Articles & News 2006

From the January 8, 2006 Williamsport Sun-Gazette:

He wrote the book

Local attorney authors tome on elder law

By LAUREN McLANE

The old saying goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Usually, it refers to the desire to do something giving rise to the ability to do something, but the adage is equally apropos when discussing elder care law.

Closely related to trusts and estates law, elder law focuses on the legal needs of the elderly, from wills and powers-of-attorney to explanations of rights and benefits under the new Medicare part D form.

Attorney Jeffrey A. Marshall specializes in this field of law. The catch is that 20 years ago, it didn’t exist.

Jeff Marshall“It was hard to find other lawyers who practiced this law,” said Marshall, who recently wrote the 600-page book, “Elder Law in Pennsylvania.”

Marshall also is a contributing columnist to the Sun- Gazette’s “Insights and Opportunities” series.

The book, available on CD, details the options available to seniors, including long-term care, estate planning, ethics, preparing for incapacitation, and medical powers-of-attorney.

“To the person practicing elder law, it’s invaluable,” Marshall said, adding that it is designed for attorneys, social workers, nurses and others who deal with the elderly, not necessarily the general public.

Marshall’s mother’s illness in 1979 spurred him to focus on elder law, he said. His father at times was overwhelmed by the choices and problems facing him regarding his wife’s illness.

Marshall founded his law firm in 1980. Today, he and his staff of attorneys, paralegals, social workers and nurses work together to help seniors understand the options facing them.

In 1984 attended a state Bar Institute continuing legal education course on planning for the elderly, where he found like minds. Now he’s writing for the institute.

One of the biggest issues facing seniors today is healthcare, Marshall said.

‘We pay more per capita in this country than in any other industrialized country (for healthcare),” he said. “And Social Security is in good shape relative to healthcare.”

In 2008, when the first wave of baby boomers hits the age for Social Security and then again in 2011 when that same group hits Medicare age, the system will be struggling to cope with them just as the boomers are struggling to cope with the system.

“The system is a mess,” he said. ‘We pay twice as much for worse care. We need to realize that we have older people who can’t care for themselves.”

The problem is that interest groups such as insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies benefit from the ineffectiveness of the system, he said.

The change, however, must start from the top.

“The state has terrible laws regarding healthcare directives,” Marshall said.

A proposition being considered by the state legislature would allow doctors to revoke powers-of-attorney if they didn’t agree with it, Marshall said.

State laws are a mess, with no clear law for incompetent people, he added.

This is where elder-law attorneys come in, Marshall said. They are trained to, and specialize in, dealing with such problems.

“Elder-care law isn’t some thing you do part of the time,” he said. “You do it 100 percent — nothing else — no litigation or trial work or anything else.”

To become a certified elder- law attorney requires more than just years m practice, said Mar shall, certified through the National Elder Law Foundation.

According to that organization’s Web site, www.nelf.org, the requirements are licensure in at least one state or the District of Columbia; having been in practice for at least five years and still be practicing; being a member in good standing of the bar in any and all places where licensed; having substantial involvement and experience of at least 16 hours per week for the previous three years in elder care law and have handed at least 60 elder care law matters; having participated in 45 hours of continuing legal education focused on elder care law in the previous three years; submitting the names of five professional references and sitting for the written examination.

Nationwide, there are only 300 certified elder-care law attorneys, with 40 in Pennsylvania. Marshall and Associates is the only firm in the state to have two certified elder law attorneys.

“It’s rigorous. You have to devote yourself to it. You can’t divide your time,” Marshall said.