Donald Vanarelli

Donald Vanarelli

Certified Elder Law Attorney, Accredited Veterans Attorney and Accredited Professional Mediator
  • Elder Law, Estate Planning
  • New Jersey, New York
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Summary

I have been practicing law since 1983, admitted in NJ and NY. A graduate of Rutger's Law School, I practice in the areas of elder law, estate planning and administration, special needs planning, probate and guardianship litigation, family law, mediation and collaborative law. Before attending law school, I worked for the Social Security Administration adjudicating claims for benefits under the Social Security, SSI, Medicare and Medicaid programs. I served as law clerk to Hon. Herbert S. Alterman, J.S.C. I am board-certified as an elder law attorney. I am also accredited by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to prepare, present and prosecute claims for veterans. In 1992, I founded my own law firm. I now employ other legal professionals and support staff. I also co-founded the Elder Mediation Center and the NJ Collaborative Law Group. I have litigated cases in federal and state courts and before administrative agencies.I am happily married and the father of three children.

Education
Rutgers School of Law-Newark
J.D. | Law
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Montclair State University
B.A. | English Literature
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Honors: Dean's List
Activities: Montclair-Chico Domestic Exchange Program
Professional Experience
Owner
Law Firm
- Current
Owner of Law Firm in Westfield, NJ. Provides a broad range of legal services for the elderly, the disabled and families in conflict. Successfully guides clients through the complex areas of estate tax law, public benefits law, and court procedures. Assists clients and families in conflict through dispute resolution services, including will contests and estate litigation, elder mediation, divorce mediation and collaborative services. Educates other professionals and our client community about elder law and disability law through our publications and seminars.
Law Clerk
Superior Court of New Jersey
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After graduating from Rutgers Law School, I worked as a law clerk for Hon. Herbert S. Alterman, J.S.C., a judge of the Superior Court, Law Division, in Passaic County.
Internship
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Judicial Circui
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During law school, I worked as a law clerk for the Hon. Leonard I. Garth, United States Judge for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
Internship
US Securities and Exchange Commission
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During law school, I worked as an intern at the enforcement branch of the SEC in Manhattan working in investigations of securities fraud.
Summer Associate
Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals
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I worked in the Law Department at Schering-Plough corporation helping to prepare claims for presentation at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands concerning company property taken during the Iranian Revolution.
Social Insurance Representative
Social Security Administration
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Donald D. Vanarelli, Esq. was employed by the Social Security Administration as a Social Insurance Representative, adjudicating claims for benefits under the Social Security, SSI, Medicare and Medicaid programs. As a former Social Insurance Representative, Mr. Vanarelli gained years of experience adjudicating claims for Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. As a result, Mr. Vanarelli attained substantial experience with government benefit programs.
Volunteer
Peace Corps
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I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Kingdom of Nepal directing the construction of drinking water systems.I trekked to Mt. Everest base camp and to the headwaters of the Kali Kola (White River). Namaste!
Certifications
Certified Elder Law Attorney
National Elder Law Foundation
Accredited Veterans Attorney
Department of Veterans Affairs
Accredited Professional Mediator
New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators
Trained Collaborative Professional
Jersey Shore Collaborative Law Group
Awards
Lifetime Achievement Award
New Jersey State Bar Association, Elder and Disability Law Section
Donald D. Vanarelli, Esq. received the Marilyn Askin Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Elder and Disability Law Section during its annual retreat in Philadelphia, PA. The Lifetime Achievement Award, the Elder and Disability Law Section’s highest honor, is bestowed on an attorney with an established history of distinguished service who has made significant contributions in the field of elder and disability law throughout his or her career. This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award recognized Mr. Vanarelli’s advocacy in elder and disability law, including a number of precedent-setting legal victories which advanced the rights of seniors and persons with disabilities.
Lead counsel in Saccone v. Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, in which the NJ Supreme Court, for the first time, permitted a special needs trust to be designated as the beneficiary of a state pension
New Jersey Supreme Court
Reversing contrary decisions by lower courts and administrative agencies, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the disabled child of a retired fireman may have his survivors’ benefits paid into a special needs trust rather than directly to the child, thereby allowing the child to maintain eligibility for Medicaid and other public benefits based on financial need. Saccone v. Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, Docket No. A-49-071841 (September 11, 2014)
New Jersey Super Lawyer
Super Lawyers
Donald D. Vanarelli was named to the New Jersey Super Lawyers list in years 2007–present. An independent firm conducted the polling, research and selection of Super Lawyers in a process designed to identify New Jersey lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Super Lawyers are outstanding attorneys, representing a wide range of practice areas, firm sizes and geographic locations. Only the top 5% of New Jersey lawyers are named Super Lawyers.
Lead Counsel in In re Keri, a key NJ Supreme Court Guardianship / Elder Law Case
New Jersey Supreme Court
Donald D. Vanarelli, Esq. represented the plaintiff in a seminal elder law / guardianship case entitled In re Keri, 181 N.J. 50 (2004). In Keri, an adult child sought guardianship of his mother and her estate and proposed to gift some of her assets to himself and his brother so that mother could qualify for Medicaid while in a nursing home. Reversing lower court decisions, the state Supreme Court ruled, for the first time, that the mother’s assets could be transferred to her children as part of an estate plan to help her qualify for government nursing home benefits. This ruling was characterized by the Star Ledger newspaper as having “broad implications for those with elderly relatives suffering from Alzheimer’s and other kinds of dementia…”.
“AV Preeminent” Rated
Martindale-Hubbell rating system,
Donald D. Vanarelli has been awarded an “AV Preeminent” rating from Martindale-Hubbell, an acknowledgment that he has achieved the highest level of professional excellence. The Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent rating is the highest possible rating for an attorney for both ethical standards and legal ability. This rating represents the pinnacle of professional excellence. It is achieved only after an attorney has been reviewed and recommended by his peers and members of the bar and the judiciary.” The “AV Preeminent” rating is awarded to fewer than 5% of all lawyers across the United States.
Professional Associations
Elder and Disability Law Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association
Chair
- Current
Activities: Elder and disability law are highly specialized areas of law which address the specific legal issues and quality-of-life needs of those over the age of fifty and persons with disabilities. Elder and disability lawyers represent older or disabled persons and their representatives in financing long-term medical care, nursing home issues, qualifying for Medicare, Medicaid and other public benefits, estate planning, trust administration, special needs planning, will contests, probate and guardianship litigation, and estate and elder mediation. The Elder and Disability Law Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association is the only special interest section of the State Bar focusing on the elderly and disabled in New Jersey. The Elder and Disability Law Section provides education, information and analysis about issues of concern to seniors and the disabled through meetings, seminars, public service programs and publications.
New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators
Member, Board of Directors
- Current
Activities: The New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators is a statewide, non-profit professional organization dedicated to fostering excellence in the field of mediation; promoting mediation as the preferred method of dispute resolution; encouraging and providing mediation education to the public, the government and the professions; providing training and accrediting professional mediators; and protecting the public through standards of conduct for mediators. NJAPM distributes lists of Accredited Professional Mediators to the public.
New Jersey Collaborative Law Group
Founding Member
- Current
Activities: The New Jersey Collaborative Law Group (NJCLG) is an educational, not for profit, association of collaborative professionals established in June 2008. NJCLG is a group of inter-disciplinary network of attorneys, mental health professionals, financial consultants and other professionals committed to helping couples and families resolve conflicts in a positive and respectful manner. Our commitment is to a client-centered process that focuses on the legal, emotional, and financial elements of divorce and allows couples to negotiate in an environment free from the threat of litigation.
Elder Mediation Center of New Jersey
Founder
- Current
Activities: Donald D. Vanarelli, Esq. is a founding member of The Elder Mediation Center of New Jersey, a collaborative alliance comprised of independent mediators, attorneys, geriatric care managers and other eldercare professionals, which opened its practice center as of January 1, 2008. The Elder Mediation Center of New Jersey provides efficient, knowledgeable, affordable alternate dispute resolution services designed to resolve the conflicts of elders, individuals living with a disability, their families and others.
Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
Founding Member
- Current
Activities: Donald D. Vanarelli, Esq. is a founding member of the Council of Advanced Practitioners (CAP) of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). CAP is an invitation-only group comprised of premier attorneys, representing the most credentialed and talented Elder Law attorneys in the country.
Academy of Special Need Planners
Founding Member
- Current
Activities: The Academy of Special Needs Planners (ASNP) is dedicated to serving the legal planning needs of people with disabilities, their families, and the professionals who serve them. The mission of the ASNP is to maintain a professional organization of attorneys skilled in the complex areas of public entitlements, estate, trust and tax planning, and the legal issues involving individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities.
Center for Guardianship Certification
National Certified Guardian
- Current
Activities: Donald D. Vanarelli, Esq. is certified as a National Certified Guardian by the Center for Guardianship Certification (CGC). The CGC identifies persons who have achieved the requisite level of knowledge, skill, experience, and understanding of the ethical principles and standards of good practice to act as professional guardians.
New York State Bar Association
Member
- Current
New Jersey State Bar Association
Member
- Current
Jurisdictions Admitted to Practice
New Jersey
New York
2nd Circuit
3rd Circuit
U.S. Supreme Court
Practice Areas
  • Elder Law
  • Estate Planning
Additional Practice Areas
  • Medicaid and Public Benefits Planning
  • Social Security and SSI Disability Appeals
  • Special Needs Planning and Disability Law
  • Will Contests, Probate Litigation and Elder Abuse Lawsuits
Social Media
Websites & Blogs
Website
Website
Website
Elder Law Answers
Blog
The Law Office of Donald D. Vanarelli
Blog
Special Needs Answers
Blog
Elder Law Articles by Donald D. Vanarelli
Blog
NJ Elder Law and Estate Planning Videos
Contact & Map
Law Office
242 St. Paul Street
Westfield, NJ 07090
USA
Telephone: (908) 232-7400