From an early age, Ellen Cookman has wanted to help people. Ellen comes from a family of lawyers and teachers. Her father, Bob Reinstein, is the former dean of Temple University Law School and fought in the Civil Rights movement. Her grandfather was a lawyer who worked as manager of a cannery for his aunt, Tillie Lewis. And her stepmother is an assistant U.S. attorney in Philadelphia.
After receiving her law degree at U.C. Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall), and clerking for the Honorable Anthony J. Scirica, then-chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, Ellen returned to California and worked as a patent litigator at Morrison & Foerster in Palo Alto. Unable to find fulfillment in this area, she left her job and taught middle school math at Hope Technology School, a small private school in Palo Alto that practices full inclusion of typical and special needs kids. While teaching, Ellen attended a parent support group presentation given by an estate planning attorney on special needs trusts, which seemed like a great way to help people in need while utilizing her legal skills. Her husband also taught in special education for many years.
Ellen worked as an estate planning associate for six years at Lakin Spears LLP and at Gilfix & La Poll Associates, and then decided to start Cookman Law. She is passionate about helping families of all shapes and sizes plan for the future and utilize available resources.
Experiences & Accolades
Ellen is a Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law from the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. The California Board of Legal Specialization estimates that only 3% of all attorneys in California are Certified Specialists. To be a certified specialist, an attorney must take and pass a comprehensive full-day written examination; must have demonstrated a high level of expertise and requisite number of years of experience in the applicable subject areas; must fulfill mandated ongoing education requirements, and must have been favorably evaluated by other attorneys and judges familiar with his or her work.
In addition, Ellen has an AV® Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell, the highest rating available. An AV® Rating signifies that an attorney has practiced law for a number of years and is recognized by his or her peers for the highest levels of skill and integrity.
Ellen was recently awarded the bronze medal for Best Legal Services, Silicon Valley Region by Bay Area Parent magazine, Reader’s Choice Awards.
“Special Needs Trusts,” Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area, Danville, CA, May 2016
“Drafting and Designing Revocable Trusts in California,” Mentor Legal Drafting, San Jose, CA, May 2016
“Estate planning tools for families with mental health challenges,” NAMI San Mateo County General Meeting, San Mateo, CA, July 2015
“Special Needs Trusts and ABLE Act,” San Mateo County Bar Association, San Mateo, CA, May 2015
“Basics of Estate Planning,” Parents Place, Palo Alto, CA, March 2014
“Estate Planning for Families with Disabilities,” Support for Families of Children with Disabilities, San Francisco, CA, October 2013
We have been very satisfied with our decision to engage Ellen for a thorough restatement and amendment of our estate planning documents. We have been impressed with her professionalism in terms of her organized and disciplined approach, her knowledge and know-how, her flexibility and her total commitment to serving us in the best possible manner. In addition, we admire Ellen’s personality, notably her patient, calm and friendly demeanor.
– L.S. and A.S.
Special Needs Family
I have a family member with special needs, and I wanted to ensure his ongoing care without jeopardizing his needs-based benefits. Establishing and administering an SNT is complex, but Ellen has a gift for breaking down complex matters so I can understand them. I have a lot of peace of mind knowing that I have a solid estate plan that addresses my family’s unique needs.
A Bright Light
Ellen represented a beneficiary in a very challenging Trust Administration, in which I represented the Trustee. She was one of the lone bright lights as she was responsive, collaborative and tried to get to a solution for our mutual clients.
I use Ellen as my lawyer because she is smart, thorough, hard-working and honest. I know I can rely on her to research, learn and understand all the details of a given situation. I also know that Ellen takes her fiduciary duty very seriously, which gives me total confidence that I will get an unbiased, objective explanation, given in a way that I can understand, of the pros and cons of the various alternatives that flow from the situation presented.