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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Medicaid and Tax Mazes

Gelila Selassie counseled a woman who was recently hospitalized. She wanted to know about Medicaid coverage laws because she is concerned that future care will decimate her assets. Because the client’s daughter is providing in-home care for her now, Gelila helped them prepare a “care agreement.” This way, the daughter is compensated fairly and the mother’s assets will keep her independent as long as possible. Paying reasonable rates for this care avoids the strict “transfer of asset” penalties imposed by Medicaid.

Heidi Muller represented a couple whose Social Security income is being garnished by the IRS for back taxes. This leaves the pair with less than $1,400 per month on which to live. Heidi prepared and filed an Offer in Compromise and a Collection Information Statement with the IRS. She documented the couple’s living expenses, and requested a reduction in the garnishment.

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SAVE THE DATE: October 8, 2014 Voting in NC: What’s Changed and What to Know


Join representatives from the North Carolina Center for Voter Education, Democracy NC, The League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad, and the WFU Elder Law Clinic for a free informational program and question-and-answer session on voting rights in North Carolina. Topics covered include new rules on absentee voting and identification requirements, as well as the effective dates for each.  Special emphasis will be placed on the impact of new rules on older and disabled voters, but community leaders, caregivers, and members of the public are all welcome to come and learn.  Know your rights in time for the election!  The program will be held in the multipurpose room at Senior Services in Winston-Salem with a light lunch served.  Free event, no registration required open to all ages.

Date:  Wednesday, October 8, 2014     Time:  11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Location:   Senior Services 2895 Shorefair Dr. NW Winston-Salem, NC 27105

Directions and link to Google map:  2895 Shorefair Dr. NW Winston-Salem, NC 27105


The WFU Elder Law Clinic
NC Center for Voter Education
Democracy NC
League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad

Serving Diverse Needs

Lauren Johnson, Aly Kyser, Ben Limehouse,Cameron Stanton, Becky Chen, Rebekah Garcia

Lauren Johnson, Aly Kyser, Ben Limehouse,
Cameron Stanton, Becky Chen, Rebekah Garcia

Our students had quite a range of interview experiences this semester.  Not much fazes them now.  One day they might chat with an elegant emigree; the next day, they might struggle to understand a disturbed military veteran.  At one appointment our students might get the facts from a grandma in walking shoes; at another appointment, from a patient in a hospital bed.  They learned to surmount language differences and to figure out how best to communicate with those who have memory issues.  Clients sometimes had hearing, vision, and education limitations that put the students to the test.

Our caseload was also varied.  Complex rules on Medicaid coverage of long-term care were particularly challenging.  The students appeared at numerous court hearings and presented factual findings and recommendations regarding incompetency proceedings.  They drafted and redrafted advice letters, analyzed statutes, and learned the inner workings of a small law office.  Also, they learned that having pleasant, detail-oriented support staff is one secret to good lawyering.

These students did not choose the easiest path to getting course credits.  They put in long hours and helped their community.  Congratulations on taking a big step closer to becoming lawyers!

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He Grabbed His Gun

The adult children wrestled their father to the ground.  Impaired by dementia, he threatened his wife with a gun and claimed she was trying to “put him away.” Rebekah Garcia learned this sad story and advised the wife about legal options. Rebekah explained the court process to file for guardianship over the husband.  The wife can now find a safe environment for her husband — and be safer herself.

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