Mark W. Worthington – Special Counsel

Welcome to Special Needs Law Group of Massachusetts! I am Mark W. Worthington, and I have been in private practice exclusively in special needs law, elder law, and estate planning for 24 years. Recently I accepted an appointment as a full-time Professor of Law and Director of the Graduate Program (LL.M.) in Elder Law and Estate Planning at Western New England University School of Law, an ABA accredited law school where I have taught as an Adjunct for 11 years. I was formerly a partner at Special Needs Law Group of Massachusetts, PC (“SNLG”); I retain my strong ties at SNLG now as Special Counsel to the Firm.

Before I blather on about stuff that only my mother cares about, let me say a few things about this [Warning! Over-used word alert!] amazing law firm.

Special needs families comprise about 80% of SNLG clients. When we talk about Special Needs, we are generally referring to family members who have had some kind of disability or challenge since birth or perhaps even from young adulthood. Disabilities don’t discriminate: SNLG’s Special Needs  families come in all kinds, from the wealthy to the financially struggling.

About 10% of the SNLG caseload is straight elder law (with no special needs, other than the elders themselves) and about 10% is straight estate planning, with no particular special needs or elder law issues. That leaves about 80% or more that have special needs children or siblings that the SNLG client is planning for or needs help advocating for. But, a high percentage of SNLG Special Needs families also have either primary or secondary elder law issues in the mix, and just about all SNLG Special Needs families have estate planning needs – indeed, more significant estate planning needs than many other clients.

To serve them, as well as all other SNLG clients, the Firm must bring to the table the highest level of skills and knowledge in estate planning, estate tax planning, income tax planning, trust drafting, asset protection, public benefits, trust administration, serving as trustee of special needs trusts, courtroom skills, negotiating skills, skills in dealing with a variety of government agencies, a deep knowledge of public and private resources to solve client problems, and an experienced-based practical bent for helping clients solve their problems, from how to transition a special-needs teenager to young adulthood, to keeping up with the changing needs of an elderly parent, to everything in between. To do this the Firm has a much higher percentage of high-level talent than the typical law firm: Two highly experienced senior attorneys, two associate attorneys, and four non-lawyer staff.

The Founder of the Firm, Attorney Hines, and I have walked the walk. Between us we have raised a 24 year old daughter who was debilitatingly ill with chronic Lyme disease for 6 years, a 17 year old daughter who was severely disabled since birth who passed away in 2013, and a “typical” 14 year old. Notwithstanding my recent appointment as a Professor of Law, the greatest advance in my legal career was joining with Attorney Annette M. Hines, founding partner of Special Needs Law Group of Massachusetts, PC. To quote myself: “Annette and I complement each other so well. She not only manages the practice, but excels in the courtroom, in negotiations and working with government agencies, and in truly understanding the depths of the special needs world. But beyond that, we find that we operate in symbiosis … together we accomplish legal results that simply astonish and thrill us, and which neither of us alone would have conceived.”

Oh, and let me add something about Western New England University School of Law’s LL.M. Program. If you are a lawyer, and you desire to expand into or deepen your knowledge of elder law and estate planning with a rigorous program that means you have earned the “LL.M.” after your name, look no further than Western New England University. Ours was the first program in the nation offering an LL.M. in elder law, and it remains the best. From our excellent professors and highly experienced adjunct professors, to our rich curriculum offering some unique courses nowhere else to be found, to our insistence on real-time (“synchronous”) online classes, to our emphasis on academic yet very practical instruction, we believe no other program can offer nearly as “ready to practice” a degree as our LL.M. in Elder Law and Estate Planning.

 

 

OK. NOW here is all the stuff only my mother cares about. 😀

 

 

Brief Professional Bio/Informal Curriculum Vitae

Academic Positions

  • Professor of Law and Director of the Graduate Program (LL.M.) in Elder Law and Estate Planning, Western New England University School of Law, Springfield, MA (July 2016 – Present)
  • Adjunct Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law,Boston,MA – (Spring 2012 – Spring 2016)
    • Estate Planning
  • Adjunct Professor of Law, Western New England University School of Law, Springfield, MA – Graduate Program (LL.M.) in Elder Law & Estate Planning (Program Inception, Fall 2005 – Spring 2016)
    • Federal Income Taxation of Trusts, Estates, & Beneficiaries (2005 – 2009)
    • Advanced Elder Law II (2011)
    • Medicaid Planning (2012 – present)
    • The Grantor Trust Rules (2012 – present)

Attorney – Private Practice

  • Special Needs Law Group of Massachusetts, P.C., Framingham, MA (Special Counsel, July 2016 – Present)
  • Special Needs Law Group of Massachusetts, P.C., Framingham, MA (Senior Partner, March 2013 – June 2016)
  • Oppenheim & Cole, LLC, Halifax, MA (Of Counsel, August 2010 – April 2013)
  • Smith Worthington, LLC, Worcester, MA (Partner, July 2007 – August 2010)
  • Mark W. Worthington, Counsellor at Law, Worcester, MA (February 1992 – June 2007)

Bar Admissions

  • Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts (February 1992; BBO # 560172)
  • United States Supreme Court (June 2007)

Education

  • LL.M. (Tax),BostonUniversitySchool of Law,Boston,MA (2004)
    • Rank 5 of 77
  • J.D., NortheasternUniversitySchool of Law,Boston,MA (1991)
    • No grades, rank, or law review at this school
    • Clerked Vermont Supreme Court (Summer 1990)
    • Clerked U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Judge William G. Young (Summer 1989)
  • B.S. (Electrical Engineering), University of Rochester, Rochester, NY (1980)

Certifications and Accreditations

  • Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the non-profit National Elder Law Foundation (2004 – present), the only national organization accredited by the American Bar Association to certify attorneys in elder law. Massachusetts does not recognize legal specialties for certification.

Professional Associations and Positions

  • Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (500 attorney members)
    • Member (1995 – Present)
    • President (2007); President-Elect (2006); Treasurer (2003-2005)
    • Board of Directors (2000 – 2008)
    • Public Policy Committee (2000 – Present)
    • Program Committee (2011 – Present)
    • Litigation Committee (2013 – Present)
    • Chapter 25th Anniversary Celebration Committee (April 2016 – Present)
  • National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
    • Member (1995 – Present)
    • Council of Advanced Practitioners (2016 – Present)
    • Planning Committee, 2017 Annual Conference (April 2017 – Present)
  • National Elder Law Foundation – CELA Exam Grading Committee (2009)

Teaching and Writing (other than as Law School Professor)

  • American Law Institute – Continuing Legal Education (ALI-CLE)
    • Annual Conference on Representing Estate and Trust Beneficiaries and Fiduciaries: “Special Administration of Special Needs Trusts” (Chicago, July 7 & 8, 2016, with Attorney Annette M. Hines)
  • Bristol County Estate Planning Council
    • “The ABC’s of the New Massachusetts Uniform Trust Code: What Practitioners Need to Know” (March 21, 2013)
  • Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
    • “Retained and Donated Powers of Appointment: Income Taxes and Selected Topics, Pitfalls, & Opportunities” (February 2000)
    • “Taxation of Jointly Held Property” (June 2002)
    • “Meet the New MAET (Massachusetts Estate Tax)” (January 2003)
    • “Drafting Irrevocable Trusts in the Wake of the Doherty Decision” (June 2009)
    • Moderator (Southeast Massachusetts): “Community Housing Options for the Elderly and Disabled” (March 1, 2012)
    • Moderator and Panelist: “The New Massachusetts Uniform Trust Code” (November 12, 2012)
    • Moderator and Presenter (Southeast Massachusetts): “Recent Developments in Massachusetts Elder Law” (February 28, 2013)
    • “Analysis of the Tax Aspects of Various Types of Transfers of the Home by Unmarried Individuals” (panelist covering income tax, September 11, 2013)
    • “The Intersection of IRAs, SNTs, Probate, Medicaid, Income Tax, and Estate Tax” (June 12, 2014)
    • “Irrevocable Trusts: The Empire Strikes Back” (panelist with Attorneys Brian Barreira and Robert Ford, October 30, 2014)
    • Webinar: “2016 Developments in MassHealth Trust Law” (April 27, 2016)
    • Webinar: “Medicaid Waivers and Other Useful Programs for Disabled Younger Adults and Children” (July 13, 2016)
  • MetLife Annual Special Needs Symposium
    • “Collision at the Intersection of Retirement Plans, Life Insurance, Tax, Public Benefits, and Special Needs Trusts” (Orlando, July 2013)
  • Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education, Inc. (a non-profit)
    • “Preserving and Transferring the Principal Residence” (August 2007)
    • Annual Elder & Disability Law Conference – “Third-Party SNTs as Death Beneficiaries of IRAs and Qualified Retirement Plans” (March 2008)
    • Annual Elder & Disability Law Conference – “Drafting the MassHealth-Applicant-Settled Irrevocable Trust to Qualify for the IRC §121 Homesale Capital Gain Tax Exclusion and the Date of Death Basis ‘Step Up’” (May 21, 2014)
    • Annual Elder & Disability Law Conference – Massachusetts NAELA Past Presidents on Trusts. Selected Tax Topics.  (May 4, 2016)
  • National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
    • “Income Tax Consequences of Various Types of Home Transfers” (St. Louis, 2001)
    • “The Impact of the Uniform Trust Code on Third-Party Supplemental Needs Trusts” (Salt Lake City, 2006)
  • New Hampshire Bar Association
    • “New England State Estate Taxes” (April 2010)
  • Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law
    • Visiting Lecturer for Law and Aging Seminar: “Coming Soon to a State Near You? Massachusetts Medicaid’s Attack on Self-Settled Irrevocable Trusts.” Also video-recorded for National Elder Law Foundation’s member-only online CLE library. (March 19, 2015)
  • Stetson University College of Law
    • Special Needs Trusts Conference IX, “Divorce American Style – The Collision of Taxation and Public Benefits with SNTs for Property Division, Child Support, and Alimony” (October 2007)
  • Suffolk University Law School
    • Elder Law Institute XII: Third-Party Supplemental Needs Trusts – Conference Chair & “Taxation of Third-Party Supplemental Needs Trusts” (March 2006)
    • Fundamentals of Elder and Special Needs Law: Session 3 – Health & Personal Care Planning, and Assessing Capacity, “Advanced Directives, Incapacity Documents, and Assessing Legal Capacity” with Attorney Karen B. Johnson (February 9, 2012 – Substituting for Attorney Leslie S. Madge)
    • Fundamentals of Elder and Special Needs Law: Session 5 – Planning, Drafting, and Administering Special/Supplemental Needs Trusts: Taxes and Related Issues, “Taxation of Supplemental Needs Trusts” (February 23, 2012)
    • Elder Law Institute XXI: Dissecting Trust Agreements – What Makes Them Work? Panelist on a walk-through of a revocable trust. Covered Elements of a Trust; Distribution Standards, Types of Trustees, Spendthrift Clause, and impact of these three on third-party beneficiary asset protection; also Contingent Special Needs Trusts, Rule Against Perpetuities Savings Clause, and Execution. (April 10, 2015)
  • Trusts and Estates Magazine [“New Rules for Home Sales are Surprisingly Pro-Taxpayer” (vol.142, no.3, p.14 March 2003)]
  • Estate, Gifts, and Trusts Journal [“Last Chance for Tax-Free Sales?” (vol.23, no.2, p.79, March-April 1998, BNA Tax Management)]
  • “Peer reviewer” for Attorney Natalie B. Choate’s Life and Death Planning for Retirement Benefits and The QPRT Manual.

Awards and Recognitions

  • Designated as a Massachusetts “Super Lawyer” (2008 – 2015)
  • Outstanding National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys Chapter Member (2004)
  • Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys Member of the Year (2003)
  • AVVO.com ranked 10.0 “Superb”
  • Martindale Hubbell ranked “AV Preeminent”