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Are Elder Bankruptcy Cases a Growing Niche?

By George Khoury, Esq. on November 20, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

For elder law attorneys, an unfortunate trend seems to be on the upswing among the client base: individuals over the age of 65 filing for bankruptcy. However, given that the number one cause of bankruptcies is medical debt, this makes a bit more sense.

As Forbes explained, the 65+ demographic now makes up a higher percentage of bankruptcy filers than it did a decade ago. Some speculate that the increase is due, at least in part, to the increased cost of health care over that same time. Notably, legislation was passed in 2005 to reform bankruptcy to reduce the number of filers, but has not been effective.

Senior Citizen Bankruptcy

Although many seniors may be reluctant to file for bankruptcy due to the social stigma, it could actually be a financial boon for many seniors buried in medical and credit card debt. As the Tenth Circuit explained, Social Security Income is not considered as disposable income for the purpose of the bankruptcy calculations.

For seniors that are pretty much dependent on SSI, this means that unmanageable debts could very likely be easily discharged. When that happens, the collection calls stop, and a person's quality of life can improve.

Marketing to the Old and Broke

For many seniors, getting legal help likely isn't on the forefront of their minds, particularly when their budgets are stretched paper thin, and lawyers notoriously cost a lot of money. Unless they have a debt crisis, or a spouse dies and creditors start calling, many will never even think that a lawyer could help them with their finances.

As such, offering a free consultation that promises to provide a financial analysis of the benefit of bankruptcy could be rather enticing to older, fixed income potential clients. Additionally, offering to help review a senior's benefits to ensure they haven't failed to claim something can go a long way towards putting the client in a position where they can afford your services. And while doing so won't guarantee that the client will hire you, it will definitely make you the person to whom they refer their friends and family.

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