The Right to Die

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Going over the details with Lisa Roach.

The right of terminally ill patients to end their lives through legal means is now the law in six states.  Lisa Roach is taking the lead to advance this initiative in North Carolina.  The non-profit organization Dying Right North Carolina is devoted to honoring life by allowing it to end with dignity and without suffering.

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Special Thanks

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A mother and daughter consult with Monica Berry.

Thanks to Parkway United Church of Christ for making a donation to help the Clinic do community service.  Also, thanks to several local experts who gave their time to teach our students about long term-care insurance options: Ellen Atkins, Gerry Malmo and Ernie Osborn.  They are each Certified in Long-Term Care.

 Our Medical Teaching Partners: 

To better understand the needs of older clients, our students learned about medical issues such as mental capacity assessment, caregiver support programs, ECT and hospice and palliative care.  The clinic’s medical teaching partners, who generously share their time and expertise with the clinic students, are:

  • William Hazzard, M.D., Professor of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine
  • Predrag Gligorovic, M.D., Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine
  • Mark Corbett, M.D., Associate Medical Director, Hospice and Palliative CareCenter
  • Edward Shaw, M.D., M.A., Sticht Center for Healthy Aging, Caregiver Support Group.

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The Art of the Interview

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Cara Van Dorn makes a home visit.

In this course, students get a lot of experience with interviewing clients, their family members and witnesses.  From the opening chitchat to the final summary, students learn how to conduct a thorough interview.

Maria Collins had some particularly challenging interviews.  She worked with a client who had had a stroke a few years ago and tended to get off track. Maria found it hard not to be overly deferential and to keep the discussion on the legal tasks at hand.  It helped, she found, to be direct about the time constraints and to not follow up when the client brought up new topics.

Interviewing requires getting and giving information while also clarifying misunderstandings, all while being empathetic.  It can sometimes be tough!

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Thank You Notes

  • Cate Berenato surpassed my expectations.  She was professional and did research that showed she understood my needs.  I feel blessed that I got her!”
  • Monica Berry was respectful, knowledgeable and kind.  This was a very good experience.”
  • “You treat all your clients with dignity, listen carefully to ascertain their needs and do your best to help . . . a wonderful service.”
  • Casey Fidler is a very kind person and I know she will make a good lawyer.”
  • I was well treated with no snobbery.  Please don’t discontinue this service to the community.”
  • Rebecca Daddino was friendly and knowledgeable.  I am very pleased with how my problem was taken care of.”
Dan Best

Dan Choyce consults with a client and her daughter.

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Avoiding the Double Whammy

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Reva Singh explains the legal options.

Many people come to the Elder Law Clinic worried about losing their homes if they should ever need nursing home care.  Should they be worried?  Yes!  Once a person’s savings get down to the poverty level ($2,000 in savings for an individual), Medicaid pays for most nursing home residents.  The person can own a home while Medicaid pays the nursing home.

Here is the problem, though.  Medicaid law requires that the government be reimbursed out of the person’s estate. This means that first their savings are used up and then all or part of their house value goes to pay back the Medicaid program.  This is called “Medicaid estate recovery.”  It’s a double whammy that few families expect.  Often they will seek out an elder law attorney, to learn the rules and to see what assets they can protect.  Most folks want to hold onto what they have worked for in case they get better and leave the nursing home. They also want to leave something for their spouse, children and grandchildren.

Lisa Roach helped a woman who had been a cosmetologist for more than 25 years.  She wanted to ensure her home went to her three sons.  Like many people, she was confused about Medicaid and thought perhaps she should give her house to her sons now.  Lisa advised her against this, because it would actually make her ineligible for this valuable program.  She also explained that the son who the client appointed under a power of attorney could take steps to protect the home from “estate recovery” if – and only if – the client ever enters a nursing home on Medicaid.  Lisa advised her client to keep the home in her name for now.

There are cases where Medicaid does allow a person to give her home to a child, without causing ineligibility.  One example is the “caregiver child rule.”  Casey Fidler helped a woman whose son has been staying with her for several years.  The client wanted to be sure he could stay there after she passes away.  Casey explored different options with her client, including the possibility that the “caregiver child” rule would apply.  This required getting a physician to document that the woman needed a caregiver living with her and that her son had lived with her for at least two years before the home was transferred to him.

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Clinical Professor Kate Mewhinney

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Grandma’s helpers come with a client to her appointment at the clinic.

  • Co-authored a web-based training with physicians from the Mayo Clinic and Wake Forest School of Medicine.  The training is part of the only national geriatrics curriculum for medical students and other health professionals.
  • Published “The Protected Consumer Credit Freeze: A New Tool to Prevent and Stop Financial Exploitation of Incapacitated Adults,” in the newsletters of the NC Bar Association’s Elder Law and Special Needs Section and the Estate Planning and Fiduciary Law Section.
  • Organized a program on LGBT rights in health care settings with law students and medical students.  For resources on this topic, visit
  • Was invited to be part of a strategic planning process on preparing our community for the growing senior population.  The process was initiated by the CEOs of BB&T, Reynolds American, Hanesbrands, Senior Services and Wake Forest Baptist Health.

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Alumni News

  • Jenna Coogle (’17), a clinic student in the spring, worked in Washington D.C. at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  She spent part of last summer assisting the Investor Advocate, Rick Fleming (’94).  Back in 1993, Mr. Fleming was a student in the Clinic.

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    Maria Collins meets with Rebecca Omlor, M.D., at the Forsyth County Hall of Justice before a hearing.

  • Maria Collins (’17) worked with Sarah Randal Watchko (’08) last summer in Georgia.  Watchko is one of only ten Certified Elder Law Attorneys by the National Elder Law Foundation in her state.
  • Rebekah Garcia (’14) is now a staff attorney with Legal Aid of N.C.’s Senior Law Project.  She writes: “I provide legal assistance to victims and work with multi-disciplinary elder abuse task forces in eastern N.C.  Our project helps educate community members about how elder abuse/financial exploitation happens and how they can protect themselves.”
  • Marcus Fields (’16) joined the preeminent elder law firm of Ron M. Landsman, in Rockville, Maryland.
  • Jenica Cassidy (’14) presented at a Roundtable on Restoration of Rights in Adult Guardianship at the ABA Commission on Law and Aging.  This was the culmination of a yearlong research project funded by Borchard and The Greenwall Foundation.  Her findings and policy recommendations will be published in 2017.  Jenica practices elder law in Maryland.

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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

K and Rebecca Best
Prof. Kate Mewhinney and clinic student Rebecca Daddino (’17) supported World Elder Abuse Awareness Day by attending the Piedmont Triad’s 5th Annual Elder Abuse Walk, Stroll and Roll on June 18, 2016, where they distributed information about the clinic and participated in the day’s events.  The purpose of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is to provide an opportunity for communities around the world to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older persons by raising awareness of the cultural, social, economic and demographic processes affecting elder abuse and neglect.  Visit the Administration for Community Living for more information.

Two Generations of Elder Law Clinic Students Work to Protect Investors

Retirees and people approaching retirement are quite concerned about protecting their investments, if they are lucky enough to have any.  So, retirement income security is a topic that students learn about in The Elder Law Clinic.

Jenna Coogle and Rick Fleming


This past summer, Jenna Coogle (’17) - who was a clinic student in the spring – worked in Washington DC at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  She was fortunate to spend part of that time assisting the Investor AdvocateRick Fleming (’94).  Back in 1993, Mr. Fleming was also a student in Wake Forest’s Elder Law Clinic.  He was appointed in 2014 as the first Investor Advocate for the SEC.  Two generations of advocates for older adults!


Elder Law Clinic featured in Winston-Salem Journal’s ‘Ask Sam’ advice column

Wake Forest Law’s Elder Law Clinic, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, was featured in the Winston-Salem Journal’s popular “Ask Sam” advice column here on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016.