The Virginia Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, or VAELA, is a non-profit professional organization. Its mission is to educate and empower legal representation of elderly and/or disabled clients and their families. OFP Shareholder Catherine Schott Murray currently serves as VAELA’s President.
How does VAELA help protect/advocate the interests of seniors or the disabled?
Catherine Schott Murray: VAELA Is leading the way in special needs and elder law in Virginia by educating, inspiring and empowering legal representation of elderly and disabled clients and their families, and by advocating their issues before courts and legislatures. In representing a diverse set of individuals and families with unique issues by providing practical and common-sense advice, VAELA members help their clients to protect family members with disabilities and to age with dignity.
What are the biggest challenges to protecting the legal interests of older Virginians and those with special needs, and how can VAELA help to drive change?
CSM: Each year members of VAELA tackle changes to the rules and regulations relating to guardianship, financial exploitation, Medicaid, estate planning, and estate and trust administration. Given that VAELA members are very often the first responders to incidents involving these issues, these same members are among the most knowledgeable in providing advice and guidance to navigate those changes. Furthermore, members of VAELA can provide invaluable input into proposed legislation that may impact an individual’s life.
What are your key priorities this year as you take the helm of VAELA?
CSM: One of the key priorities this year is for VAELA to help cultivate the next generation of elder law attorneys through its mentorship program and annual conferences such as its Fall Conference and annual UnProgram. Through these programs, VAELA can ensure that the elderly and people with disabilities receive the specialized service and advice they need by educating this next generation.
How can elder law attorneys learn more and get involved with VAELA?
CSM: Anyone interested in learning more about VAELA should visit our website: www.vaela.org.