Elder Law and Special Needs Section | State Bar of Wisconsin

The Elder Law and Special Needs Section works to protect the rights of the elderly and individuals with disabilities, and provide advice, information and advocacy in areas relating to the legal issues that affect their lives. This includes preparing advance directives, counseling clients on long term care options, assisting clients in applying for and retaining their rights to public benefits that assist in their care, counseling clients on special needs and pooled trusts, representing elders and individuals with disabilities who are victims of abuse and exploitation, and working with veterans to obtain needs-based benefits and health care. Their mission is to develop and improve laws that affect the elderly and individuals with disabilities and to promote high standards of performance and expertise for those who practice in this area.

The State Bar of Wisconsin offers its members the opportunity to network with other lawyers who share a common interest through its 24 sections. Learn more at http://www.wisbar.org/groups.

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Latest from Elder Law and Special Needs Section | State Bar of Wisconsin

Wisconsinites and their attorneys now have a new legal process for remote notarization and witnessing of estate planning documents. The new law, 2023 Wisconsin Act 130, took effect March 23, 2024. While the new law provides greater flexibility for estate planning clients and their attorneys in the post-pandemic world, it causes additional dilemmas for attorneys, particularly those who represent the elderly and individuals with disabilities.

Heather Poster, Marquette 2002, is an attorney and shareholder with
Becker, Hickey &
Continue Reading The Good, Bad, & Ugly of Wisconsin’s New Remote Notarization and Witnessing Law

This article is the first in a new series: I’m interviewing elder law attorneys around the state to find out why and how they started practicing elder law, what their practices are like, and what they achieve for their clients.

My first interview is with Blaine Patino of Canellos & Patino in Wauwatosa. Blaine was recently a presenter at the Winter Workshop put on by the Wisconsin chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA).

I
Continue Reading ‘A Little Rebellious:’ Blaine Patino and his Elder Law Practice

The immeasurable benefits of a healthy work-life balance are well known. Engaging with outside organizations, taking time for personal interests and hobbies, spending time with family and friends, exercising, gardening, caring for pets, traveling – all of these are ways in which we can help our bodies, minds, and souls stay fresh for our law practices and our clients. Additionally, we can learn a lot from our out-of-office activities that help us as attorneys.

In my working life, I
Continue Reading March Madness: How Basketball Can Help You Be a Better Attorney

As a longtime estate-planning attorney, it is my sense that more clients are working around (or ruining) their valid estate plans by using various nonprobate transfers – specifically POD (Payable on Death) and TOD (Transfer on Death) designations. I see this change happening not only when clients come into my office to review their estate planning when they are alive, but this is also being discovered after the client passes away. I ask “Why is this happening?” Do people just dislike attorneys so
Continue Reading This Is How Clients Wreck Their Estate Plans – What Can Attorneys Do About It?

Let’s start with the assumption that you want to have a multicultural law practice with a focus on estate planning and Medicaid planning – and you want to work with clients and staff who are diverse. How are you going to move forward with those objectives?

Is being multicultural enough?

Is it possible to complete the necessary estate planning forms and Medicaid applications with a good understanding of the client’s current financial status and plans regarding the person’s finances? 
Continue Reading Do You Have a Multicultural Law Practice?

COVID-19, the job market, and now inflation consume us. Older Americans and those with disabilities are more drastically affected by all three, especially due to the consistent need for quality caregiving services in an unstable economy.

In January 2019, a Harvard Business School Report compelled the country to acknowledge the “caregiving shortage crisis,” which has only worsened post the pandemic. Millions of seniors and people with disabilities require long-term services and support, and most want these services at
Continue Reading Drafting Caregiver Agreements that Combat the Caregiving Crisis

Many of us became attorneys because our reaction to math was “Ugh, not if I can avoid it!”

Not to say any of us are bad at math, but after years of watching lawyer dramas, we didn’t exactly envision our legal careers involving intricate spreadsheets of income and asset classes, monthly care costs, divestment divisors, and so forth.

However, providing the best guidance to our clients often requires exactly that: a deep dive into what puts the client and
Continue Reading Basic Math in Elder Law

One of the many things I have appreciated about becoming an attorney is working with people who care deeply about the clients they serve and the work they do.

It is a great honor to watch attorneys meet with clients, listen, and do their best to make clients feel comfortable. That includes working with disabled clients, who are often dealing with substantial barriers, ableism, and disrespect.

However, even though lawyers are making strides in accommodating individual clients, our systemic
Continue Reading Accessible Content Broadens Your Client Base and Improves the Way You Work


Established in 2003, Wispact, Inc., is a private nonprofit organization that maintains and administers pooled special needs trusts for nearly 4,000 individuals with disabilities throughout Wisconsin. What Is a Pooled Trust? A pooled special needs trust (PSNT) is a type of trust arrangement where there is one master trust document that details the pertinent definitions, powers, and duties that control all the sub-accounts created under it. A sub-account is created under a PSNT when a beneficiary or
Continue Reading Wispact at a Glance

As elder law and special needs planning attorneys, many of us are involved in what might be considered “extracurricular” work activities – i.e., all those things we do that flow directly from the profession we have chosen.

We serve on boards. We volunteer for nonprofits and organizations. We advocate for causes that are important to us. We coordinate with other groups and professionals who help serve our clients. We identify gaps in the systems we work with, and daydream
Continue Reading Elder Law Lawyers: There’s a Grant for You

The Elder Law and Special Needs Section is a very collegial and welcoming section of the State Bar of Wisconsin.

I know this from personal experience. I have served on committees and in a leadership position with the section for seven years. I personally witnessed that the members of the section and the board go above and beyond when it comes to sharing their expertise with new members and attorneys who are striving to expand their practice of law
Continue Reading Diversity and Inclusion is a Top Priority of the Elder Law and Special Needs Section

For those of you who have not seen the cinematic classic that is Legally Blonde, the above title is a nod to the main character’s most notorious line.After Elle Woods successfully gains admission to an Ivy League law school, one of her classmates cannot fathom how she was admitted, and her response is the above phrase of incredulity.Amy K. Greske, William Mitchell 2014, is an attorney at O’Neill Elder Law, LLC, in Hudson. She practices elder law and
Continue Reading Transferring Guardianship to Another State Under Chapter 53: ‘What? Like It’s Hard?’

Wisconsin summers invite many enjoyable activities: boating, hiking, fishing, and of course, trips to the family cabin. A hallmark of Wisconsin’s Northwoods, the family cabin, is a treasured piece of Wisconsin culture. Its foundation tells the story of a family’s hard work, close bond, and dedication. Families gather, laughter is shared, and memories are made.

It is no surprise that the cabin is often a family’s most valuable asset. As such, protecting it from devastating long-term care costs requires
Continue Reading Protecting the Family Cabin with a Family LLC

Thinking about becoming a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA)? Here is my experience.

Greg J. Banchy, Marquette 1987, is an attorney with Banchy Law Center LLC in Eau Claire, practicing in elder law and estate planning.

Last September, I sat for the certification exam to become a CELA – a designation given by the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF).

I was warned that the exam would be difficult – and it was. The biggest challenge was actually the breadth and
Continue Reading Becoming a Certified Elder Law Attorney

An algorithm is a set of steps that leads to a conclusive result. Both humans and computers can process algorithms – even simple arithmetic is an algorithm. Computers use complex algorithmic formulas that reference large quantities of data in order to make automated decisions.

Governments, employers, insurance companies, and health care providers are dramatically increasing their reliance on automatic decision-making software. Decisions as diverse as evaluating risk during criminal sentencing, deciding where to prioritize police resources, sorting resumes, ranking
Continue Reading Algorithm Bias: Due Process versus Trade Secrets

It seems as if we are starting to see, once again, some of the actions of Wisconsin nursing homes that led to the original Nursing Home Reform Act.

Now is a good time to take a look back and review what that federal law was all about.
The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987
In 1986, Congress authorized the Institute of Medicine to conduct an analysis of complaints against the nursing home industry by its residents and their families.
Continue Reading Why We Should Revisit the Nursing Home Reform Act