The Elder Law and Special Needs Section provides services and opportunities for involvement on issues relating to Elder Law and Special Needs Law, for members of the New York State Bar Association.  Among activities, the Section presents educational  programs and publishes materials on practice, procedure and developments to enhance the competence and skill of lawyers who practice in this field and improve their ability to deliver the most efficient and highest quality of services to their clients; prepare studies, analyses and recommendations to seek improvement in the law and procedure relating to elder law; and undertake projects to increase the understanding of senior citizens, their families and the general public concerning legal issues affecting the elderly.

Elder Law and Special Needs Section Committees

Elder Law and Special Needs Section members may join any of the section’s committees at no additional charge. See the tab marked ‘Section Committees’ for a full listing.

You may join a committee by updating your NYSBA member profile online, or by making a direct request with the Elder Law and Special Needs Section Liaison, Bridget Donlon at [email protected].

Important Notice About Committee Memberships: Section committee memberships are self-managed.  Please confirm your committee memberships when renewing your association dues to ensure that you continue to receive all communications, meeting details, and any community access.  Failure to confirm committee memberships may result in you being removed from their member rosters.

You may confirm your committee memberships by logging into your NYSBA member profile online or by reaching out directly to the Elder Law and Special Needs Section Liaison, Bridget Donlon at [email protected].

Contact the Elder Law and Special Needs Section Liaison

To learn more about this Section, please contact Bridget Donlon
[email protected]
(518) 487-5531

Please do not contact the Section liaison with a request for legal advice or an attorney referral. You can instead visit our ‘Public Resources’ or ‘Lawyer Referral Service’ page for this type of request.

2023-24 Elder Law and Special Needs Section Chair

Fern J. Finkel, Esq.
Fern Finkel and Associates, PLLC

I am truly honored to begin my term as Chair of the Elder Law and Special Needs Section.

Having been an active member of this Section for many years, I have had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with so many wonderful colleagues.  The camaraderie between the members of our Section is invaluable, allowing us to share ideas and learn from one another.

Whether you have participated for years or are newly admitted, I encourage you to become active and involved in all that our Section has to offer.  Our Publications Committee is seeking articles of interest from our members.  I invite you to look through our Section Committees and join those which are of interest to you.  With Committee meetings largely held on Zoom, it is a convenient way to connect with colleagues.

I look forward to a productive term with my fellow officers: Chair-Elect Britt Burner, Vice-Chair Rick Marchese, Secretary Tammy Lawlor, Treasurer Lindsay Heckler, Financial Officer Salvatore Di Costanzo, and Immediate Past Chair Christopher Bray.

Please feel free to reach out to me by phone (347-296-8200) or by email ([email protected]) if you are looking for ways to become more involved in our Section, or if I can be of assistance to you in any way.

With gratitude, excitement, and anticipation for a successful year,

Fern J. Finkel

Online Community

Elder Law Journal 2023 Vol 33 No 3_Cover

Elder and Special Needs Law Journal

The Elder and Special Needs Law Journal (formerly the Elder Law Attorney) features peer written substantive articles relating to the practice of elder law on such topics as long term care, Article 81, advance directives, Medicaid, SNTs, guardianship, Social Security, tax issues, and estate planning. Edited by Katherine Carpenter, Esq. and Lauren Enea, Esq., the Elder and Special Needs Law Journal is published by the Elder Law and Special Needs Section of the New York State Bar Association and available to Section members only.

The Elder and Special Needs Law Journal encourages article submissions on topics of interest to members of the Section. Writing an article for a NYSBA Section publication is a great way to get your name out in the legal community and advertise your knowledge. Our authors are respected state-wide for their legal expertise in such areas as the DRA, Medicaid, SNTs, grandparent’s rights, and guardianships.

Author Guidelines

NYSBA has created comprehensive author guidelines, with information regarding our reprint policy, style guidelines, and obtaining MCLE Author Credits.



Honorable Joel K. Asarch Elder Law and Special Needs Section Scholarship
Asarch Scholarship
The Elder Law and Special Needs Section encourages law students, through an elder law clinic experience, to learn about important legislative developments, regulations, and case laws impacting the elderly and disabled and to provide representation to those clients struggling with a variety of legal issues and problems related to aging and incapacity.

Through the scholarship, the Section aspires to advance opportunities for the disabled by implementing a preference for awarding the scholarship to a student who demonstrates a present and permanent physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of the individual.

The ultimate goal of the scholarship is to create a network and cultivate relationships among lawyers whose practice focuses on elder law and special needs planning and law students planning to practice in these areas to encourage the practice of elder law and special needs planning among lawyers throughout the State of New York.

T. David Stapleton Memorial Scholarship

The Section is pleased to offer this Scholarship in honor of former Section Chair, T. David Stapleton. The scholarship, with a value of $2,500, will be awarded to a second year (2L) or third year (3L) law student who is enrolled in a law school in the State of New York in one of the following regions: Central New York, Finger Lakes, Southern Tier and Western New York who has a demonstrated interest in the Elder Law and Special Needs practice areas and/or a law student that is from this region, studying at a law school outside the region who has clear plans to return to the region to practice Elder Law.

T. David Stapleton practiced in Auburn, NY and served as NYSBA Elder Law & Special Needs Section Chair from 2011-2012, after having followed the officer track and being involved in leadership within the Section leading up to such role. David not only led as a tremendous lawyer, he advocated for “upstate” involvement, sought to expand our knowledge of literature by peppering almost every writing and conversation with a poignant quote, encouraged a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise and demonstrated the importance of family, friends, and camaraderie among lawyers.

David’s signature issue during his tenure as Chair was the expansion and rescinding of expanded Medicaid estate recovery. Some will recall his having mentioned that while he understood the underlying concept of the state in seeking to expand recovery options, he truly believed the powers-that-be did not appreciate the devastating impact it would have on the “little folks” who would lose even modest inheritances if the expansion was carried out.

While not diminutive in stature, David always diminished his breadth of knowledge of the law, often calling himself a “small, upstate lawyer.” It is our honor to offer this scholarship in David’s memory to another potential “small, upstate lawyer.”

Mentor Program

Elder Law and Special Needs Section Offers Opportunities for Mentoring

The Elder Law and Special Needs Mentor Program his program pairs an experienced elder law attorney with a Section member new to the practice of elder law for the coming year.  The term is for one year, commencing April 30th and ending May 1st.  The mentoring program will provide

  • A one-on-one mentoring initiative matching experienced Elder Law and Special Needs attorneys with those who are newer to the practice; and
  • Opportunities to work together on section programs, reports and events that will enhance careers and the profession.

The mentoring relationships will incorporate several different elements, encompassing a mix of formal and more “ad hoc” opportunities for mentors and mentees to collaborate.  Section Committee Chairs are poised to welcome mentor/mentee pairs to work together on committee projects, reports, events, etc.  As for ad hoc opportunities, we look forward to seeing what pairs produce, and to learning from one another.  We plan that there will be at least one communication per month, whether in person, by telephone or email, to keep continuity and maximize the value to the participants.


  1. You must be practicing elder law for 5 years or fewer;
  2. You must be a member in good standing of the Elder Law and Special Needs Section of NYSBA; and
  3. You must attend at least 2 Section meetings.

We are hoping to make 21 matches this year:

  • 7 matches for Mentees living or practicing in the 1st, 2nd, 12th and 13th Judicial Districts.
  • 7 matches for Mentees living or practicing in the 9th, 10th and 11th Judicial Districts.
  • 7 matches for Mentees living or practicing in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Judicial Districts.

While we are hoping to accommodate as many pairings as possible, in the event we receive more requests for Mentees than we have available Mentors, selection of Mentees will be made randomly.

If you are interested in applying to be a Mentor or Mentee, please fill out the appropriate form below and email to the Mentorship Committee Co-Chairs, Miles Zatkowsky
([email protected]) and Honorable Timothy O’Rourke ([email protected]


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