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Passing of Two Giants of Elder Law

We are very sorry to report the passing of two pioneers in the fields of elder law and special needs planning, Ron Landsman and Mary Schmitt Smith.

Ronald N. Landsman

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Ron Landsman was not only one of the first practitioners of elder law nationally, but continued to be a leader in the field, litigating many vital Medicaid eligibility rules both in Maryland, where he practiced, and in other states.

In 1984, along with M. Garey Eakes and John Laster, Ron created one of the first law firms in the country devoted solely to the practice of elder law. They influenced my decision to get into elder law a few years later when I read about their practice and that of other pioneers in the field in a pamphlet published by the ABA Commission on Legal Problems of the Elderly, “Doing Well By Doing Good: Providing Legal Services to the Elderly in a Paying Private Practice.”

Ron’s litigation activity included bringing a landmark class action case against the Maryland Medicaid program in which it agreed to contribute $16 million to cover pre-eligibility medical expenses of nursing home residents. Ron also helped draft numerous amicus briefs on behalf of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.

He was a charter member of both ElderLawAnswers and the Academy of Special Needs Planners, two organizations I helped found.

Ron died from acute myeloid leukemia due to complications from a bone marrow transplant. He leaves his wife, Irene, and two children. Always a mensch, Ron will be greatly missed in the elder law world and beyond.

Ron’s obituary.

Mary Theresa Schmitt Smith

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Still reeling from news of Ron’s death, we learned that Mary Schmitt Smith also died unexpectedly after a short illness. Mary became the first certified elder law attorney in Michigan in 1999. She focused her practice on special needs planning, becoming the 9th recipient of the Theresa Foundation Award in 2003 and the EP Maxwell J. Schleifer Distinguished Service Award in 2011. Mary was a founding member of the Special Needs Alliance and a past president of The ARC of Oakland County.

Like Ron, Mary was a great supporter of my endeavors as a charter member and investor in ElderLawAnswers when I launched it in 2000.

Mary leaves her husband, daughter and two sons.

Mary’s obituary.

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