The focus of my firm is the client, their desires and concerns, and their independence. My practice focuses on planning. Generally it is called estate planning but I prefer to call it life and estate planning because planning for incapacity and other lifetime events is as important as planning for post-death distributions. I help young families plan for their children. I do supplemental needs trusts for children or family members with disabilities. I help older clients remain independent and in control as long as possible and preserve and pass on their assets when they need nursing home care. I help children take care of their parents and older family members. The legal areas my practice focuses on are: elder law, estate planning, Medicaid planning, probate, and real estate.
I opened my office in 1979. In 1984 I hired my secretary, Judy. Initially I was a general practitioner, handling all types of matters; wills, contracts, real estate, criminal, divorce, probate, collections, landlord/tenant, civil cases, bankruptcy, etc. As time went on each area became more specialized and it was difficult to keep up with all the changes in each practice area, so I decided to focus my practice more narrowly to better serve my clients in the areas I really enjoyed. Over time I eliminated most litigation type work and by 1997 my practice focused on elder law, Medicaid and estate planning, probate, real estate, and some business matters, which is the focus today.
I assisted a client by creating a will for him which not only left property to his partner, but also created a scholarship fund at a local high school to specifically benefit obese students.
I recently helped a couple to qualify the wife for long term care Medicaid while preserving their house so it will go to their children, avoiding a Medicaid penalty for prior charitable gifts and to preserving assets above the 'spousal reserve' allowed by Medicaid for the husband and children.
85 Washington St
Barre VT 05641
I charge $225 for the initial consultation. Most take about an hour but there is no time limit.
Monday through Friday
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
When I first opened my office I was a general practitioner and handled just about every type of case. About 1996, I decided to focus my practice areas more narrowly. Because I enjoyed working with clients, drafting documents and doing planning, I decided to focus primarily on estate planning. After some personal experiences with family members I realized the need for planning services beyond the usual estate planning, so I incorporated elder law and Medicaid planning. While few clients seemed to need fancy estate tax planning, most were concerned with Medicare and nursing homes. These core areas also entail work in probate court so I continue to do probate work like guardianships and estates. I also continue to do real estate work, some business formation and planning as these areas are often related and compliment the focus of my practice.
I encourage clients to educate themselves about their legal issues. That is why I volunteer to do seminars for various groups, why I put general legal information about elder law, Medicaid and estate planning on my website, have an occasional blog about planning and general legal topics and send an informational packet - our 'Welcome Packet' to each client before their initial appointment. 'The Welcome Packet' contains both a questionnaire and informational materials to help the client. I also encourage clients to research and educate themselves from other sources and I'm always willing to discuss and explain the information they have obtained and help them understand how it applies to their situation.
I am not a proponent of 'Do It Yourself' documents. I believe there are too many things that even the intelligent client doesn't know about. The problem is that the client 'doesn't know what he doesn't know'. So things get omitted or not dealt with properly. In planning documents, that can be disastrous because the errors or omissions only come to light when the client is no longer able to make changes. That being said, it is helpful if a client has thought about his situation and his desires and concerns. Sometimes preparing a DIY document is a good starting point.
There are many times that it is appropriate for clients to represent themselves, and I always suggest it when appropriate. This is particularly true in estates and simple guardianships in our very helpful probate courts here in Vermont. I am always willing to consult and coach those clients who are representing themselves.
Before opening my office I worked for Richard E. Davis & Associates in Barre, Vermont, first as a law clerk while I was in law school and then as an associate attorney. Before clerking at Richard E. Davis & Associates, I was the law clerk for District Judge John P. Connarn in the Washington District Court.
I think every work, education, and life experience makes me a better lawyer. Each client's issues make me aware of things for the next client. Each issue I confront with a client makes me think about how those matters might impact my other clients and how I might modify or change my planning strategies to deal with those possibilities.
Dealing with the ageing and deaths of my grandparents and other relatives made me more sensitive to the issues of ageing, disability, and death. I was able to see and understand what things needed to be taken care of, how things could be made easier for the elders and the family. Raising my own sons helped me understand the issues families with children face and what planning should be put in place- both planning for the parents and planning for the children. Now with my sons being young adults I have a renewed understanding of what they need to plan for.
As I continue to work I recognize how many different areas of the law are connected to the work I do as an attorney and how they all impact my clients. Estate planning requires some understanding of tax law, not just estate and gift tax, but income tax and capital gains tax as well; proper estate planning really requires some understanding of Medicaid law; elder law involves Veterans benefits as well as Medicare, Medicaid and social security; all of this planning requires understanding real estate law, as many people have much of their wealth in their home. I seek out opportunities to learn about these other fields, to add to my ability to help my clients understand their issues and options.
I think that my combination of experience and training in various legal areas make me a better lawyer. And specifically my understanding of estate planning, real estate, tax and Medicaid law make me a much better estate planner, especially for the 'average' client - one who doesn't need to plan how to shelter his multimillions of dollars, but wants to see their spouse and children protected and provided for and that their assets aren't lost to nursing home costs or taxes.
I enjoy my clients. I love to hear about their backgrounds, their families, and to explore their interests and concerns. I like to discuss the client's options and educate them so they understand what we are doing and why. I am creative in meeting my clients' goals and dealing with their concerns.
I am friendly, personable and informal. Often clients are hesitant to think about and discuss death and incapacity. They are serious issues but they do not have to be morbid or depressing. I work hard to make the discussions as upbeat and painless as possible.
Getting to know and working with my clients are the things I enjoy most in my practice!
Clients should understand that personal attention in a small office often takes time. Unless there is an emergency there is usually a three or four week timeframe on most documents, often more for more complicated planning.
I enjoy reading a variety of genres, sailing, all water sports - swimming, waterskiing, scuba, skiing, travel, and movies.
I've been married for thirty three years and my wife and I have two sons, a basset hound, and a 160 year old farmhouse. I enjoy family time and trying to keep up with my kids and their activities.
I enjoy giving seminars and speaking about planning issues.
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