At Surprenant & Beneski, PC, Family is Their Business

Daniel Surprenant and his sister, Michelle Beneski, never imagined their separate paths in law would eventually lead to them working together in the family business. Fate, however, had other plans. Following a winding road into other areas of law practice, the siblings found themselves practicing together as lead partners and certified elder law attorneys* at their firm Surprenant & Beneski, PC.

Following law school, Beneski spent another year getting her masters in tax law and, from there, worked as a tax attorney for a nonprofit and a couple of public accounting firms, doing state and local tax law.

“I got a little burned out, so I joined my dad at his firm just as my grandmother was getting sick,” she said. “My father wanted to change his firm to an elder law and estate planning firm, and the skills that I have with the tax background and the accounting background molded well because it’s very transactional and it relies on codes, and a lot of elder law relies on codes as well.”

From a family point of view, she said, it was important to be able to face the challenges ahead for her grandmother and help her father. From a professional point of view, she felt it was nice mix and enjoyed the change – to be able to help family and work with family.  When she had accumulated the necessary experience in elder law, Beneski received her certification as an elder law attorney from the National Elder Law Association.

Before joining the firm in 2006, Surprenant had been an Assistant District Attorney, prosecuting criminals, followed by civil litigation. After a time, he decided to pursue elder law and estate planning.

“In speaking with Michelle and my dad on the subject matter, what they did, it’s just been a great service,” he said. “I had been in service before law school, volunteering in service to the community. When I became a lawyer, I looked at my job as a service. How could I provide service to people? Estate planning, especially for seniors and people with disabilities, is a perfect match for that.” 

Surprenant’s experience is extensive. “One of the things I’m most proud of on my resume is that I was president of MassNAELA (Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys) in 2015, which is the largest and most active chapter in the country. I had been on the board for a few years and then I was president and, just like Michelle, also a CELA (Certified Elder Law Attorney). We are happy to be two of only 24 or 25 in the state to have that designation.”

The siblings’ grandmother struggled with dementia for six years before she passed, and they experienced, firsthand, the issues she was going through. It appealed to them that they might be able to help people who were going through similar issues.

“I think her illness influenced our dad, and ultimately brought me to this area of law,” Beneski said. “Dan saw what we were doing, and saw that ability to help seniors in this situation. He saw what a big need there was for it in the community.”

“Our dad had a firm and had been practicing in Greater New Bedford since around 1965,” she continued. “He’s always been in practice in the area so we have really strong roots in the community, a huge family, involvement in local schools, etc. I think with both Dan and I going into law school, we wouldn’t have predicted we’d go into practice together OR with him. We had other paths in front of us. But once we decided to do that … it’s just been really satisfying.”

Surprenant & Beneski offer their services throughout all of Southeastern Massachusetts from the Cape to south of Boston, with offices in Easton, New Bedford and Hyannis. In addition to Dan and Michelle, there are two other attorneys on the team, Brandon Walecka and Erin Nunes.

“I think (clients will choose us) because of our expertise,” Beneski said. “Dan is part of the Special Needs Alliance, which is a very select group of attorneys throughout the nation. They offer high-end, special-needs planning for people who have loved ones with disabilities. Then we have our CELAs, who are elder law attorneys. We have my tax degree for those who are having tax issues. We just have this great team of people who bring it all together and make sure the client is getting good advice, as opposed to some off-the-shelf plan that may or may not work when they need it. Our team will hold their hand all the way through. It’s more than Dan and I. I think a lot of firms don’t provide that level of service that we do.

“I think we give our clients that peace of mind, knowing that it’s done right.”

If you have estate planning or elder law questions, or if you’d like more information, visit the Surprenant & Beneski, PC, website at

*CELA®: Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. The National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) is the only national organization certifying practitioners of elder and special needs law. NELF’s Certified Elder Law Attorney designation is itself certified by the American Bar Association.

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About Ann Luongo

Ann Luongo has been writing for Cape Cod and South Shore publications for over 15 years.
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