MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Alan Feller, managing partner for the Mahopac-based law firm Sloan & Feller, couldn’t agree more. Feller, whose expertise lies with disciplines such as elder care, estate planning, wills, trusts, asset protection and more, knows what can happen if you fail to prepare. But his firm is built to help you avoid just that and navigate what can be an intimidating landscape of laws, regulation and red tape.
“With estate planning, as you hit your 40s and 50s, you see the world around you and how your parents' age and your siblings and contemporaries age,” he said. “You become aware that it’s good to have these things in order—the basic things such as will planning and healthcare proxies and power of attorneys.
“But you need professionals to help you; you can’t do everything yourself,” he adds. “As things get more complicated, you need people to help you.”
Laws and regulations are forever changing, especially when it comes to healthcare and elder care, but as an active member of the New York State Bar Association, Feller stays on the cutting edge of any changes in New York law that affects his clients.
“There are new [Medicaid] plans coming out [for those who] need plans beyond traditional homecare; those who don’t want to go into nursing homes,” he said, citing one example. “They’ve been called by many names over the years, but now there’s a new program being implemented in New York State designed to keep a person in their home but still covered under this managed-care program.”
The Sloan & Feller staff will not only help you traverse the labyrinth of regulations and paperwork, they’ll supply well-rounded holistic support as well. They have two social workers on the staff.
“The social workers we have play such a big part,” Feller said. “They are professionals who handhold [clients] and get them through [the process]. We can do the legal work, the trust planning and the Medicaid applications, but it’s good to have the social work to blend in with that.”
For Feller, a hands-on personal approach for his type of legal practice is just as important as filing paperwork. Sloan & Feller is a law firm that makes house calls.
“We have always had home care and home visits,” Feller said. “We check in and make sure everybody is doing well. Families are so busy, and their schedules are all over the place. To get everyone in one place at one time is very hard, so sometimes we have to go to their home. We’ve always done that.”
Feller was attending Brooklyn Law School back in the ‘90s when elder care first began to develop as a legal discipline. But it was his own personal experiences that drew him to this line of work.
“My grandfather passed away around that time—1996—and I realized this was the profession that really hit home for me,” he recalled.
Feller grew up in New City in neighboring Rockland County and received his bachelor’s degree from SUNY Albany. After graduating Brooklyn Law School, he joined elder-care attorney Leslie Sloan in New York City, who would eventually become his partner in Sloan & Feller. She has since retired, but Feller is dedicated to keeping her name on the shingle.
“She bought a house up in Brewster and it reminded me of what Rockland County was when I was young,” he said. “So, when I got married, we moved the practice from Manhattan up to Mahopac. That was many years ago.”
These days, Feller can’t stress enough how important it is for families to be proactive when it comes to issues such as elder care; it’s something that impacts everyone eventually.
“Most people don’t think it applies to them,” he said. “They think they’re not eligible for Medicaid, but an individual can be eligible for home care with the right guidance. It has no penalty period; they don’t have to lose a significant chunk of their resources to receive these benefits. It is better to have things in place and be proactive.
“We have a lot of experience,” he continued. “We have specialization all throughout the firm that can handle any situation that might pop up. We all live close by and have a vested interest in the community.”
Feller said that the fruits of a 40-year working life can be undone with a few poor planning decisions, so his firm will examine things such tax consequences, long-term healthcare costs, relevant financial liabilities and family dynamics to construct and maintain a client’s estate plan.
Another facet of the law firm is its work helping local businesses plan and grow.
“Since the founding of Sloan & Feller, our business advisement practice has been a source of pleasure and appreciation,” Feller said. “We work with entrepreneurs on choice of entity, legal and financial building blocks and start-up concerns. Medical and dental professionals utilize Sloan & Feller for sales of practices, buy-ins, as well as new practice creation.”
Feller was the vice president of the Estate Planning Council of Putnam County, a board member and the technology chairperson for the Putnam and Dutchess Geriatric Committee, and a member of the Putnam County Bar Association.
In 2010, he was appointed to the New York State Bar Association’s Task Force on the Future of the Legal Profession, a distinguished panel of legal practitioners and educators that studied and recommended ways to create a roadmap for the future of legal practice and training.
He was a member of the state Bar Association’s Electronic Communications Committee and started the Elder Law Attorney Practice Group (ELAP), which is the nation’s largest independent elder law attorney group on LinkedIn. He regularly lectures on elder law issues for senior groups, senior living facilities, financial institutions, bar associations and health organizations including the Alzheimer’s Association and ALS Association.
To learn more about Sloan & Feller, call 845-621-8640 or visit sloanandfeller.com