New elder-law firm opens Hudson officeJennifer O’Neill said she developed her new business with elder-law clients in mind. She opened O’Neill Elder Law on Sept. 1 at 900 Crest View Drive, Suite #220, in Hudson.
By: By Debbie Griffin, Hudson Star-Observer
Jennifer O’Neill said she developed her new business with elder-law clients in mind.
When they come to an attorney for help in making difficult decisions like, “Should we put dad in a nursing home and can we afford it?” or, “How do we address mom’s competency?” she wants them to feel they are in a comfortable, secure place where they can be at ease.
Her service coordinator Susan Vold agrees and says the people coming to their office make such hard decisions, she and O’Neill felt it important to create a friendly setting.
After working 4 1/2 years at the Hudson law firm of Lommen Abdo, O’Neill started working from her home in River Falls last August, then opened O’Neill Elder Law Sept. 1 at 900 Crest View Drive, Suite #220, in Hudson.
She and Vold considered their clients as they designed the layout of the new office: Easy access from the parking lot; carpet that prevents tripping hazards; a conference room close to the front door; lots of natural light; and an open kitchen recommended by the architect that creates a “heart-of-the-home feel.”
O’Neill Elder Law employs four people: Attorney Jennifer O’Neill; service coordinator Susan Vold; legal assistant Tiffany Petersen; and office manager and also Jennifer’s husband, Alan O’Neill.
The couple has three young boys at home, and she says about the new business, “It’s also provided us the opportunity for more family time.”
O’Neill said it was also important to her that all of the firm’s employees feel at home. For example, Petersen soon returns from maternity leave and will bring her new baby to the office with her.
“I’m very committed to making this a family-friendly, comfortable place,” said O’Neill.
O’Neill says in doing estate planning, she came to like elder law and its clients so much, she began gravitating toward that area.
It began growing in the late 1980s, out of a need to negotiate and understand the many, complex government programs available to both the elderly and disabled.
Under the elder-law umbrella sits medical issues, competency issues, powers of attorney, technological changes and many others.
Vold says along with that goes understanding the consequences and ramifications of the choices people make regarding the issues.
“It’s not just estate planning or the programs but helping people understand their options,” said O’Neill. “I want people to realize they have options.”
From that philosophy sprung her firm’s tagline, “Empowering Personal Choices.”
Clients — about 275 so far — come to her with issues like one or both elderly clients needing or wondering about elder care, assisted living or how to manage assets.
Some people want to conserve land that’s been in their family for decades but aren’t sure how best to do it. Others simply want to settle their affairs properly.
O’Neill says she talks to many families with disabled family members about how to negotiate the different benefits available to them.
“I also help kids with aging parents,” she said, including helping the parents realize they need help and assisting the kids in knowing how and what to do.
The attorney helps people tie up loose legal ends before and/or after a death in their family, and with many other complex legal matters.
A specialist’s credentials
O’Neill earned her certification in elder law from the National Elder Law Foundation after passing what she calls a very difficult exam with only an 18 percent pass rate. She needed five years of experience in elder law to even sit for the exam, as well as recommendations from five other elder-law attorneys.
As far as her research shows, she is one of nine elder-law attorneys in Wisconsin and the only one with elder-law certification in both her home state and in neighboring Minnesota.
O’Neill earned her law degree from William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul and belongs to the bar associations of Wisconsin and Minnesota. She is also accredited to assist with veteran’s benefits.
The attorney sits on a legislative subcommittee of the Elder Law Section of the state bar and is also involved in the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.
O’Neill belongs to the Tuesday Club and Hudson Chamber plus does a lot of public speaking to help educate people about elder law and estate planning.
Contact O’Neill at (715) 808-0610 or at Jennifer@oneillelderlaw.com. To learn more about the firm, go to www.oneillelderlaw.com.