The Settlement Alliance

Settlement Planner Spotlight: Joanna Seidman Wynes, Esq.

Settlement Planner Spotlight: Joanna Seidman Wynes, Esq.

Nov 29, 2016

Primary Office Location: Ellicott City, Maryland

What three traits define you?

Tenacious, outgoing, and sincere.

What is the greatest challenge you've had to overcome?

My father became disabled around the time I turned fourteen. When my mom became the sole breadwinner, I had to become financially independent and grow up at a much younger age than many of my peers. When I was in law school, full-time, most of my classmates worked maybe one part-time job or none at all, while I worked three jobs. In retrospect, I am very lucky to have faced this challenge as it has provided me with resilience, a great work ethic and extreme desire to succeed in everything I do.

Why did you choose to become a settlement planner?

While practicing as a plaintiff personal injury attorney for nearly a decade, I worked closely with one of the settlement planners at The Settlement Alliance. I saw firsthand all he did to make sure that the significant settlements we worked so hard to get really helped provide our clients with financial stability for the future. I also witnessed the great relationships he built with many of the attorneys in the Philadelphia area as well as the relationships he built with the plaintiffs. I knew that being involved in a career that would allow me to build similar types of relationships would be a great fit for my personality. I contacted my settlement planner to see if there would be an opportunity for me at The Settlement Alliance, and the rest is history!

What do you enjoy most about being a settlement planner?

I am very happy that as a settlement planner, I am able to assist clients in maximizing their settlements and ensuring financial security. I know that for many of our clients, especially those who were the victims of a catastrophic injury, the money they receive as a result of a settlement needs to last as long as they live. I also know that without comprehensive and compassionate advice and guidance, these individuals are at risk of losing government benefits, making poor investments, being taken advantage of, or spending their settlement funds too quickly. The fact that I am able to help ensure that these individuals will always be cared for and will remain in a much better financial position as a result of their settlement gives me great satisfaction.

On an unrelated note, I also really enjoy the diversity and scope of my job functions as a settlement planner. Some days, I am sitting in a mediation working with attorneys and their clients to help the clients develop a plan for their settlement proceeds, whether it includes a trust, a structured settlement, wealth management or a combination thereof. Other days, my job entails going to lunch with attorneys, hosting attorney happy hours or attending trial lawyer events in an effort to build new and existing relationships. I always feel that the work I do is interesting, fun and meaningful, and I never get the Sunday-night blues.

Share one of your favorite client stories:

Recently, I had a client who sustained severe neurologic and cognitive injuries as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. Following her injury, she began receiving Medicaid and was placed in a nursing home, where the conditions were pretty substandard. The client’s goal was to move out of the nursing home as soon as she had her settlement funds available to her, and either move into a condominium with round-the-clock attendant care or into a high-end assisted living facility. I spoke with the attorneys and reviewed the life care plan in advance of the settlement to help determine the bottom line for settlement. Following settlement, I helped the attorneys and the client determine the appropriate amount of money which needed to be placed into a guaranteed, interest-free structured settlement to provide for the plaintiff’s ongoing monthly care needs, and the amount of funds to be placed into trust to provide for an emergency fund, imminent purchases (including durable medical equipment, adaptive vehicle and any home modifications) and to allow the client to have some much-needed enjoyment and fun. I set up a Special Needs Trust that would best be able to manage the client’s significant settlement funds and provide great customer service and flexibility while preserving her Medicaid. I also brought on one of our nurse case managers who recommended some assisted living facilities that would meet the client’s needs, determine the durable medical equipment necessary for the client’s safety at the assisted living facility and coordinate various therapies and services to maximize the client’s functional abilities. Through my own efforts and those of the attorneys and our strategic partners, this client is going to live in a safe, comfortable place, will keep her government benefits and will never have to worry about running out of money, or not being able to access money when she needs it for the remainder of her life.

Where is the most interesting place you've ever traveled?

I took an amazing trip around Italy with my husband about two years ago. We spent time in Florence, Cinque Terre, Rome, Sorrento, Amalfi, Positano, Scala, Ravello and Capri. We took some private tours where we had the opportunity to explore little art galleries, farms and restaurants, which catered to the locals rather than big tour groups, and really allowed us to get a sense of the culture. Also, my husband was born in Rome while his parents were emigrating from Russia to the United States but had not been back since the time of his birth. We got to check out the hospital where he was born, which was a pretty cool experience. 

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about living the best life possible. A lot of things can happen in life that are beyond our control, but I think it is so important to try to work through the bad, focus on the good and create opportunities to enrich our own lives and the lives of those around us.

What is your personal motto?

Leave everywhere you go better than how you found it!

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Joanna and The Settlement Alliance will be hosting a happy hour following the Maryland Association for Justice Reptile Seminar on December 9th. You can contact her here.

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