Impaired . . . or Incompetent?

There is no machine or thermometer that determines when a person’s memory problem renders him incompetent.  That’s up to the courts to decide.  It can be tough to determine this, so the court appoints a lawyer to investigate each case.  Called the “guardian ad litem,” this lawyer must assess the situation, review medical records, question family members, and draw up a report.

Lauren Johnson (center) with a client and her daughter.

Lauren Johnson (center) with a client and her daughter.

Lauren Johnson served as guardian ad litem in three cases.  In two of them, she determined that the persons she was appointed to assist were actually able to make good decisions.  They both had some impairments, but were managing well and making reasonable choices.  As a result, the family members who had filed the guardianship cases took voluntary dismissals.  The two people then signed financial and health care powers of attorney picking responsible relatives to help them.

Lauren came to the Elder Law Clinic with an interesting background in health law.  She has worked in the field of clinical research programs and with the federal government on human research protection.  Lauren also worked at the Association of American Medical Colleges, and with the institutional review board of a major teaching hospital.  Her experience in the Elder Law Clinic allowed her to see health law issues from the perspective of the consumer.

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Welcome Steve!


Professor of the Practice Steve Garland is assisting in supervising Clinic students this year.  Garland is an experienced, licensed attorney with a strong business background and an excellent rapport with Clinic students. Other courses he teaches include Business Drafting and Decedents’ Estates and Trusts.


The Fine Print


Cameron Stanton (standing) and Rebekah Garcia (right) met with two clients . . . who are father and daughter!

Cameron Stanton (standing) and Rebekah Garcia (right)
met with two clients . . . who are father and daughter!

One of Cameron Stanton’s clients bought a “cancer policy.”  These so-called “dread disease policies” often sound better than they really are.  Cameron’s client received very little coverage for her expensive cancer treatment.  After reviewing the policy terms and consulting with the client’s physician, Cameron determined that the limited coverage was justified by the policy terms.

Cameron also examined another kind of insurance policy:  long-term care insurance (LTCI).  In our class on LTCI, he explained the options available to employees and their relatives under Wake Forest University’s optional policy.  This kind of insurance can be complicated and expensive.  For consumer resources, see the Elder Law Clinic’s website, which has a page about LTCI.

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Building on Clinic Experience

Becky Chen

Eye-to-eye with Becky Chen.

Becky Chen, a second-year student, has a summer internship at the New York State Attorney General’s Office in the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.  I will do research on Medicaid policy and help investigate frauds committed by hospitals, nursing homes, pharmacies, doctors, and other healthcare entities. I will also assist with cases of abuse and neglect in nursing homes and other facilities.  My experience in Elder Law Clinic really helped in the interview!

Ben Limehouse (‘14) will be practicing elder law in North Carolina, after taking the bar exam this summer.  He already has some good experience.  This past spring, he served as a teaching assistant to Professor Mewhinney and helped supervise the clinic students.  Ben also wrote an article for the N.C. Bar Association’s Elder Law Section newsletter titled:  “A Snapshot of the Uniform Power of Attorney Act.”


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Show Me the Money

In preparing a will for one client, Aly Kyser learned that her client’s granddaughter had borrowed $1,500 from him.  The client said his granddaughter hadn’t repaid a penny of what she had borrowed.  Aly prepared papers and filed suit for the gentleman and is waiting for the court date.  It is not unusual for older persons to help out relatives this way, but sometimes they are left in precarious financial shape as a result.

Aly Kyser reviews documents with her client.

Aly Kyser reviews documents with her client.

One of Becky Chen’s clients was formerly an executive in the furniture industry.  Laid off when he was in his 50s, he is unable to find comparable work.  Now, his home is mortgaged and his debts are piling up.  One creditor is about to sue him.  Becky reviewed the legal means available to protect his income and most of his assets.  She advised him about his options to protect as much as possible.

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Tackling Elder Abuse

Big news from Parker Smith (‘12) in Asheville!

          I’ve been handling general elder law work for Pisgah Legal Services.  Now, I will be their Elder Law Consumer Protection attorney.We got funding from the N.C. Attorney General’s office to start a program to educate seniors and local agencies about financial abuse and prevention.  I’ll develop the project from the ground-up, starting with community education about what sort of financial abuse to look out for and how we at Pisgah can assist if someone is victimized.


Professor Kate Mewhinney
Professor Kate Mewhinney has been invited to be a consultant to the Forsyth County Elder Abuse Task Force, whose focus is on prosecution of crimes against older adults.  The task force includes the county’s Adult Protective Services, detectives with the Winston-Salem Police Department, and the District Attorney’s office.


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Transforming Business

Brown, Tad

Tad Brown (’03) is Vice President and Fiduciary Regional Tax Manager for Wells Fargo Wealth Management.
He recently participated in a 10-week project in Austin, Texas to redesign the business model for the Wells Fargo Estate Settlement line of business. The new business model is aimed at making the estate settlement process better for clients going forward.

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E-Clinic Q and A (Click below)

Q and A










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N.C. Think Tank

Kate CLE - Group 1Clinical Professor Kate Mewhinney, Kim Gossage (’98),
Mark Edwards (’97), Aimee Smith (’02), Jonathan Williams (’11), Kathleen Rose Rodberg (’12), Lyndsey Marchman (’10),
Angela Kreinbrink (’06), Sue Alcorn (’01), David Inabinett (‘96), and (not pictured) Nora Ryan (’11) .

 Alumni from the Elder Law Clinic participated in the 2014 Elder & Special Needs Law Symposium and VA Accreditation Course.  It was presented by the N.C. Bar Association Foundation and held in Pinehurst, N.C.  Over 125 people attended the conference.  The Wake Forest Elder Law Clinic has helped train attorneys who now practice across this state.  For more information about these impressive alumni see here.

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A Bird’s Eye View

A warm welcome from Jenica Cassidy.

Jenica Cassidy was thrilled to work at the ABA Commission on Law and Aging in D.C. during the summer of 2013.  While there, she wrote articles for the Commission’s newsletter about guardianship restoration and end-of-life legal issues.

In the Elder Law Clinic, Jenica gained more experience on policy development.  She helped the Kaiser Family Foundation evaluate how well our state is providing non-institutional services to disabled elders.  Jenica gathered data showing that many people are on waiting lists for home- and community-based services, despite meeting eligibility criteria.  The waits often exceed a year, leaving elders and their families with tremendous burdens.

While in the clinic, Jenica handled three guardianship cases.  She also gave a talk about legal issues to the Early Journey Support Group, an innovative program for people with early memory loss and their family members.  It is directed by Ed Shaw, M.D., M.A., of the Sticht Center on Aging at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

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