Annapolis attorney puts no price on advice about estates, elder law


August 19, 2002|By Kimbra Cutlip | Kimbra Cutlip,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

FREE LEGAL advice is hard to come by, but those interested in estate planning and elder law can get it at seminars offered around the county by Annapolis attorney Robert Bohan.

Bohan, 57, volunteers time to the Anne Arundel Senior Services Providers Group and the Alzheimer's Association, conducting between 15 and 20 free seminars a year to educate people on legal issues related to aging and estate planning.

He speaks about elder law at nursing homes and senior centers, about estate planning at day care centers and the local bookstore, and about both whenever someone asks. He has four free seminars scheduled for state employees between now and November.

Darleen Swanson, who is in charge of community relations for the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Harbor Center, said that several years ago she and Bohan came up with the idea of offering free talks in the spring about estate planning and taxes. Bohan provides the legal advice, while an accountant presents the financial information.

Marie O'shea, the community outreach coordinator for Somerford Place, an Alzheimer's assisted-living residence in Annapolis, said Bohan often spends office time with the families of Alzheimer's patients working out their legal concerns, and then makes the trip to the assisted-living residence to get to know his client -- off the clock. "He goes the extra mile," O'shea said.

A Washington, D.C., corporate lawyer before starting his Annapolis practice, Bohan grew up in Iowa and Colorado. He came to this area in the early 1970s to work in the Senate. After serving as the associate minority counsel specializing in health and labor matters, Bohan became an attorney for the National Soft Drink Association. By the mid-1990s, Bohan was ready for a change.

"I had been making the commute between Annapolis and D.C. for 15 years," he said, "and just before age 50 there was still one career change I could make. I was looking for something I could really enjoy."

At the time, elder law was a relatively new entity, but Bohan had some experience with it.

"Fifteen years ago when my father had his first serious illness in Denver, I didn't even know what a Department of Aging was," he said. "No one knew anything about organizing for this kind of thing."

His introduction to elder law was personal, and when he set up his own practice, he chose to help other people navigate the complexities of protecting their rights and their assets as they get older, and preparing their estate plans.

He recognizes that, unlike criminal law or corporate law, elder law and estate planning is something that affects almost everybody. He said the free seminars help him educate the community about something he feels is important, and help him stay in touch.

"It's a structure that forces me to stay on top of current developments and it gives me a sense of what people are interested in hearing about," he said. "The two most pressing issues right now deal with `What happens if I go into the nursing home?' and `What's this thing called long-term care insurance?'"

Bohan describes himself as truly a "counselor at law," saying his business "is very much about giving people advice."

If you want to sue someone, "you get referred out," he said.

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