By Dan Surprenant, Esq., CELA
As one of the managing partners at the firm, along with my sister, Michelle Beneski, I thought it would be helpful for me to share the reasons we are qualified in the specialty of Elder Law and what that means for prospective clients. I am proud that our team can offer so much that differentiates us from others who market similar services.
- CELA Designation- A CELA is a Certified Elder Law Attorney, certified by the National Elder Law Foundation. It is the ONLY elder law certification approved by the American Bar Association. In order to qualify, an attorney must demonstrate that they have practiced a minimum amount of hours practicing in elder law, take a rigorous national bar-style examination, receive six peer reviews from other elder law attorneys and submit documentation establishing their experience in various areas related to elder law. There are currently only 25 CELAs in Massachusetts. Our firm has 2 of the 25, as Michelle Beneski and myself are both CELAs. For more detail on this designation, check out NELF.org The CELA designation helps the public identify attorneys with an enhanced level of skill in meeting the legal needs of an elderly person or person with disabilities. Since our legal team round-tables cases on a weekly basis, everyone benefits from the certification.
- Leadership in MA NAELA- MA NAELA (the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys) is the leading association of Elder Law Attorneys in Massachusetts. It is the largest and arguably most active chapter in the country. Display of the MA NAELA logo is allowed with membership however, the true benefit for any firm (and their clients) is active engagement. I am a proud past-President of MA NAELA (2015), serving on the Board of Directors for 5 years prior. Additionally, I was a member of the Programs Committee for several years, helping to select and organize the several educational events for attorneys each year. I continue to serve as a panelist at those events periodically. Our entire team of attorneys is active in the on-going educational programs which help us to stay current on changing laws, aware of pending legislation and new, innovative strategies, all which help us to better serve our clients.
- LLM in Tax- This is a master’s degree in taxation, achieved after becoming an attorney. It demonstrates specialized study of various and complex taxation issues. Michelle Beneski has her LLM in Tax from the #2 program in the country, the University of Florida in Gainesville. With this additional specialization, Michelle brings advanced estate tax planning strategies forward that provide clients’ estates significant savings.
- LLM in Elder Law- Similarly, there is a master’s degree in Elder Law reflecting specialized study in this field. It is important to our firm to be prepared to support the demand for Elder Law anticipated with the significant population numbers reaching age 65+.
- Member of the Special Needs Alliance (SNA)- The Special Needs Alliance (SNA) is a national organization of attorneys committed to the practice of disability and public benefits law. Individuals with disabilities, their families and their advisors rely on the SNA to connect them with attorneys, such as myself, whose can practice in the disability law arena. The SNA is by invitation-only organization and is based on a combination of relevant legal experience in the disability and elder law fields, direct family experience with disability, active participation with national, state and local disability advocacy organizations, and professional reputation. As a result, an SNA member will have an average of 18 years of relevant legal experience, with no member having practiced law for less than 5 years. I am very proud to be a member of this organization and work hard to stay on the cutting edge to assist my clients and their loved ones.
- Boston Magazine’s List of Super Lawyers- Each year Boston Magazine publishes its list of Super Lawyers in various areas of specialty. The list represents 5% or less of the attorneys who practice in that subject matter. As stated by Super Lawyers on Jan 11, 2018, “Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.” Michelle Beneski and I have proudly been listed as Super Lawyers for several years in the categories of elder law and estate planning. The other attorney in our firm, Erin Nunes (formerly Shea) is included on Boston Magazine’s list of “Rising Stars.” Additionally, both Michelle and Erin have been listed on the Super Lawyers list of women attorneys in the most recent years.
- Court Experience and Success- Few Elder Law Attorneys have significant experience in court. Some shy away when a courtroom appeal is necessary. Early in my career, I was a prosecutor and civil litigator, which gives me courtroom experience helpful to my clients including in the district, superior and appeals courts. As Elder Law Attorneys, our team has fought in court for several clients, winning some cutting-edge victories.
- Full Time Paralegals- Our attorneys are supported by a team of dedicated and compassionate paralegals to ensure prompt and thorough client service One of our paralegals focuses exclusively on MassHealth cases, another in probate, and another specializes in estate planning. Additional team members are “floaters,” cross-trained to assist where needed. Additionally, we have a dedicated client support team. This amount of support is in place to assure that clients will be serviced promptly and thoroughly.
Let our leadership within the specialty of Elder Law be of benefit to your planning. We hope you will find that at Surprenant & Beneski, we have the expertise, experience and compassionate support to best serve you and your loved-ones. We look forward to providing you with top notch client service and having you as a part of the Surprenant & Beneski family.
©Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. 35 Arnold Street, New Bedford, MA 02740, 336 South Street, Hyannis MA 02601 and 45 Bristol Drive, Easton MA 02375. This article is for illustration purposes only. This handout does not constitute legal advice. There is no attorney/client relationship created with Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. by this article. DO NOT make decisions based upon information in this handout. Every family is unique and legal advice can only be given after an individual consultation with an elder law attorney. Any decisions made without proper legal advice may cause significant legal and financial problems.