Tara Anne Pleat, CELA., co-owns the law firm Wilcenski & Pleat PLLC, with offices in Clifton Park and Queensbury, New York. She focuses on special needs and traditional estate planning and administration, as well as long-term care planning.
After graduating from the State University of New York at Albany, Tara discovered how much she enjoyed working with families as an estate planning paralegal. Law school was the natural next step. Shortly after earning her law degree from Albany Law School, she joined her current firm, where she was introduced to special needs law.
“Several years ago, my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, and my family’s experiences have deepened my understanding of the challenges faced by clients,” she says. “I recognize the limitations of Medicaid funding and the need to vigorously advocate for better services.”
Tara serves as a board member for AIM Services, Inc., which offers a broad range of supports to individuals with disabilities. “My perspective as a special needs attorney helps to clarify government policies, especially funding and reimbursement,” she explains. “That way we can better focus our resources.”
She’s also on the Planned Giving Committee for the Wildwood Foundation, which funds a school for children with disabilities, as well as services for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities of all ages. ”Given cutbacks in government programs, nonprofits are increasingly recognizing the need to build public/private partnerships. My goal on this committee is to help connect Wildwood to other professionals who can broaden awareness of the work they’re doing.”
Tara is a member of the Arc New York’s guardianship committee, which sets statewide practices. She also participates in a group that advises on New York’s supported decision-making pilot program, which seeks to provide an alternative to guardianship for many individuals.
She is an adjunct professor of law at Albany Law School, where she teaches a course on estate and financial planning for individuals with special needs and the elderly. “I want my students to recognize the important safety net provided by public benefits,” she says. “They need to understand how the system should work versus the reality, so that they can empathize with clients. And they need to be able to make the incredibly complex subject matter understandable to their future clients.”
She chairs the Elder Law and Special Needs Section of the New York State Bar Association; is an active member of the Trusts & Estates Law Section of the New York State Bar Association; a member of the Estate Planning Council of Eastern New York, Inc. (serving as president for the 2013/2014 year); a fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC); a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA); and co-chair of SNA’s Publications Committee.
Tara is admitted to practice in New York, Florida, and Massachusetts, as well as the United States Tax Court and the U.S. Federal District Court in the Northern District of New York.