Donald D. Vanarelli, Esq., who has focused in planning for the elderly, disabled, and people with special needs for over 30 years, has been board-certified as an Elder Law attorney since 1998.

 What is Elder Law?

Elder Law is a legal specialty focusing on the special needs and legal problems of seniors, the disabled and their families.

Elder law and special needs planning includes helping seniors, the disabled and their families with long-term care planning, identifying and accessing sources of financing for long-term care, nursing home issues, qualifying for Medicare, Medicaid and other public benefits, legal capacity, surrogate decision-making, estate planning and administration, including tax consequences, trust creation and administration, probate, retirement benefit disputes, estate and probate litigation, contested guardianships and elder mediation services.

What is a Certified Elder Law Attorney?

Certified Elder Law Attorneys have an enhanced level of knowledge, skill and experience in the practice areas encompassed by the elder law and special needs specialty, coupled with the competence to identify the needs of the older or disabled client, and the capability to solve client problems.

The Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) certification has frequently been referred to as “the gold standard” for elder law and special needs practitioners. This certification reflects the hard work and proof required before an attorney is awarded the CELA designation.

Preparation for a CELA designation includes several steps and several different types of qualification, all of which are designed to assure that clients receive good legal care. Before being certified, an applicant must:

  1. Have practiced law for at least five years, and have focused at least half of their practice in the special needs/elder law field for at least the last three of those years.
  2. Demonstrate “substantial involvement” in special needs and elder law practice, by demonstrating a minimum number of individual cases, spread across a number of different categories making up the “elder law” definition.
  3. Study for, take and pass a rigorous, day-long written examination. Recent pass rates have been below 50% — and that is of applicants who have already met the experience requirements.
  4. Undergo a review by peers and colleagues, focused on the applicant’s reputation for ethical and competent representation in elder law and special needs planning matters.

There are nearly 500 CELAs in the country, so not every community has even one person who has been certified. The CELA certification has been formally recognized by New Jersey’s Supreme Court. Only about 50 attorneys in New Jersey have attained the level of expertise required to be board-certified as Elder Law attorneys.

For additional information concerning NJ elder law and special needs planning visit:

NJ Elder Law and Estate Planning Services