RJ Connelly III - Rhode Island's Face of Elder Law for 2023
By Don Drake, Connelly Law Offices, Ltd.
The recently published "Faces of Rhode Island 2023 Edition," presented by Rhode Island Monthly magazine, features the prominent personalities of the Ocean State. In that edition, Professional fiduciary and certified elder law Attorney RJ Connelly III is once again recognized as the "Face of Elder Law" in Rhode Island. This recognition highlights his exceptional expertise and contribution to the state's elder law and estate planning field.
Attorney Connelly is highly respected in the community for his dedication and commitment to providing legal assistance to the elderly, those with disabilities, and their families. Let's take a closer look at his background and what led him to specialize in elder law and estate planning.
"When I first began my journey in law school, I was certain about one thing - my desire to help people," said Attorney Connelly. "However, I wasn't quite sure about the exact path I wanted to take in order to fulfill this goal. During my time in school, I attended some classes focusing on the elderly and disability law. Through these classes, I discovered that practicing elder law was going to be my career choice. Not only did this field allow me to help people, but it also allowed me to constantly learn and grow as the laws and regulations governing it are ever-changing. The more I learned about elder law, the more I realized it was the perfect combination of my desire to help people and my passion for a challenging and dynamic field."
Commitment to Seniors
Attorney Connelly is an individual who strongly believes that ageism is a pervasive issue in our society. "As people grow older, it is not uncommon for them to encounter various physical and emotional challenges that can make aging difficult," he stated. "Unfortunately, many individuals tend to shy away from addressing these issues, which can contribute to ageism, a term used to describe a tendency to regard older individuals as debilitated and unworthy of attention or respect."
Ageism can manifest in various ways, including discriminatory practices in the workplace, healthcare, housing, and other areas of life. These attitudes can also lead to social isolation and a lack of opportunities for older individuals to participate fully in society.
"Our society often holds a belief that seniors are no longer useful or valuable," said Attorney Connelly. "It is important to recognize the vast amount of knowledge and wisdom that they have accumulated over their long lives. Even a simple story about their experiences or the historical events they have witnessed can be incredibly valuable for us all. We need to do more than just show respect to our elders - we need to be there for them when they need us, lend a helping hand as they did for us when we were younger, and be willing to provide the necessary services for them at the end of their lives."
Commitment to Those with Disabilities
Attorney Connelly is also a proponent of creating a society that is free of ableism, which is a pervasive problem that affects people with physical, intellectual, or psychiatric disabilities. Ableism is a set of beliefs and practices that devalue and discriminate against individuals with disabilities and is often based on the assumption that they need to be "fixed" in some way. This type of discrimination can manifest in various ways, such as assuming that people with disabilities are less capable or intelligent than those without, or treating them as objects of pity or charity while ignoring their needs.
Attorney Connelly is a strong advocate for equality and believes that every individual, irrespective of their abilities, should be granted the same level of respect and dignity that they deserve. He firmly believes that people with disabilities should have unrestricted access to all the services and protections that are available to others, and he works tirelessly to ensure that they receive the same treatment as everyone else.
More About Elder Law and Estate Planning
Elder Law is a distinct legal specialty that focuses on providing legal services to a unique group of clients, namely, those who require assistance related to public benefits due to their inability to pay for their own care. Although not all of these clients are elderly, the majority of them share this common characteristic. However, some clients may not be elderly, yet still require assistance due to their special needs or disabilities.
"As an Elder Law attorney, my primary goal is to help these clients navigate complex legal issues and ensure that they receive the support and care they need," Attorney Connelly continued. "While I always advise clients to engage in pre-planning to avoid potential crises, the reality is that many clients seek my services when their situations have become urgent and require immediate attention. Whether it's helping clients apply for Medicaid or other public benefits, creating trusts to protect assets, developing special needs trusts, or providing guidance on long-term care, my role is to offer compassionate and personalized legal services that meet each client's unique needs."
Attorney Connelly specializes in legal matters related to long-term care planning (Medicaid Planning), nursing home care, financial and healthcare decision-making, and housing options. He also handles cases related to probates, estates, special needs trusts, real estate, guardianship, incapacity issues, exploitation, and abuse.
"I believe in treating elderly clients with dignity and respect and empowering them by educating them about their options and helping them make informed decisions about their legal matters," stated Attorney Connelly. "I am committed to providing excellent service to our clients and work hard to ensure that they receive the best possible outcome in their cases. To assist me in this endeavor, we have a knowledgeable and experienced staff that shares a similar commitment."
Certified Elder Law Attorney
During our conversation, we discussed the legal aspects of caring for elderly individuals, estate planning, and other areas of need for seniors and their families. But what about the significance of the title "Certified Elder Law Attorney." We asked Attorney Connelly to provide more information on what this title entails and what it means for someone who holds it.
"To become a certified elder law attorney, (CELA), an attorney must demonstrate a high level of knowledge and experience in the field of elder law," said Attorney Connelly. "They must meet rigorous standards set by the National Elder Law Foundation, including a minimum of five years of experience in elder law, completion of continuing legal education courses in elder law, and passing a rigorous exam that tests their knowledge of the state of older adult law in their jurisdiction."
Areas within the elder law specialization include:
Estate planning and probate.
Long-term care planning.
Medicaid planning, Medicaid crisis planning, and Medicare eligibility.
Social Security benefits.
Powers of attorney and other advance directives.
Special needs planning for children and adults with disabilities.
Although many elder law attorneys are highly skilled and experienced, a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) offers exceptional expertise and representation in matters concerning elder law. With their advanced training and specialization in elder law, an attorney with a CELA provides their clients with expert guidance and representation to navigate the complex legal issues that affect older adults and those with disabilities effectively.
It's important to note that the only organization approved by the American Bar Association for offering certification in the area of elder law is the National Elder Law Foundation and its Certified Elder Law Attorney title. According to the American Bar Association, only the specialties of Patent Attorneys, Proctors in Admiralty, and Certified Elder Law Attorneys are recognized. Lawyers in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts are licensed by the courts to practice law in general, but no lawyer is recognized, licensed, or certified as an expert or specialist in any particular field of practice.
A Final Thought
"I am proud to be viewed as Rhode Island's Face of Elder Law for 2023," stated Attorney Connelly proudly. "I love spending time with seniors and their families, listening to their stories, and assisting them in meeting their needs. Seniors and those with disabilities hold a special place in my heart, and I recognize the importance of helping them navigate the complexities of today's changing society. My work as an elder law attorney has been tremendously fulfilling, and I find purpose in assisting older adults, seniors, those with disabilities, their families, and other senior care providers. Pursuing one's passion daily is key to a fulfilling life, positively impacting our clients."
Please note that the information provided in this blog is not intended to and should not be construed as legal, financial, or medical advice. The content, materials, and information presented in this blog are solely for general informational purposes and may not be the most up-to-date information available regarding legal, financial, or medical matters. This blog may also contain links to other third-party websites that are included for the convenience of the reader or user. Please note that Connelly Law Offices, Ltd. does not necessarily recommend or endorse the contents of such third-party sites. If you have any particular legal matters, financial concerns, or medical issues, we strongly advise you to consult your attorney, professional fiduciary advisor, or medical provider.