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Donald D Vanarelli

Elder law Attorney at Westfield, NJ

4.6   9 reviews

About Donald

Learn Donald’s areas of practice.

Practice areas
  1. Elder law
    The Law Office of Donald D. Vanarelli devotes a significant portion of its practice to the field of Elder Law, a legal a legal specialty focusing on the special needs and legal problems of the elderly, the disabled and their families.

  2. Estate planning
    Estate Planning is important, no matter what the size of your estate may be. Through proper estate planning, you ensure that your assets will go to your intended beneficiaries, prevent squabbling among your heirs and financial confusion after death.

  3. Guardianship
    The law firm represents family members and others in legal proceedings for the appointment of a guardian for an incapacitated person.

  4. Litigation
    The litigation attorneys with the Law Office of Donald D. Vanarelli bring the requisite experience and knowledge to a wide range of probate litigation, including will contests, estate challenges and contested guardianship lawsuits.

I have been a practicing attorney since 1983, admitted in New Jersey and New York. A graduate of Rutger's Law School in Newark, NJ, I practice in the areas of elder law, estate planning and administration, special needs planning, probate and guardianship litigation, family law, mediation and collaborative law. Before attending law school, I worked for the Social Security Administration adjudicating claims for benefits under the Social Security, SSI, Medicare and Medicaid programs. I served as law clerk to Hon. Herbert S. Alterman, J.S.C., a judge of the New Jersey Superior Court. I am board-certified as an elder law attorney. I have also received accreditation by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to prepare, present and prosecute claims for veterans. In 1992, I founded my own law firm and I now employ other legal professionals and support staff.  I have litigated cases in federal and state courts and before administrative agencies. I am happily married and the father of three children.

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The Law Office of Donald D. Vanarelli is on Google+: +dvanarelli/

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Licensed for 39 years
State NY
Status Currently Registered
Acquired 1984
Updated 04/15/2023
State NJ
Status Active
Acquired 1983
Updated 03/07/2023

We have not found any instances of professional misconduct for this lawyer.

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The Law Office of Donald D. Vanarelli
242 St. Paul Street
Westfield, NJ, 07090


4.6 / 5.0
  9 customer reviews
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1 Star
Posted by Dr Mark | January 18, 2018
This review is from a potential client who consulted with this attorney.
| Consulted Attorney
Personal recommendation
I have never retained Mr. Vanarelli as an attorney. But I do remember him from college when he was part of a student exchange program at California State University-Chico from Montclair College in New Jersey. Even back then Don was known for his intelligence, compassion, integrity and honesty. Those are definitely qualities would look for in an attorney.
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Posted by Peter | October 13, 2016
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
Guardianship Proceeding/Wills
We initially hired Mr. Vanarelli's law firm to initiate a guardianship proceeding on behalf of our young adult son with special needs. While we were at it we decided to update our wills and related documents. From the consultation through the court order, we received thoughtful consideration of our needs, advice, guidance and support, along with expertise and experience. It was a stressful process for us that was made much easier by Don and his very caring staff. and we achieved our goals without any unnecessary stress or problems.
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Posted by Gail | September 28, 2016
This review is from a person who hired this attorney.
| Hired Attorney
Experienced, Smart, and Compassionate Attorney
We hired Mr. Vanarelli to plan our mother's estate and later to prepare her Medicaid application. Because his office executed both of these tasks so expertly and with such respect and kindness, we were all put at ease and many family resources were secured. Mr. Vanarelli and the staff in his office were all topnotch, and extremely thorough. They responded quickly to questions and kept us informed throughout the lengthy and complicated Medicaid application process, which ultimately resulted in an approval. Our experience was completely satisfying, and we wouldn't hesitate to hire him again if the need ever arises.
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Posted by Kevin | March 23, 2014
Awesome Attorney!
I am a disabled veteran who was in need of an attorney who is well versed in how the Veterans Administration administers disability ratings. Mr. Vanarelli was more than qualified to meet this requirement as well as the parameters of my specific claim. He and his law firm provided me with outstanding representation and efficient guidance. Furthermore, his knowledge and professionalism led to a positive outcome for which I am forever grateful for. Additionally, his skill as an attorney achieved the maximum disability benefit on my behalf and he made every effort to assure this within the final outcome. He has years of experience in dealing with disability claims and this experience led to a successful claim on my behalf; I could not have done it on my own without him and his law firm. Furthermore, he and his law firm had properly guided me at every step of the process and they engaged with me on a regular basis to make sure that each objective was being met. At first, I was reluctant to hire an attorney at all; but now I know that would have been an extremely terrible mistake on my behalf. Before I hired Mr. Vanarelli, I asked him for his best judgment on my specific case and he graciously provided it. That's when I knew for sure that he was the representation I was looking for. Not once did I feel as if my case was not being given the attention it needed from Mr. Vanarelli and his law firm. This really made me feel comfortable with the entire process as well as completely satisfied with the representation I was being afforded. Mr. Vanarelli made sure that I was in the loop throughout the entire process and this really benefitted me when it came time to proceed to my hearing. He and his law firm reviewed all of the evidence that was obtained and then they followed-up with me to make sure if there was anything else that needed to be accounted for. They also put together a review packet which assisted me in my preparation so as to be on track during the hearing. This really helped! Also, Mr Vanarelli and his law firm reflected a genuine concern for my needs and disability issue. They did this by checking up on my wellbeing; both physical and mental, on a regular basis. He and his law firm continually made suggestions and recommendations when it came to medical stuff for which I did not consider. For example, they recommended that I see an outside dermatologist. I did just that and because of this recommendation I was able to achieve a better and more precise evaluation of my disability. It is fair for me to state that Mr. Vanarelli will go to great lengths; under the law, to achieve the best outcome for his clients. He has a lengthy portfolio of experience for which to draw upon and he even referenced a prior case to the judge that was similar to mine. This really helped me to win my claim because it greatly reflected his knowledge of the law. Furthermore, I live all the way across the U.S. from Mr. Vanarelli and his law firm; yet, the communication between us was so proficient that I didn't even notice. If your a veteran who is seeking a disability claim, or a disabled veteran seeking an increase in disability, then I highly recommend Mr. Vanarelli and his law firm. They will not leave you unattended. Furthermore, Mr. Vanarelli will give you 100% solid representation with a genuine concern towards your specific need(s). He and his firm are fully dedicated towards the success of the client and they will work extremely hard to compile, analyze, and distribute all of the facts at hand. From where I stand, you really cannot ask for much more because I'm living proof of how dedicated and driven Mr. Vanarelli is at achieving success on behalf of his clients.
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Posted by Rand | June 20, 2013
Donald D. Vanarelli Review
Mr. Vanarelli and his staff handled my mother's estate planning with ultimate professionalism, and responded in a timely manner in all of our exchanges of information and documents. He explained the meanings of some of the legal verbiage clearly, so we had a full understanding of what the documents contained. I would not hesitate to use his services again.
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Posted by Loretta | June 19, 2013
Donald D. Vanarelli, Esq. - Extraordinary Attorney
I had two occasions where I hired Mr. Vanarelli. The first was to file a Medicaid application for a family member. This situation came upon us quite suddenly and we felt very helpless. Mr. Vanarelli is very knowledgeable in the process of filing a Medicaid application. The staff at Mr. Vanarelli's office is also very knowledgeable and very helpful. Filing a Medicaid application is very complicated and time consuming. Mr. Vanarelli and his staff were able to file the application on time and my family member was approved for Medicaid immediately. The second occasion was a real estate matter. Mr. Vanarelli handled the sale of my home and the purchase of a condo. Again, Mr. Vanarelli and his staff handled our matter professionally and we were very pleased with the outcome. I would recommend Mr. Vanarelli with no hesitation and I think he is very trustworthy and knowledgeable.
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Posted by Cheryl | April 5, 2013
Satisfied clients...
Mr.Vanarelli and his staff were very professional and knowledgeable of the Medicaid application process. Our situation was a bit complex and we were very pleased with his ability to assess the issues at hand and develop a solution that worked for everyone concerned. I would not advise that anyone attempt a Medicaid application on their own as it can be quite overwhelming to say the least. Enlistment of a professional is money very well spent and I would definitely recommend Mr. Vanarelli for this purpose.
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Posted by Frances | February 21, 2013
High recommendations for the law office of Donald D Vanarelli
The attorneys at the law office of Donald D. Vanarelli helped me with many legal issues when my husband was in a long term acute hospital, such as asset protection planning, living wills and Powers of attorney. They came to the hospital so my husband could sign the legal documents and they treated him with respect and compassion and made what could have been a stressful situation, a very pleasant one for him. I am so thankful for that. When he passed way, they administered the estate for me. It was such an upsetting time for me, but their help eased the stress for me.
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Posted by Susan | October 6, 2014
Not worth the price
I asked him to prepare a will. It was the most expensive will I have ever had done. There were so many charges on the bill that my head was spinning. He kept charging to confer with his associate in his own office. It was ridiculous. Find another lawyer to do your estate work. I met with him once and then he pushed me off to his associates. The will was definitely from a computer program.
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Response from Donald Vanarelli October 23, 2014
I am sorry that you feel you were overcharged for your will. I can assure you that all of the wills prepared by my office are tailored to suit the client's wishes-some are more complex than others. We never use "boilerplate" wills as you stated.
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AVVO RATING 10.0 (Superb)

Work Experience

  • Co-Founder
  • Elder Mediation Center of New Jersey
  • 1996 - Present
  • Owner
  • Law Office of Donald D. Vanarelli
  • 1992 - Present
  • Law Clerk
  • Superior Court of New Jersey
  • 1983 - 1984
  • Internship
  • United States Court of Appeals for the Third Judicial Circuit
  • 1982 - 1983
  • Internship
  • Securities and Exchange Commission
  • 1981 - 1982
  • Summer Associate
  • Schering-Plough Corporation
  • 1980 - 1981
  • Social Insurance Representative
  • Social Security Administration
  • 1974 - 1980
  • Volunteer
  • Peace Corps
  • 1972 - 1974
View all work experience


  • Elder Decisions, A Division of Agreement Resources, LLC
  • Certificate
  • 2007
  • Jersey Shore Collaborative Law Group
  • Certificate
  • 2007
  • Institute for Dispute Resolution of New Jersey
  • Certificate
  • 2004
  • Somerset - Middlesex Inn of Court
  • Certificate
  • 1989
  • University of Virginia School of Law Institute of Trial Advocacy
  • Certificate
  • 1987
  • Rutgers University School of Law
  • JD - Juris Doctor
  • 1983
  • Montclair State University
  • BA - Bachelor of Arts
  • 1972
  • California State University, Chico
  • Montclair - Chico Domestic Exchange Program
  • N/A
View all education

Legal Cases

  • Saccone v. Police and Firemen’s Retirement System, Docket No. A-49-071841 (September 11, 2014)
  • Ruling in favor of plaintiff, reversing contrary decisions by lower courts and administrative agencies
  • Galletta v. Velez, Civil No. 13-532 (D.N.J. June 3, 2014),
  • In favor of plaintiff, reversing a denial of an application for Medicaid benefits
  • In the Matter of the Trusts to be Established in the Matter of the Estate of Margaret A. Flood, Deceased
  • Application Granted.
View all legal cases


  • New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators
  • Director
  • 2010 - Present
  • New Jersey Collaborative Law Group
  • Co-Founder
  • 2008 - Present
  • National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (New Jersey chapter)
  • Past Secretary
  • N/A
  • Somerset County Bar Association, Elder Law Committee
  • Past Chairman
  • N/A
  • Union County Bar Association, Elder Law Committee
  • Member
  • N/A
  • National Guardianship Association
  • Member
  • N/A
  • Academy of Special Needs Planners.
  • Founding Member
  • N/A
  • New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance
  • Insurance Producer, Certified in Long Term Care.
  • N/A
  • Superior Court, Union County, Chancery Division
  • Union County Probate Early Settlement Panelist.
  • N/A
  • National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives
  • Member
  • N/A
  • National Organization of Veterans Advocates
  • Member
  • N/A
  • New Jersey State Bar Association, Elder and Disability Law Section
  • Chair
  • 2010 - 2011
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Languages Spoken

  • Mandarin

Honors and Awards

  • Marilyn Askin Lifetime Achievement Award
  • New Jersey State Bar Association’s Elder and Disability Law Section
  • 2015
  • Named to
  • New Jersey "Super Lawyer" List
  • 2015
  • Named to
  • New Jersey "Super Lawyer" List
  • 2014
  • Namd to
  • New Jersey "Super Lawyer" List
  • 2013
  • Named to
  • New Jersey "Super Lawyer" List
  • 2012
  • Named to
  • New Jersey "Super Lawyer" List
  • 2011
  • Named to
  • New Jersey "Super Lawyer" List
  • 2010
  • Named to
  • New Jersey "Super Lawyer "List
  • 2009
  • Recognized as one of the top 25 mediators in NJ
  • NJBIZ magazine
  • 2008
  • Accredited Veterans Attorney
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • 2008
  • Named to
  • New Jersey "Super Lawyer" List
  • 2008
  • Named to
  • New Jersey "Super Lawyer" List
  • 2007
  • Member, Council of Advanced Practitioners (invitation only).
  • National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
  • 2004
  • Lead Counsel
  • In re Keri, 181 N.J. 50 (2004), a landmark NJ Supreme Court guardianship / elder law case.
  • 2004
  • "AV" Rated
  • Martindale-Hubbell
  • 2000
  • Certified Elder Law Attorney
  • National Elder Law Foundation
  • 1998
  • National Certified Guardian
  • Center for Guardianship Certification
  • 1997
  • Accredited Professional Mediator
  • New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators
  • 1987
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Speaking Engagements

Attorney endorsements

Received (8)
Given (2)
Endorse Donald
Estate planning Attorney | Mar 02
Relationship: Family member
"Cares about his clients and does his very best every time ... has argued brilliantly in front of NJ supreme court...what a treat to watch!"
Elder law Attorney | Jun 30
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"Donald Vanarelli is an experienced attorney whose participation and comments in Avvo show his commitment to serving clients as well as his level of experience. He is an excellent attorney that I recommend wholeheartedly."
Unknown Attorney | Apr 04
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"Top-notch attorney. Highly respected in the legal community."
Divorce and separation Attorney | Mar 13
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"I endorse this lawyer. I known Don for quite a few years and he is an excellent mediator as well as an elder law attorney. We trained together for mediation and I would recommend him to people seeking a mediation or elder iaw advice."
Elder law Attorney | Oct 14
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"I endorse this lawyer. Don is very knowledgeable and hardworking. I turn to him with all of my elderly clients needs. I highly recommend him."
Elder law Attorney | May 22
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"Don Vanarelli is one of the foremost elder law attorneys in the State of New Jersey. He is a tireless advocate for the elderly and disabled. His knowledge is superseded solely by his compassion for others. I would recommend Don to any prospective client."
Family Attorney | Jun 09
Relationship: Opposing Counsel on matter
"I endorse this lawyer's work. I found Donald to be very reasonable and professional. It is clear that his clients' best interests are his paramount concern."
Elder law Attorney | May 19
Relationship: Fellow lawyer in community
"I endorse this lawyer's work. He has been very informative, helpful and is responsive to clients and fellow attorneys. I have relied upon his advice and counsel in the areas of elder law and Surrogate Court practice, in both New Jersey and New York. I refer clients to Mr. Vanaerilli and his associates."
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Divorce and separation

Avvo Contributions

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Westfield Elder law Lawyer Donald D Vanarelli
Donald D Vanarelli
Elder law Attorney
Westfield, NJ
Licensed for 39 years