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Congratulations Fall 2014 Elder Law Clinic

Group - webGelila Selassie, Ben Winikoff, Heidi Muller
Erin McKee, Colton Sexton

This fall, the Elder Law Clinic moved into a spacious suite on the ground floor of the law school.  The space was completely renovated and specifically designed to meet the needs of clients and students.  Reserved client parking is directly in front of the building.  Come visit sometime soon!

Unfazed by the changes going on around them, this semester’s “associates” worked on a variety of cases.  Each of them handled a guardianship matter and prepared several wills.  They advised some clients about debtor-creditor laws and others about health care laws that cover long-term care.

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Voting Rights Program

Erin McKee led the clinic’s involvement in a program that focused on voting rights.  Its goal was to ensure voting access for older and disabled voters.  We were honored to collaborate with several organizations.  Shown below, L to R:  Charmaine Fuller Cooper (AARP of N.C.),  Erin McKee, Professor Kate Mewhinney, Ann Fesmire (League of Women Voters of the Piedmont), Brent Laurenz (N.C. Center for Voter Education), Marlene Pratto (LWV of the Piedmont), and Linda Sutton (Democracy N.C.).

Resources on voting rights can be found on the Elder Law Clinic website. Erin also wrote a piece about voting access laws for the N.C. Bar Association’s Elder Law Section newsletter.

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Special Thanks

A recent career panel on elder law featured attorneys Jonathan Williams (‘11), Ben Limehouse (’14) and Karen Malay, who is with the firm of Allman Spry.  Limehouse has joined the Winston-Salem firm of Wells Liipfert, as an associate.

The clinic students were fortunate to hear from Aimee Smith (‘02), who helped teach a class on Medicaid planning strategies.  Parker Smith (‘12) came to talk about an elder abuse prevention project she leads with Pisgah Legal Services, Asheville.  It is funded by a grant from the N.C. Attorney General. She was introduced, below, by Professor Mewhinney.

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Parker Smith


The Secret Phone Call

Erin McKee got a telephone call.  It was the day before her new client was to come in, and the client’s daughter was calling.  She wanted to know if she could talk to Erin before her mom came.  These seemingly innocuous events can cause a lawyer to lose sight of who it is that she represents.

Families usually mean well, but by talking “behind the back” of the older client, we undermine the relationship of trust.  This conduct also might give the relatives a sense of control over the lawyer.  Erin decided to wait until the client came in.  She got the client’s permission to talk with the daughter, and had the conversation in front of her client.

To learn more about ethical issues in elder law, see the clinic’s resource page.

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Love Goes Sour

A few years ago, the Elder Law Clinic helped a married couple prepare their wills and powers of attorney.  While the couple got along fine at the time, the clinic student still found it wise to explain what we would do if they ever had conflicting goals or interests or the like.  The student further spelled our policy out in a letter, explaining that how “joint representation” works:  we do not keep secrets between members of a couple.

Fast-forward to today, and the couple is not getting along.  They each asked for private meetings with Heidi Muller and explained that they might separate.  They said that they wanted to cancel their powers of attorney.  Heidi explained that we no longer can represent them because of the conflict of interest.

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Heidi Muller met with a client and her granddaughter.

Heidi Muller met with a client and her granddaughter.

Client Feedback

Client Feedback


Mediation and Medical Partnerships

Dr. Mary Lyles

Clinical Professor Kate Mewhinney served as the court-appointed mediator in a contested guardianship case.  The matter, which involved allegations of abuse, was resolved and the court has approved the parties’ mediated settlement agreement.  North Carolina offers families the mediation option in disputes over estates or guardianship matters.  Mediation helps maintain family relationships and avoids costly, public guardianship cases.  It saves judicial resources as well.

We partnered again with the medical school to share expertise about older clients and patients.  Dr. Mary Lyles gave the students an excellent overview of mental capacity screening, diagnosis and treatment.

In December, Professor Mewhinney gave a presentation at the Geriatric Medicine – Hospital Medicine conference to their fellows and faculty.  Her topic was “Competency and Decision-Making Capacity.”  Mewhinney is an Associate in the School of Medicine’s Department of Internal Medicine (Section of Geriatrics and Gerontology).

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Our Students Look Back

Our Students Look Back












More Student Reflections

More Student Reflections

Alumni Make A Splash

Jenica Cassidy (‘14) was a graduate fellow at the ABA Commission on Law and Aging. She researched the practice of restoration of rights and termination of adult guardianship across the U.S.  The project included an analysis of case law and literature, a national questionnaire of judges and  attorneys, and interviews with the guardianship community. More good news!  Jenica has joined the Chernack Elder Law Firm in Maryland.

Devon Green (‘06) won a Vermont Medical Society’s Leadership Award for her work on a nationwide class-action lawsuit that challenged  Medicare’s “improvement standard.”  This standard had resulted in denials of care to Medicare beneficiaries who needed services, but could not demonstrate their condition would improve.  Thousands of patients will benefit from Devon’s work.

Lauren Johnson Hartsmith (’14) writes:  I work with the federal Office for Human Research Protection, part of the Department of Health and Human Services.  We are revising the human subjects protections regulations, which govern the ethical review process and ethical standards under which certain types of research activities involving humans can happen.

Lauren Karp (‘14) is an associate with Franchelle Millender, a Certified Elder Law Attorney in Columbia, S.C., who writes: We are so pleased to have Lauren with us.  She will be a real asset to the firm. Thanks for heading her our way.

Angela Kreinbrink (‘06) practices elder law and estate planning and administration in High Point, N.C.  She became a named partner with her firm: McAllister, Aldridge & Kreinbrink.

Natalie Miller (‘04) is the president of the N.C. chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.  She practices in Mooresville.

Tiffany Tyler (‘13) is now an Assistant Clerk of Court in Buncombe County, N.C. (Asheville), in the Estates Division.

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