Elders Have No Better Friend In Court Than Mary Wilson 1/26/18 01/26/18 1:40:33 AM
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From left, members of the staff Irene Jasper, Jackie Castro and Craig Buford confer with Mary Buford Wilson in the conference room in her office nestled in the far north end of Omaha near the Mormon Bridge.
Elders Have No Better Friend
In Court Than Mary Wilson
By Elizabeth A. Elliott
The Daily Record
Aging baby boomers are seeking assistance for health care issues, paying for health care, consumer issues, fraud and financial exploitation by friends and family, among other issues.
Mary Wilson has advice for aging baby boomers: Plan ahead.
“Plan for your future financial needs, as well as for unforeseeable events like disability,” she said.
Wilson, sole practitioner at Buford Law Office, is an elder law attorney.
She and her brother were the youngest of eight grandchildren in their family and she has had many opportunities to use her knowledge with family and friends. Her brother now works with her in her office in far north Omaha.
“Everyone was over 65 when we came along,” she said. “I think being in a family with so much longevity, I had spent a lot of time with older persons even before going to law school.”
Wilson earned her bachelor’s degree from Wayne State College and her juris doctor from the Creighton University School of Law.
Becoming an attorney was not a far stretch for Wilson. Her father was the Division Counsel for the Missouri River Division of the Corps of Engineers. Her grandfather was also an attorney. Wilson’s professor at Wayne State took her aside and told her she should consider the field. That, combined with her family history, led her to law.
She described her foray into the field of elder law as a fluke.
“Elder law was not yet a subject covered in law school,” she said.
When she began her firm in 1984, Wilson was getting in on the ground floor. “Elder law has been incredibly exciting,” she said.
The biggest change in the field is the number of attorneys practicing, she said. It was a popular field for a while, but has fewer attorneys in the last 10 years.
Wilson is the special assistant Nebraska Attorney General assigned to Health and Human Services Adult Protective Services. She petitions on behalf of Adult Protective Services to put guardians in place and has had this role for the past 15 years.
In addition to elder law, Wilson also does estate planning, Social Security and disability, and adoptions. Her firm will also assist with real estate, probate and tax planning.
While assisting with guardianship or conservatorships, she can assist in protecting vulnerable adults from abuse and financial exploitation.
Her work in Social Security and disability includes dealing with Social Security Income, disability, full representation, application filing, hearings, appeals, documentation and Medicaid planning.
Wilson said one of the challenges elder law attorneys is facing is the lack of available resources. “Federal and state government put a lot of money into elder services at one time,” she said. “Now they fund it less and it is a challenge to provide the clients what they need.”
She taught “The Law and Aging” for 12 years at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and also teaches Elder Law at Creighton School of Law.
She began as a legal services attorney and quickly transitioned into elder law. Her office contracted with the Area Agency on Aging for Wilson to be an Older American’s Act attorney. Wilson said her favorite type of elder law work is in the area of guardianship.
“You can really make a difference in a person’s life,” she said.
Wilson spends time volunteering in several ways. She teaches a course on financial management at two prisons. She volunteers with her church, First Presbyterian. She is a board member for Metro Area Guardians and Conservators, an organization that provides volunteer guardians and pro bono attorneys to handle case procedures for persons in need. Wilson also co-chairs the Elder Law Section of the Nebraska Bar Association with Nicholas Halbur.
She said her biggest volunteer effort is serving as an uncompensated guardian for 35 people.
Gina Mack, a Child and Family Services Specialist Supervisor at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said, “Mary has gone above and beyond for us and has stepped in to help some of our most difficult clients, many times on an emergency basis, which means she can become a guardian on the same day that we ask for help,” Mack said. “If I could think of a way to describe her, it would be a positive ray of light for our workers who are dealing with sad and very frustrating circumstances in regards to our clients. Mary works tirelessly not only for us but for many others in the community as well. Our vulnerable adult population is forever grateful.”
Wilson is an award-winning attorney recognized for her work in elder law. She received the American Bar Association’s Paul Lichterman award, which is presented to one person nationwide each year for outstanding achievement in the delivery of legal services to the elderly, in 1987 for outstanding service in the delivery of legal services to the elderly from the American Bar Association; Nebraska Association of Social Services Workers Public Citizen for the Year in recognition of leadership in championing the cause of elder rights on behalf of indigent elderly citizens; and she was inducted into the National Association of Legal Services Developers Elder Right Advocacy Hall of Fame.
She was also the 2000 recipient of the Nebraska State Bar’s Robert M. Spire Pro Bono Award presented for zealous service as a pro bono attorney. Wilson is a member of the Nebraska State and American Bar Associations.