MARQUETTE - In elder law, the focus is not just estate planning for the end of life, but also a plan for long-term and disability care during life. The Elder Law Firm of Anderson Associates, P.C. doesn't just care about planning a client's estate, but also cares personally about the clients themselves.
Bob Anderson, a Certified Elder Law Attorney and founder of Anderson Associates, decided to get into elder law after his father was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Anderson's father had the disease for 11 years. Bob, his mother, and his siblings helped to keep his father home for most of the 11 years as his disease progressed. According to Anderson, he quickly learned the living trust he made for his father early in his career was useless when it came to the services his father actually needed.
"Then I learned about NAELA, which offered the solutions I was looking for," Anderson said. "So it was a real life experience dealing with a dementia related illness in my own family that opened my eyes to the valuable approach of elder law."
Founder of The Elder Law Firm of Anderson Associates, P.C. and certified elder law attorney Bob Anderson, right, and senior associate attorney Kim Winokur look over documents in the Marquette office.
NAELA, or the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, is a professional association of attorneys who are dedicated to improving the quality of legal services provided to seniors and people with special needs.
Kim Winokur, senior associate attorney at Anderson Associates, said her life experience also made her want to get into elder law and disability law. Winokur has a daughter with special needs who is currently 32 years of age.
"I got involved in special needs as a parent even before I was an attorney," Winokur said. "I've been very active in the community, worked in the court system and have been an advocate for her, so it just kind of grew into my practice."
Anderson Associates offers four unique programs and services: the Client Care Program, Strategies on Family Disharmony, Scam and Financial Abuse Prevention, and a DVD with manual called "Training the Next in Charge."
The Client Care Program is a service clients can enroll in for a reasonable fee allowing the attorney to automatically update documents when there is a law change and allowing the client to receive educational materials via mail, phone and events.
Family disharmony is one of the biggest assailants on estate disbursements after a death with almost 20 percent ending in disharmony, or a court fight. To prevent this, Anderson Associates will ask the children of a client to sign a detailed family harmony agreement and wish list.
Scams and financial abuse have made senior citizens a prime target for many years. As part of the client care program, regular newsletters are sent to keep clients up to date on the latest scams.
Training the next in charge Clients are given a DVD and manual with real life scenarios that enable clients to educate their chosen trustee, and/or power of attorney, usually a spouse or their children, on their wishes. The DVD covers how to advocate for a spouse or parent when capacity fails and covers the different duties arising when they pass.
"The DVD is a good way for parents to start the conversation with their loved ones," Winokur said.
Winokur came to Anderson Associates about a year ago from Ann Arbor. Winokur has been an attorney for 17 years and has a degree in psychology from the University of Michigan, her Juris Doctor from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing and a Masters in Law in Corporate and Finance from Wayne State University Law School.
"In elder law, we are really concerned and focused on the client as a person," said Winokur. "Whether there's a circumstance, like divorce, that's changing in their family, a health change requiring them to have some caregiving, or whether they need nursing home care, by focusing on and understanding the person and what their needs are we can help the individual to transition during that time of their life. We really support them in this aspect and I think that's what makes elder law unique."
Anderson Associates can help a client put together services, plan the financial aspect of care and apply for benefits if needed. This is especially important after clients have retired because a good percentage of an individual's later life will be spent dealing with either problems of mobility, or problems with memory, or both, Anderson said.
"Traditional estate planning with a will or trust is death focused and does nothing to protect the aging client from the problems associated with the aging process," Anderson said. "They need the guidance of a holistic elder law firm to help them through the problems associated with long term care and public benefits."
Anderson has been practicing law in Marquette for 30 years. He graduated from Georgetown University with a Masters degree in Taxation and received his law degree from the Michigan State University College of Law. He then went on to do extra training with the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), where he currently serves in an official capacity as a member of its Board of Directors. Anderson then became a Certified Elder Law Attorney through the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) the only national certifying program for elder law and special needs attorneys.
According to Anderson, to become a Certified Elder Law Attorney a lawyer must take a bar exam on elder law, prove at least six years of exclusive experience in elder law and disability rights and go through an ethic's screening.
"I was able to do that. There are about 4,500 attorneys in the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and only 350 are certified nationally," Anderson said. "It's a small group."
Anderson Associates specializes in elder and disability law, everything from estate planning to Medicaid, Medicare, and VA benefits to helping someone with special needs or with the various transitions of life.
Anderson Associates has offices in Marquette, Houghton, Iron Mountain, Escanaba, Sault Ste. Marie and Menominee. For more information on elder law or Anderson Associates visit www.upelderlaw.com or call 228-6212 to schedule a consultation.
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