NAELA Operations and Governance

NAELA staff members can help you with any questions you might have about your NAELA membership, events, publications, public policy, etc.
Please do not call or contact the NAELA office with specific legal questions or inquiries. If you are seeking legal advice or assistance, please utilize the NAELA Member Directory on the homepage or refer to the resources page.


The Academy's Bylaws set out the system approved by the membership for governing the Academy. The membership adopted NAELA's original bylaws in 1989. The most recent version of the bylaws, updated in March 2013, can be found here. (PDF)

Board of Directors

The management of NAELA is vested in the Board of Directors and consists of no more than 26 elected representatives of the regular members of NAELA (including the elected officers).

  The Board focuses on issues pertaining to the overall mission of NAELA:

  • Develops and approves policy - NAELA policies are the principles that define the way NAELA operates.
  • Approves and updates strategic plans.
  • Exercises a fiduciary responsibility by approving responsible budgets and by ensuring that NAELA finances are properly managed.
  • Oversees and evaluates NAELA programs to assure that objectives are being achieved.
  • Assures that basic legal and ethical responsibilities are met by the organization.
  • Retains (and discharges) professional management, legal counsel and all other consultants.
  • The day-to-day management of NAELA is delegated by the Board to appropriate staff. The Board evaluates its performance and that of the staff on a regular basis. The Board refrains from directing staff activity and micro-managing NAELA affairs.
  • Board meetings are open to all regular members to attend except as otherwise announced.
  • Board meetings are governed by Robert's Rules of Order.
  • In addition to meetings held in conjunction with the national conferences, the Board may meet for an annual retreat as needed.
  • Terms of officers are for a one-year term; terms of Directors are for two-year terms. Each Officer will hold office until his/her successor will have been duly elected and will have qualified. Each Director will hold office from June 1 until May 30, or until his/her successor will have been selected and qualified.
  • The Board should include a balanced mix of representatives from NAELA membership and should reflect the membership in geography, practice type, nationalities and sex.
  • The Board should allow for membership discussion and input on any matters of a controversial manner.

(If you are interested in serving on the NAELA Board of Directors, please contact Pete Wacht, Executive Director)

Executive Committee

The Executive Committee is composed of the elected  Officers and the Immediate Past President. The Executive Director serves on the Executive Committee as a non-voting member.

  • The Executive Committee acts in place and instead of the Board of Directors between meetings on all matters pursuant to delegation of authority to such committee by the Board of Directors except on those matters:
    • specifically reserved to the Board by the bylaws or resolution of the board
    • in contravention of a specific policy or resolution there-to-fore adopted by the Board of Directors of NAELA.
  • Meetings are open to all Board members - minutes are circulated to the Board upon final approval by the Executive Committee.
  • The Executive Committee recognizes the fact that the management of NAELA is vested in the Board of Directors and not the Executive Committee.
Learn More About The NAELA Board
(Microsoft Word Document)

NAELA Executive Committee and Board of Directors 2016-2017

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Catherine Anne Seal, CELA, Fellow, CAP (President)
Kirtland & Seal, LLC
Colorado Springs, CO
Catherine has been a NAELA member since 1997. She is a partner in the law firm of Kirtland & Seal, LLC, in Colorado Springs and is one of only 10 attorneys in Colorado designated a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. She is a member of the American Bar Association’s Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section where she is a member of the Publications Committee and she is also a member of the Senior Lawyers Division. She is the Public Administrator for the Fourth Judicial District of Colorado. She received her law degree from the University of Colorado Law School and is the first person to be awarded an LLM in Elder Law from Stetson University College of Law. She holds a Graduate Certificate in Gerontology from the University of Colorado - Colorado Springs.5/31/2016Elected as President one year term begins June 1, 2016Catherine Anne Seal, CELA, Fellow, CAPSEAL, CATHERINE9576
Hyman G. Darling, CELA, CAP (President Elect)
Bacon Wilson, PC
Springfield, MA
Hyman G. Darling, CELA, CAP, is a principal at the law firm of Bacon & Wilson, P.C. in Springfield, Massachusetts. He has been with this firm for over 30 years and concentrates in the preparation of estate planning documents, Elder Law, estates and taxes, guardianship, conservatorship, Special Needs Planning, and adoptions. He previously was employed by Security National Bank in Springfield as a trust officer. Prior to that time, he was employed by Baybank in the Retail Banking Department. Attorney Darling is a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, and is a former President of both the Hampden County Bar Association and Hampden County Estate Planning Council. He is on the adjunct faculty at Western New England University and Baypath University. He is a member of many civic and professional associations including the Planned Giving Committees of the American Cancer Society and Baystate Medical Center.5/31/2016Elected as President Elect one year term begins June 1, 2016Hyman G. Darling, CELA, CAPDARLING, HYMAN11382
Shirley Berger Whitenack, CAP, Fellow (Past President)
Schenck, Price, Smith & King, LLP
Florham Park, NJ
Ms. Whitenack is a partner at Schenck, Price, Smith & King, LLP with offices in Florham Park and Paramus, New Jersey. Ms. Whitenack devotes a substantial portion of her practice to trust and estate litigation and elder and special needs law. Ms. Whitenack is a Fellow of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), is immediate past President and is a member of NAELA’s Council of Advanced Practitioners (CAP).5/31/2016Becomes Past President by ascension on June 1, 2016Shirley Berger Whitenack, CAP, FellowWHITENACK, SHIRLEY6391
Michael J. Amoruso, Fellow (Vice President)
Amoruso & Amoruso, LLP
Rye Brook, NY
Michael J. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Asset Preservation, Estate Planning, Estate Administration and Guardianship. He is Past Chair of the New York State Bar Association ("NYSBA") Elder Law Section, a member of the Executive Committee and former Chair of the Legislation Committee and the Estate & Tax Planning Committee. From 2011-2015, he received an AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating by Martindale-Hubbell - the highest possible rating for both legal ability and ethical standards. Mr. Amoruso was chosen as a 2010-2014 New York Metro Super Lawyer for Elder Law. From 2011-2014 he was named one of the Top 25 Westchester Super Lawyers among all practice areas and was featured by Super Lawyers Magazine in 2013.5/31/2016
Elected as Vice President one year term begins June 1, 2016
Michael J. Amoruso, FellowAMORUSO, MICHAEL1793
Jennifer L. VanderVeen, CELA, CAP (Treasurer)
Tuesley Hall Konopa LLP
South Bend, IN
Jennifer VanderVeen is a Certified Elder Law Attorney, a member of the Elder Law sections of both the Indiana and Michigan state bars, and is a past chairperson of the Indiana Elder Law section. A frequent speaker to both professional and lay groups on a wide range of elder law issues, Jennifer has a wide ranging elder law practice, both in practice areas and geography, with areas of law ranging from tax to special needs planning.5/31/2016
Elected as Treasurer one year term begins June 1, 2016
Wendy Shparago Cappelletto, CAP (Secretary)
Office of the Public Guardian
Chicago, IL
Wendy Shparago Cappelletto is a Supervising Attorney with the Office of the Public Guardian of Cook County, in the Adult Guardianship Division. She is the supervising attorney for the Intake and Public Benefits departments. Prior to joining the Public Guardian’s Office in 1998, Ms. Cappelletto was a staff attorney at Prairie State Legal Services, Inc. She is the chair of the Guardianship/Conservatorship Section of NAELA. She currently serves as a NAELA representative to the National Guardianship Network. In addition, she was a NAELA delegate at the Third National Guardianship Summit in 2011. She is a two-time past president of the Illinois Chapter of NAELA and currently serves on the Illinois Chapter Board of Directors.5/31/2016Elected to one year term as Secretary beginning June 1, 2016Wendy Shparago Cappelletto, CAPCAPPELLETTO, WENDY10364