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Takacs' elder law practice turns 25

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Hendersonville attorney Tim Takacs is known across the U.S. for his innovations in the practice of elder law. Submitted
Tim Takacs and Barbara Boone McGinnis celebrated 25 years of Takacs’ elder law practice at a reception on Sept. 21. Submitted

Twenty-five years ago this month, attorney Timothy Takacs opened his family law practice on Walton Ferry Road.

The following spring, the Vanderbilt Law School graduate attended a program hosted by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. The program highlighted the relatively new practice of elder law - a focus the young attorney decided to pursue with a passion.

For more than two decades Takacs has helped countless clients navigate the often-daunting process of caring for an elderly loved one while breaking new ground nationwide in the elder law field.

"People walk into our office often because of a health care event," he said. "I recognized that there was more to elder law than just law. It was integrating the older adults' legal, financial and personal care needs.

"You would think that sounds obvious, but back in the '90s that was not."

The attorney quickly recognized that his clients had issues beyond the traditional legal needs like estate planning, and filing for benefits.

In the mid-1990's, Takacs began adding health care professionals like nurses and social workers to his staff to address quality of life and health care issues that so many of his clients faced.

In 1998, he became one of the first attorneys in Tennessee to receive certification as an elder law attorney after the Tennessee Supreme Court allowed the state to certify legal specialty areas. Also, that year he authored the book Elder Law Practice in Tennessee.

It's not the only book Takacs has written.

A native of Texas who was raised in Indiana and West Virginia, he graduated from the University of Notre Dame before applying to Vanderbilt. While clerking for Hendersonville attorney Bill Hodde and before graduating from Vandy in 1980, Takacs moved to the growing suburb of Nashville in 1977.

He became so fascinated with the city and its politics that he started writing a book about Hendersonville, City by the Lake, in 1988.

Takacs said he initially wanted to write about the city's controversial change from a city commission to a mayoral-aldermanic form of government that occurred at the time, but discovered that there was so much other history, his book left off at the city's incorporation in 1969.

Jamie Clary, who helped him write one of the book's chapters, took up where Takacs left off with his City by the Lake: A History of Hendersonville from 1968 to 1988.

Besides writing about Hendersonville's history, Takacs has taken an active part in it.

A member of the Sumner County Commission from 1990-1998, Takacs also helped found the non-profit group FOALS, Friends of the Arts and Literature in Sumner, with his wife Lynn and friends that included Fell and Lisa Merwin and Bill Sinks.

The group spearheaded the building of a new Hendersonville Public Library in 2008.

"How many people get together with friends and complain about what you don't have," he said. "You know our city needs this or something needs that. The only way something gets done is people like us that get it done."

Takacs has taken that approach it seems, both personally and professionally.

He has mentored hundreds of elder law attorneys over the years through his nationwide seminars. Hundreds more come each year to his Hendersonville office to learn from his practice that now includes a staff of three attorneys, two elder care coordinators, and two public benefits specialists.

One of those attorneys is Barbara Boone McGinnis who joined Takacs in 2011 after working for 23 years as a geriatric nurse practitioner.

A graduate of Gallatin High School, McGinnis graduated from the Nashville School of Law in 2010 - the same year her daughter graduated from Station Camp High School.

McGinnis says she decided to go to law school while watching her mother care for her father with dementia.

While she had been in the health care field for years, she wanted to know more about the legal aspects of caring for a loved one.

"My father had dementia and my mother had a lot of stress about taking care of him," she said. "Some of those answers I could help her with and some of them I couldn't."

After passing the bar exam, she went to work with Takacs, someone she had heard a great deal about over the years.

McGinnis became a partner in 2016, the same year she became certified as an elder law attorney. The firm was re-named Takacs McGinnis Elder Care Law in early 2017.

As they celebrate this month 25 years of Takacs' elder law practice, the two say they'd be hard-pressed to find a more rewarding way to make a living.

McGinnis says the most rewarding part for her is watching a client who is tense with fear and worry about a loved one start to relax as she explains the steps they need to take.

"Their shoulders aren't quite so weighed down - and then they say 'I feel like I can sleep tonight,'" she says. "It's very meaningful."

Takacs starts out with a more detailed explanation of the elder law field, and then offers what he calls the five-second version.

"I help you take care of your mom," he says. "I always say I have the best job in the world. I mean I really do."

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