to residents of Franklin County and Athol, Petersham, Phillipston, and Royalston in Worcester County who are age 60 and over. We want you to know more about these services and how to access them. This help is available because the Federal Older Americans Act provides funding to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs for civil legal assistance throughout the Commonwealth, and some of that money goes to LifePath, which then provides a grant to CLA.

Because the funding isn’t enough to allow us to provide full representation in response to each request for legal assistance, we are only able to assist with certain types of legal problems. The areas in which we are more likely to be able to provide advice or other assistance include:

  • denials or terminations of MassHealth
  • housing matters (such as evictions, denials or terminations of rental subsidies, and foreclosure)
  • denials, terminations or reductions of public benefits (such as unemployment insurance, SNAP/Food Stamps, Social Security/SSI/SSP, and state veterans services or ch. 115 benefits)
  • coverage denials and enrollment issues with Medicare

We also work with elders seeking assistance with issues of autonomy, abuse and exploitation.

In addition to looking at the type of problem for which our assistance is being sought, we try to:

  • determine the seriousness of the elder’s situation to ascertain whether we will provide a phone consultation to the caller
  • provide some level of legal assistance, which could involve representation in court proceedings
  • initially investigate the situation further on behalf of the elder before determining the role we can play
  • provide some referral information, if possible

Low-income elders with family law matters such as divorce would be referred to our Family Law Unit for a case acceptance decision, and those seeking assistance with bankruptcy would be referred to our Volunteer Lawyers Service for free assistance from an attorney in private practice.

CLA is open for telephone-assisted screening Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, from 9:30 a.m. to12:15 p.m., and Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. Elders may call toll free at 1-855-252-5342. CLA also has an online application at www.communitylegal.org, which can be accessed at any time. Elders can also go to the Massachusetts Legal Resource Finder website, www.MassLRF.org, which identifies what types of legal problems are appropriate for referral to CLA. The Legal Resource Finder can also help elders locate additional resources on a wide variety of legal topics.

We at Community Legal Aid look forward to assisting you with your legal questions and concerns. We accommodate clients with mobility and transportation challenges by meeting with them in our satellite office in Greenfield or in their home, medical facility, or in another mutually convenient location.

The views expressed in this column represent general information. To address your particular and specific needs consult your own attorney. If you need help with referral to an attorney, contact the Franklin County Bar Association at (413) 773-9839 or the Worcester County Bar Association at (978) 752-1311. Elder law resources may be found through the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Massachusetts Chapter, at massnaela.com or 617-566-5640.