Based on Illinois Lawyer’s votes, Leading Lawyer Magazine Fall/Winter Edition announced:
The Top Ten Elder Law Attorneys
1. Rick L. Law
2. Diana M. Law
We are grateful for our colleagues and we deeply appreciate the professional recognition.
We congratulate the other members of the Top Ten List:3. Kerry R. Peck, Peck Bloom LLC4. D. Rebecca Mitchell5. Eve C. Epstein, Epstein and Epstein6. Kenneth M. Bloom, Peck Bloom LLC7. Mark B. Epstein, Epstein and Epstein8. Janna S. Dutton, Dutton & Casey PC9. Joseph T. Monahan, Monahan & Cohen10. Howard Samuel Berk, IL Disability Association & IL Disability Pooled Trust
He looked directly at me and softly said, “Every day I pray ‘the parent’s prayer’—that Mitchell has a long, healthy life, but that Linda and I live just one moment longer, so that no one else ever has to take on the enormous responsibility of caring for our special needs child.”
I was interviewing attorney Brian Rubin of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, who focuses on estate planning and advocacy for clients and families who struggle to find the right answers for their child with special needs.
I recently met Brian when I was invited to join the Special Needs Alliance (SNA). My own law practice is focused on serving seniors who have either a long-term illness or an adult child with a disability.
He went on to tell me, “My adult life started out fairly normally. After college, I worked for a large CPA firm, then went to law school at night, and worked for the IRS by day. I have always had to wear more than one hat.”
Brian, and his wife Linda, never planned to have a law firm which focuses on Special Needs Future Planning—but life often takes an unexpected turn. In January of 1981, their son Mitchell was born. When Mitch was five months old, Linda told Brian, “There is a problem.” Brian says the truth of that statement was the beginning of his going through “the stages of special needs grief”: denial, self-blame, and doctor-hopping. Mitch has autism, among other diagnosed special needs. It soon became apparent that Brian needed to quit his downtown Chicago law practice and stay closer to home. He also wanted to provide appropriate legal guidance and advocacy for his family and others who faced the same issues. “In those days, almost no one was doing any special needs trusts and benefits planning. I was one of the pioneers in Illinois.”
Brian struggled to balance the demands of a law firm and his passion to serve the community of the disabled from 1987-2001.
When Mitch reached 18 years of age in 1999 and became eligible for health care through Medicaid, Brian began thinking about opening a law firm which would be 100% devoted to the laws, regulations, and benefits that both frustrate and support clients with disabilities and their families. Brian opened the doors of The Law Offices of Brian Rubin and Associates in 2001. The firm provides more than just estate planning and special needs trusts. Brian says, “Illinois has a very splintered benefit system. There is no single door of entry, so families are constantly hitting roadblocks. For example, our son Mitchell’s area of autism does not specifically fit in any one legally defined area. He needs a variety of services, but no one agency supplies them as one package. It’s my job as attorney and dad to discover how to get Mitchell the benefits that he needs. We provide that same type of advocacy for our clients.”
He further explained, “We have found that the government does not tell people the whole story. Our job as legal advocates is to tell the whole story and to help get appropriate services and residential environments. We cannot do everything—but we act as the quarterback to get the financial advisor, psychiatrist, health care professionals, education providers, and caseworkers to collaborate to achieve the needed results.”
In closing, Brian shared this: “Mitchell has allowed me, Linda, “big sister/assistant mom” Nicole, and “little/big brother” Benjamin to better appreciate what’s truly important in life… and what is not so important.”
Brian Rubin has created a website (www.brianrubin.com) which is filled with helpful information. In addition, he makes public presentations frequently throughout the Chicago metropolitan area and Illinois.
How do you think you would feel if you could not remember a time that your father or mother did not have memory issues? John Remaly was only nine years old when his dad was diagnosed with Young Onset Alzheimers. He and his sister Alyssa have grown up adjusting to the gradual loss of their dad’s memory and ability to care for himself.
I spoke to John and his mom, Melinda, and asked them to share with me some of the trials and victories that they have experienced during the last few years. John told me that in his family, they have worked together to provide a united front to withstand Alzheimers’ attack on their family happiness. “Most people, when dealing with something like this, start to fight and blame each other. We have decided to use our gift of humor to find creative ways to work with my dad.” He went on to share with me that his father, Rick Remaly, has always been a guy who loves the quick one-liner jokes and over-the-top comedy. He says that the family enjoys shows like Will and Grace, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Family Guy. John and his sister Alyssa love theater and acting, and they have memorized sketches from the different shows, complete with script, dialogue, jokes, and timing. This helps keep their father engaged and laughing. John quickly added, “Dad can still catch ‘quick humor’ and he is very easily amused. In fact, one evening when he was feeling low, I decided that he and I should have a little fun and put calcium tablets in our mouths. Do you know what happens when you put calcium tablets in your mouth? It doesn’t hurt you, but you foam like a rabid dog! Dad and I could not stop laughing.”
Melinda added that life at home is not always humorous and that John has had to take on the role of being an adult and a caregiver for his father. She admires the way John works with his father. Rick seems to take direction better from John than anyone else. “When you’re dealing with Alzheimers, you need to work together as a family and be open to sharing with loved ones and co-workers. You need to be truthful in keeping people informed about the real situation at home.” She went on to say that it’s very important to be able to go out with friends and to have support systems. In fact, one of the key principles in helping the Remalys stay emotionally healthy is recognizing that from time to time, you have to get away from the caregiving at home.
The Remaly family is about to embark on a new phase of life. John Remaly has applied to, and been accepted at, Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. His dad and mom will be losing one of the pillars that support being able to provide for Rick at home. John wrote a college admissions essay in October 2009 which detailed his experiences in growing up with Alzheimers. The entire text is available by clicking on this link: John Remaly’s College Admissions Essay
In both October 2008 and October 2009, Melinda Remaly organized a group to participate in the Alzheimers walk in Libertyville, Illinois called “On the Move for Alzheimers.” Each year the family, friends, and John’s friends from school walked together to raise funds for Alzheimers research. All the friends and family members wore t-shirts that said. “Walk for Rick.” On the back of Mr. Remaly’s t-shirt it said, “I am Rick.”
We here at Law Elder Law are grateful that the Remaly family has chosen us to be their legal advocates.
Our Law Elder Law motto is “Serving Seniors and Those Who Love Them.” Jo Buscemi, niece of Raffaella Calabrese (more affectionately known as “Auntie Florence”), shared these words with me and asked me to share them with you:
Dear Mr. Law,
Around October 2008 my mother and I had our first meeting with Mr. Jonathan Johnson in regards to my Aunt Raffaella Calabrese (“Auntie Florence”). My aunt had suffered for years with dementia and had various (six in all) live-in caregivers. I was told by many to keep my aunt in familiar surroundings for as long as possible and I being her power of attorney, I did exactly that.
I came to your Aurora office one day and had our initial meeting with Jonathan. I was very apprehensive. Norridge HealthCare Facility recommended that I talk with you folks. Well, after our second meeting with Jonathan and many phone calls and questions, we returned in about November of 2008 and contracted with your firm for assistance. I put off as long as I possibly could placing Auntie in a nursing home, and then only because our sixth caregiver was returning to Poland and Auntie had exhausted all her life’s savings in addition to what I paid for from my savings. I have MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and it was difficult to care for my aunt and mom, so I had to quit my job two years ago. But this letter is not about me—it is about my Auntie Florence.
Auntie went to live at Norridge HealthCare Facility on June 18, 2009 and sadly, she passed away on February 9, 2010. We were very satisfied with this facility and its staff. During this time I was assigned to Gina Salamone as our attorney at Law Elder Law. I know I drove Gina and Sean (and everyone who answered the phone) nuts with all my calls and my frantic questions and nervousness. I do believe Gina and I have a bond, though, and I trusted her with my precious family member and for that I am very grateful to her.
I have recommended people to your firm and I have even gone as far as handing out Jonathan’s and Gina’s phone numbers—and advised these people to get all their ducks in a row now rather than wait.
I have attached a picture of Auntie Florence and I wish you to express my family’s sincere appreciation for all the thousand times I called, ranted, cried, and went nuts—but your staff never gave up, not once. Gina even went to the DHS regional manager on our behalf.
Mr. Law, I really appreciate everything your entire staff did for Auntie, and I promise you I will always recommend people who need this type of help to your firm. God bless everyone at Law Elder Law in Aurora, Illinois. Thank you all again on behalf of Auntie Florence and the Buscemi family—we truly thank you. Please enjoy the catered lunch on Thursday that my family is having delivered to your office.
Hogar De Ancianos San Buenaventura, Turrialba, Costa Rica, Central America
My wife, Rose, and I recently visited the county nursing home in Turrialba, Costa Rica. We lived in Turrialba for a year in 2003-2004 to study Spanish and to learn a different culture, and our lives have been forever changed and broadened by that experience. We now feel at home in this Spanish-speaking land. We love being here surrounded by tropical birds, coffee plantations, and sugar cane fields.
This trip we wanted to learn about the local county nursing home, so we asked our friend and Spanish teacher, Olivia to ask permission to visit. Yesterday we visited what is literally called “Home for the Ancient Ones”—Hogar de Ancianos. We like it that Costa Ricans are not troubled by our North American political correctness filter. They often call me “Gordo” which means chubby… oh well! If someone has green eyes they are called “Gato” or “Gatica,” which means cat or kitten. But back to my story.
Olivia was our guide and we were accompanied by the assistant to the administrator, Benigne Solono Trejos, a living example of caring and compassion. The facility is nestled into the volcanic mountainside of Turrialba and has a panoramic view of the now-active Turrialba Volcano and the widespread green of the valley below. There were tropical flowers everywhere upon the grounds of the Hogar. The windows and doors of the residents’ rooms were wide open to admit the warm sunshine and gentle breezes. It can be cold here, but the average temperature year round is a lovely life-giving 75 degrees F.
Costa Rica is the wealthiest country in Central America, but it is not rich by Western European or North American standards. The facility may lack much of the equipment that is taken for granted in the USA, but the most important resources are present in abundance—loving and compassionate caregivers and administrators. The facility smells of flowers and cleanliness! I inspected every room and they were clean, clean, clean!
Our administrative hostess, Sr. Solono, has worked at the facility for 16 years and has sacrificed to stay at the Hogar and provide care for “the Old Ones.” She considers every aged resident a part of her family. At every room, it was obvious that the residents feel respected and valued. They live in a place of dignity.
Most of the residents sat outside in the open air. It was a beautiful day! The buildings are designed with rooftops with large overhangs to create a front porch-terrace effect. Those who were able could walk around, pet the dog, and volunteer to help in the laundry or do other small chores. After all, everyone of every age wants to feel useful.
There are about 70 full-time residents at the home. Surprisingly, there are far more men than women. If you have visited a nursing home in the U.S. you know that there are very few men, since women typically outlive men by many years. I asked how it could be that there were more men than women. I was told that in Costa Rica, families try to keep the old ones at home and that women are able to provide more help with child care, cooking, and cleaning than men. My wife said, “See I told you that you men are harder to take care of!”
The question of paying for long term care was my next enquiry. Sr. Solono told us that the central and local governments provide only a bit of support. In fact, just like in the U.S., government may give with one hand but take with the other. In Costa Rica, the government keeps raising the standards of care but provides no money to accomplish those goals. Amazingly, one of the biggest sources of funding for the Hogar is a lottery which is conducted on an as-needed basis. (The Hogar must receive a governmental permit to sell lottery tickets within the county that they serve.) In addition, they own a fairgrounds where they conduct an annual fair as a fundraiser. Fundraising is a constant concern and activity of the administration and many volunteers.
As we visited many residents, we were cheerfully greeted by those who were able. I fell in love with Eva, an octogenarian who happily spoke excellent English. Her career was as an assistant in the international center of agriculture called Catie. She shares a room with her sister, who is confined to a wheelchair and sat quietly until she spied my bare legs sticking out below my walking shorts. She is the first woman in my life to become excited upon seeing my legs! She chortled and in Spanish she told me that I had chubby legs. Olivia, our Spanish teacher, said that she was flirting with me. My wife stated flatly, “You should be so lucky!”
I want to thank Sr. Solono Trejos and the entire team at the Hogar de Ancianos San Buenaventura. You are doing a great job as you serve seniors and those who love them!
Here at Law Elder Law, I like to refer to our team as the ‘Teddy Bear Lawyers.” On the other hand, my dear friend Kerry Peck is a man who I happily refer to as the “Grizzly Bear Lawyer.” He is at Cook County Courthouse every day that it is open. Kerry is much more than a great courtroom attorney—he is a wonderful human being! Recently, my daughter, Attorney Diana Law, wrote the following letter about Mr. Peck:
“Kerry R. Peck is not only an extraordinary attorney, but he is an extraordinary human being. He and his law firm are known for passionate advocacy, leadership in the legal and civic community, and holistic representation. The firm Peck Bloom strives to fulfill their motto of “Winning Solutions In and Out of the Courtroom.”Mr. Peck represents clients who are emotionally drained and vulnerable. They may have just lost a loved one; or received a devastating medical diagnosis; or they are trying to protect the rights of their child with disabilities; or they are embroiled in tumultuous familial conflicts while administering a contested trust or estate. Despite this, he provides his clients with dignity, unequalled representation, and superb service. He meets his clients where they are, and he appreciates their need for compassion and empathy.Mr. Peck is not afraid of hard work, both physically and mentally. He has a unique ability to take what he has learned from law books and his experience and merge them into a vigorous representation of his clients.Mr. Peck is a man of impeccable character who inspires me and others to be committed to professionalism and integrity. As a young elder law attorney who is fortunate enough to call Kerry my mentor, I have turned to him with many questions concerning the interplay between ethics and my clients’ particular needs and circumstances. He is an amazing sounding board and teacher. He not only teaches me the correct technical answers, but also how these answers will affect the lives of the people we serve. He constantly opens my eyes to a much bigger picture then I would have seen before. If we all navigated by his moral compass, we would never lose our way.Mr. Peck has dedicated his life to serving others and championing the rights of the elderly and persons with disabilities. He is sought after by our local and state governments to advise judges and legislators on the laws affecting the elderly, including writing the State of Illinois “Elder Abuse and Neglect Act.”Despite the myriad hours Mr. Peck has clocked to serve his clients and the profession, he makes time to serve the community through civic, charitable, and religious organizations. The commitment and dedication Mr. Peck demonstrates to bar associations and community organizations is the same commitment and dedication he shows to his family and clients. I must also mention Mr. Peck’s unparalleled generosity. He is a man who freely gives of his time, talents, and finances to those who are in need.Lastly, I have seen Mr. Peck in both personal and professional settings, and I admire the way he speaks to everyone with respect and good humor—whether it is a CEO or a waiter at the restaurant table.”
We highly recommend Kerry Peck, Esq. and the fine legal team of Peck Bloom, when and if you are seeking excellent legal counsel for probate, guardianship, estate planning, or disability planning in Cook County.