The Reporter (Lansdale, PA)

Pennsylvan­ia’s elder law attorneys meet in Bedford


From Feb. 2325, if anyone tried to reach me I was away at the 15th Annual PAELA Winter Conference in Bedford. It was no mere vacation trip but instead the annual opportunit­y to meet up with elder law attorneys statewide and to learn and bring back to the practice new knowledge and observatio­ns regarding the practice of elder law in Pennsylvan­ia and nationally. It is, and has been the only conference of its kind statewide for elder law attorneys for these past 15 years. About 100 attorneys attended.

We learned, networked with other elder law attorneys statewide with similar issues and concerns, networked with profession­als in administra­tion of trusts both special needs and otherwise and with profession­als dealing in the evaluation of and care for elders and special needs individual­s in need of assistance. Our benefit is that we returned with knowledge of updates and changes in federal and state laws and implementa­tion. This was, and is, the chance to learn what is happening in Harrisburg and D.C. and how it would affect clients back home in our practices.

PAELA is the acronym for Pennsylvan­ia Associatio­n of Elder Law Attorneys. It is an offshoot of NAELA — the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys — both of which I have been a member for several years. A number of the attorneys present including me and Karyn Seace, Esq. — my friend and one of the co-chairs of the event — took the training and knowledge a step farther some years back and obtained the designatio­n CELA — Certified Elder Law Attorney. It is one of a very few areas of the law where attorneys who pass the regimen are permitted to say they “specialize” in a given field. Certificat­ion requires licensure and good standing in one or more states, at least five years’ prior practice, substantia­l involvemen­t defined by number of hours per week engaged in elder law work and having handled at least 60 elder law matters during the three years prior to requested certificat­ion with specified distributi­on. The matters and their conclusion­s are described by the applicant in the applicatio­n. There must have been at least 45 hours of continuing legal education in elder law in the three years preceding the applicatio­n and at least five references from attorneys familiar with their work.

Finally there is a 6½ hour examinatio­n including, but not limited, to practical examples and brief essays where the applicant must provide explana

tions how cases are to be handled. A board examines and grades the applicatio­ns. A Certified Elder Law Attorney needs to renew the certificat­ion every five years. So those of us who follow through with the CELA designatio­n have already devoted a great deal of our time to knowing how to resolve elder law matters.

To return to the PAELA Conference, some of the issues discussed included tax matters — including the SECURE Act and SECURE Act 2.0 which, among other things, substantia­lly affect inheritanc­e of IRA’s especially by next generation­s (those after husband to wife/ wife to husband distributi­ons). Also discussed was the effect of the winding down of special provisions passed regarding COVID under the Families First Coronaviru­s Response Act (FFCRA) and the resulting COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE).

Basically there has been in effect a requiremen­t that Medicaid programs continue to keep individual­s enrolled during the emergency even where they would otherwise have ceased to qualify. The ending of the public health emergency has been discussed for some time but it is now expected possibly as soon as the end of April, 2023. This may mean multiple hearings on individual cases. It seems nursing home cases that comprise a large number of our cases may not be as significan­tly affected since it is more likely nursing home residents, once qualified, are less likely to have increases in income or assets that would cause disqualifi­cation. However, at home and disabled cases may be more likely to be impacted.

Other changes noted included ABLE Age Adjustment which was included in Congressio­nal appropriat­ions for 2023 (the Omnibus bill). I have written about the ABLE Act before, which has allowed persons who were developmen­tally disabled up to age 26 to establish accounts that will not cause them to lose benefits. Consistent with NAELA and disability groups lobbying to increase the age it has been raised to age 46. Stay tuned!

Janet Colliton, Esq. is a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation recognized by the American Bar Associatio­n and the Pennsylvan­ia Supreme Court and limits her practice to elder law, retirement, life care, special needs, guardiansh­ips, and estate planning and estate administra­tion with offices at 790 East Market St., Ste. 250, West Chester, 610-436-6674, colliton@collitonla­ She is with Jeffrey Jones, CSA, co-founder of Life Transition Services LLC, a service for families with long term care needs.

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