“Estate Planning Essentials” – our revised and updated workshop

For more than two years, we have regularly held a workshop on estate planning and asset protection. It has won praise from clients, financial advisors, attorneys, and other attendees.

Now we have updated and revised the workshop format, retaining the best material but adding new stories, examples, and illustrations to help attendees learn the most about how to arrange their estates for maximum benefit.

In Estate Planning Essentials, we start with asking attendees what motivated them to come to the workshop, and to spend time writing down their concerns and the impact estate planning (or the lack of it) will have on their lives, their assets, their lifestyles, and their families.

We explore the philosophy behind estate planning — why do it in the first place, how it fits into your life, and how it can affect you and your loved ones.

As always, we ask attendees at the beginning of the workshop to suggest questions and topics, so the presentation can be tailored to the interest of the participants.

The main part of the presentation emphasizes how the main estate planning vehicles — trusts, wills, powers of attorney, and health care directives — work, how they can meet life’s challenges (incapacity, care needs, living in a blended family, disability of family members, and so on), and how they can improve outcomes for all family members.

Anyone attending a workshop receives a complimentary opportunity to meet with a Sykes Elder Law attorney to review their own estate planning needs.

Upcoming workshop dates and times include:

  • February 20, 5:30 – 7:30
  • March 5, 2:30 – 4:30
  • March 20, 5:30 – 7:30

Call (412) 531-7123 to register. The workshop is free, but we keep class sizes small so you must have an advance registration.

Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) in Pittsburgh

As you may know, our Managing Attorney Andrew Sykes is certified as an elder law attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation (the only organization recognized by the American Bar Association to offer elder law certification).

To achieve the designation of Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA for short), an attorney must meet a number of requirements:

  • Pass a demanding written test
  • Show experience with a broad range of elder law matters, such as estate planning, representation of fiduciaries (executors of estates, trustees, agents under power of attorney, and so on), advising on retirement, planning for public benefits (Medicaid, Medicare, veterans benefits, and the like), helping clients with health care directives (“living wills”) and questions of legal capacity, advocating for clients in court or administrative proceedings, and similar matters.
  • Attend at least 45 hours of continuing legal education courses pertaining to elder law over a three-year period
  • Produce references attesting to the candidate’s integrity and fitness to be certified as an elder law attorney
  • Show membership in good standing in the bar, with at least five years of practice as an attorney

Of course, certification is only one factor to consider in choosing an elder law attorney. Other important factors include years and quality of experience, reputation among other attorneys and professionals, whether the CELA will be handling your matter personally, and intangible factors such as the attorney’s diligence, attention to detail, and problem-solving skills.

As of this writing, only 44 Pennsylvania attorneys have been recognized as a certified elder law attorney.  Mr. Sykes helps clients as a CELA in Pittsburgh, where he has practiced law for more than 21 years and is a recognized leader in the elder law field.

Law School Interns Help Out

Our legal secretary Donna Dean gets a kick out of watching Bailey Flask (left) and Allison Reinersmann (right) pose for their newsletter photo.

Two interns with an interest in elder law picked up some real life experience this past semester in our office.

Bailey Flask and Allison Reinersmann, then third-year law students at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, got the chance to put their newly minted legal skills to work at Sykes Elder Law two days a week for several months.

“I feel I’ve learned more here than in many of my substantive courses,” Ms. Reinersmann said. “In the classroom you learn theory and here you learn how to practice. Having both is what makes a good lawyer.

Ms. Flask delved into veterans benefits for aid and attendance, working on applications and improving our checklists and processes. When she had completed her first application, she hand delivered it to the local Veterans Administration office in downtown Pittsburgh.

Working as an intern requires a student to give attention to some of the practical details of a law practice. For example, does the IRS require an employer identification number when a client establishes an irrevocable trust? Not always, Ms. Flask discovered, and backed up her research with excerpts from tax code regulations and excerpts from IRS instruction forms.

Ms. Reinersmann researched and wrote a detailed memorandum on the use of an irrevocable life insurance trust as a means to protect assets from Medicaid spend-down. She also drafted petitions to be filed in Orphans’ Court, worked on an appellate brief in a Social Security disability case, and researched the standards for requesting Medicaid planning in a guardianship case.

Ms. Flask recently landed a job with the Veterans Administration. She credited her work at the firm with making her more conversant about veterans’ legal issues during her interviews with the VA.

Ms. Reinersmann has returned to the firm this summer to help out part time while she studies for the bar exam.