Journey into Life Care Planning: Marty Fogarty

“Life’s struggles serve to awaken our individual strengths and purpose.” That’s how attorney Marty Fogarty describes how he came to practice Life Care Planning. Marty is founder of The Heartland Law Firm, a Life Care Planning Law Firm in Glenview, Illinois.

In 2000, Marty launched his firm focusing on estate and financial planning. As an attorney with a CFPTM designation, Marty envisioned a law firm that offered a holistic practice with multiple disciplines.

In 2008, Marty heard about the Life Care Planning Law Firms Association (LCPLFA) and their unique practice model which integrated care coordination into the elder law practice. Intrigued, Marty attended a LCPLFA event in Chicago to learn more.

One of the defining features of Life Care Planning Law Firms is the on-staff elder care coordinator. Marty liked the idea but wasn’t ready to commit to it. Instead, he took a half-step toward implementation by recruiting a few social workers as “partners” to broaden his firm’s service offering.

While this modified approach to the Life Care Planning practice model kept him busy, Marty didn’t realize that he was missing the mark—until life intervened.

Marty’s father had been suffering from dementia, and in 2015, his condition worsened significantly.  This decline was about to change the way Marty understood the practice of elder law. “My dad had the best planning, a caring spouse committed to him, three kids who supported him, and he lived in Florida, where there’s no shortage of elder services,” Marty remembers. “I managed his elder transition the way I did for clients. We hired a local care manager and monitored his decline and changing needs. We found a great memory care facility for him when it was time to make that change.”

But it wasn’t enough. “During a routine blood-draw, the facility approached it from an efficiency point of view, not from the perspective of a patient with dementia,” recalls Marty. “An upset occurred. Instead of clarifying the situation and learning from the issue, everyone involved retreated to their silos to write CYA memos and take action to protect themselves. This led to my dad being immediately forcibly evicted without notice from the facility and moved to a psych ward over 100 miles away. Family members weren’t permitted to see him for three days. Less than two weeks later, he died.”

Marty was floored. “I saw the reality behind the glossy brochures,” he explains. “I saw how no one in the system stood up for the voiceless vulnerable one. I got a front row seat to trauma and pain that ripples through helpless, trusting families all the time.  It’s a brutal experience, and the system doesn’t care enough to change or learn from it.”

This experience of seeing his father fall through the cracks changed Marty in a deeply personal way.  He saw the high stakes of elder law, and how elder law without personal advocacy is incomplete.  He saw how he, too, had unwittingly shied away from the chance to offer clients more comprehensive support through this difficult transition.  

“The elder transition process today is like surgery in the civil war: necessary but brutal,” Marty adds. “It needs to evolve. So, a few months after my dad passed, we hired the strongest social worker in our network as our first Elder Care Coordinator, we then joined LCPLFA, and have been evolving from that foundation ever since.”