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Donald D. Vanarelli

Attorney Profile

Top Rated Elder Law Attorney in Westfield, NJ

Law Office of Donald D. Vanarelli
242 St. Paul Street
Westfield, NJ 07090
Phone: 908-232-7400
Fax: 908-232-7214
Selected to Super Lawyers: 2007 - 2022
Licensed in New Jersey Since: 1983
Practice Areas: Elder Law (40%), Estate & Trust Litigation (30%), Estate Planning & Probate (20%), Social Security Disability (10%)
Languages Spoken: English, Chinese-Mandarin

Disclosure

No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey. Please visit the Super Lawyers Selection Process for a detailed description of the Super Lawyers selection methodology.

Attorney Profile

New Jersey attorney Donald D. Vanarelli is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, by NJ State Bar Assn., Elder and Disability Law Section. The 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. He is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney, by National Elder Law Foundation, accredited by the ABA. He has been named to the Super Lawyers list for 14 years, and he's rated "AV Preeminent" by Martindale-Hubble, the highest rating available for legal ability and ethical standards.

Mr. Vanarelli focuses his practice on elder law, estate planning, special needs planning and probate litigation. With his Westfield-based firm, Mr. Vanarelli represents elderly and disabled individuals and their representatives in cases involving long-term medical care, Medicare, Medicaid, VA, and other public benefits, will contests, contested guardianships, administrative appeals, elder abuse trials and special needs planning. He also has experience with family law matters such as elder mediation, divorce mediation and collaborative services. 

Mr. Vanarelli was lead counsel in Saccone v. Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, a precedent-setting Special Needs Trust case decided by the NJ Supreme Court, and in In re Keri, a landmark NJ Supreme Court Elder Law / Guardianship case. Mr. Vanarelli was also co-counsel in Galletta v. Velez, in which a federal court held, for the first time, that VA pension benefits are not countable in determining Medicaid eligibility.

Mr. Vanarelli's qualifications allow him to represent a diverse range of clients in Westfield and throughout the metropolitan area. Early in his career, Mr. Vanarelli served in the Peace Corps and worked for the Social Security Administration. A graduate of Montclair State University, Mr. Vanarelli earned his law degree from Rutgers School of Law and is licensed to practice in both New Jersey and New York.

Mr. Vanarelli is a founding member of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys and a charter member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

Other professional organizations that Mr. Vanarelli belongs to include the National Guardianship Association, Inc., the New Jersey State Bar Association and the New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators. He also served as a panelist on the Union County Probate Early Settlement Panel and on the board of directors for the Society on Aging of New Jersey. He currently serves as a representative for the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives.

Practice Areas
  • 40%Elder Law
  • 30%Estate & Trust Litigation
  • 20%Estate Planning & Probate
  • 10%Social Security Disability
Focus Areas

Will Contests, Estate Planning, Guardianships & Conservatorships, Living Wills, Power of Attorney, Probate & Estate Administration, Trusts, Wills

Selections

16 Years Super Lawyers
  • Super Lawyers: 2007 - 2022

About Donald D. Vanarelli

First Admitted: 1983, New Jersey

Professional Webpage: https://vanarellilaw.com/donald-d-vanarelli/

Honors/Awards

  • To be certified in Elder Law, an attorney must have practiced Elder Law for at least five (5) years, had substantive involvement in the practice areas that make up Elder Law, passed a full day written exam, and received references from five (5) Elder Law attorneys. In addition to knowing about Elder Law generally, a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) must be capable of recognizing issues of concern that arise during counseling and representation of older persons and special needs clients or their representatives., Certified Elder Law Attorney, National Elder Law Foundation, Certified by the American Bar Association
  • "AV Preeminent" Rated by Martindale-Hubbell, 2006 - Present
  • Donald D. Vanarelli, Esq., has been named to the New Jersey “Super Lawyer” list in the areas of Elder Law, Estate Planning / Probate, and Estate / Probate Litigation in 2016. Mr. Vanarelli was previously named to the New Jersey “Super Lawyer” list in years 2007 through 2015. , Named to the New Jersey Super Lawyer List, 2007
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, NJ State Bar Association, Elder and Disability Law Section, 2015

Videos

Educational Background

  • Rutgers Law School - Newark
  • Montclair State College, B.A. in English Literature and History, Honors: Dean's List

Special Licenses/Certifications

  • Certified Elder Law Attorney, National Elder Law Foundation, an American Bar Association Certifying Organization
  • Accredited Professional Mediator, New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators, 2007 - Present
  • Registered Guardian, National Guardianship Foundation, 2005 - Present
  • National Certified Guardian

Representative Clients

  • Association of Retarded Citizens (ARC) of Union County Lifetime Support
  • Planned Lifetime Assistance Network of New Jersey (PLAN/NJ)

Pro bono/Community Service

  • Peace Corps Volunteer in Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Panelist, Union County Probate Early Settlement Panel, 2006 - Present

Verdicts/Settlements

  • Lead counsel in Saccone v. Police and Firemen's Retirement System, a precedent-setting Special Needs Trust case. In Saccone, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled, for the first time, 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, 219 N.J. 369, 98 (2014) , 2014
  • Co-counsel in Galletta v. Velez, Civil No. 13-532 (D.N.J. June 3, 2014), in which a federal district judge, for the first time, ruled that a VA pension benefit may not be counted as income in determining eligibility for any Medicaid program., 2014
  • Lead counsel in In re Keri, 181 NJ 50 (2004), a landmark NJ Supreme Court case in which guardians, for the first time, were permitted to engage in public benefits planning to obtain Medicaid eligibility for their wards. 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…”., 2004

Bar/Professional Activity

  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Presented by the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Elder and Disability Law Section. 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., 2015
  • Certified Elder Law Attorney, by the National Elder Law Foundation, accredited by the American Bar Association. Elder Law is a legal specialty which has been formally recognized by New Jersey’s Supreme Court through the American Bar Association’s accreditation of legal specialties program. To be certified in Elder Law, an attorney must have practiced Elder Law for at least five (5) years, had substantive involvement in the practice areas that make up Elder Law, passed a full day written exam, and received references from five (5) Elder Law attorneys. Only about 50 attorneys in New Jersey have attained the level of expertise required to be board-certified as Elder Law attorneys., 1998
  • Past Chairman, Elder and Disability Law Section, New Jersey State Bar Association.
  • Founding Member, Academy of Special Needs Planners. 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. ASNP members are some of the most highly credentialed attorneys in the country, dedicated to providing the highest quality service and advice in the practice of disability and public benefits law. Members of the ASNP devote a significant part of their practices to helping individuals with special needs and their families plan for the future. They are familiar with the special challenges such individuals and families face, as well as the resources available to them in the community.
  • Accredited Veterans Attorney.Donald D. Vanarelli, Esq. is honored to have received accreditation by the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) to prepare, present and prosecute claims for veterans before the VA. To receive accreditation, federal law requires an attorney to pass a written examination and to complete continuing legal education covering, at a minimum, the following topics: VA representation, disability compensation, dependency and indemnity compensation and pension benefits, claim procedures, eligibility requirements, and appeal rights. An attorney must also establish that he or she is of good character and reputation.
  • Named to the New Jersey Super Lawyers list in Elder Law for 15 years, from 2007 through 2021. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. The New Jersey Supreme Court upheld the findings of a Special Master assigned by the Court to examine the details of the Super Lawyers selection process. In his July 2008 report, the Special Master lauded the Super Lawyers lawyer-rating process, finding it to be "a comprehensive, good-faith and detailed attempt to produce a list of lawyers that have attained high peer recognition, meet ethical standards, and have demonstrated some degree of achievement in their field.” “Suffice to say, the selection procedures employed by [Super Lawyers] are very sophisticated, comprehensive and complex.”  
  • Rated "AV Preeminent" by Martindale-Hubbell, Signifying Professional Excellence. The “AV Preeminent” designation signifies that Attorney Donald D. Vanarelli has been rated by judges and fellow attorneys as having attained the highest level of professional excellence in two areas: legal ability and ethical standards.
  • Founding Member, Council of Advanced Practitioners (CAP) of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). CAP was established in July 2005 as an invitation-only group of premier attorneys, representing the most credentialed and talented Elder Law attorneys in the country. An eligible CAP candidate must be: A NAELA member for a minimum of ten years; AV-rated by Martindale Hubbell; and, Either a NAELA Fellow or a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA).
  • Selected to participate in the Union County Probate Early Settlement Panel. The Probate Early Settlement Panel is an invitation-only mediation panel of experienced estate and elder law attorneys who are specifically selected by the Chancery Judge in Union County, NJ based upon reputation, quality of work and experience. Panelists on the Probate Early Settlement Panel assist the court by mediating contested probate, estate and guardianship cases, as well as pending will contests, at no cost to the litigants.
  • Formerly employed by the Social Security Administration as a Social Security Claims Representative, adjudicating claims for benefits under the Social Security, SSI, Medicare and Medicaid programs. As a former Social Security Claims Representative, Mr. Vanarelli has years of experience adjudicating claims for Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. Mr. Vanarelli has attained substantial experience with government benefit programs through his employment by the Social Security Administration as a Social Security Claims Representativ
  • Accredited Professional Mediator.Donald D. Vanarelli, Esq. is an Accredited Professional Mediator (APM), a designation awarded by the New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators (NJAPM). He is also a past Director, NJAPM’s Board of Directors, and a member of NJAPM. The APM designation is awarded to those mediators who have attained a high level of education and experience in mediation. Mr. Vanarelli is also approved under the New Jersey Court Rules as a Mediator in family and divorce matters, and civil, equity and probate litigation.
  • Certified as a National Certified Guardian by the Center for Guardianship Certification.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. The certification process includes acquiring a basic floor of necessary knowledge (eligibility), demonstrating proficiency in core competencies (examination), enhancing skills and understanding (continuing education), maintaining ethical conduct (re-certification), and avoiding malfeasance (de-certification).
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Office Location for Donald D. Vanarelli

242 St. Paul Street
Westfield, NJ 07090

Phone: 908-232-7400

Fax: 908-232-7214

Last Updated: 10/29/2021

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