NCBA 21st Annual Elder & Special Needs Law Symposium

Elder Law Clinic alumni met at the NCBA 21st Annual Elder & Special Needs Law Symposium in Pinehurst, NC.  From left:  Mark Edwards (’97), David McLean (’99), Aimee Smith (’02), Jonathan Williams (’11), Professor Kate Mewhinney, Natalie P. Miller (’04), Kathleen R. Rodberg (’12), Ben Limehouse (’14).

Elder Law Clinic alumni met at the NCBA 21st Annual Elder & Special Needs Law Symposium in Pinehurst, NC. From left: Mark Edwards (’97), David McLean (’99), Aimee Smith (’02), Jonathan Williams (’11), Professor Kate Mewhinney, Natalie P. Miller (’04), Kathleen R. Rodberg (’12), Ben Limehouse (’14).

Natalie P. Miller (’04) is the Chair of the Elder Law and Special Needs Section of the N.C. Bar Association, which has over 500 members.  Kathleen R. Rodberg (’12), Aimee Smith (’02) and Mark Edwards (’97) are on the Council.

‘Ask Sam’ Features the Elder Law Clinic

The Elder Law Clinic at Wake Forest University was featured in the Winston-Salem Journal’s popular “Ask Sam” advice column here on Friday, January 27, 2017.

The Real Deal

Fall 2016 group photo - web

Fall 2016 Elder Law Clinic
Maria Collins, Rebecca Daddino, Casey Fidler, Monica Berry,
Dan Choyce, Cara Van Dorn, Lisa Roach, Cate Berenato, Reva Singh

“Nothing ever becomes real ‘til it is experienced.” - John Keats

In the Elder Law Clinic, law students gained hands-on legal experience with actual clients, under the supervision of Professor Kate Mewhinney.  The students prepared wills and powers of attorney, handled guardianship hearings, tackled consumer law issues and answered health law questions.  Below are some stories, with details changed to protect confidentiality.

Click here for full newsletter




Stress from the IRS

Cartoon - hand in marriage floor

Michael Maslin/The New Yorker Collection/The Cartoon Bank

$870 per month from Social Security is not much to live on.  But Cate Berenato’s client was also anxious and depressed about an IRS debt.  Cate represented her client by filing an “Offer in Compromise” with the IRS, asking to reduce the debt.  She obtained a statement from the client’s doctor confirming that the IRS debt was negatively impacting the client’s mental health.

Click here for full newsletter

A Bad Deed

Cate new best

Cate Berenato answers her client’s questions.

Dan Choyce helped a retired cafeteria worker who wanted a will to leave her house to her only daughter.  The only problem was that the house was still in the names of both the client and her husband, though they had been separated for over twenty years!

Because of how the deed was written, the client’s will could not control who got the house.  Instead, the deed would control it if the husband was alive when the client died and the husband would inherit the house.  Dan suggested that the client offer the husband some money to deed the house to her.

The husband refused her offer.  Because the client did not want to file for divorce, Dan prepared a will and the client understood that her daughter would not inherit the house if the husband was still alive when she died.

Click here for full newsletter

The Right to Die

IMG_2954 (2)

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.

Click here for full newsletter


Special Thanks

Monica client best

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.

Click here for full newsletter


The Art of the Interview

Cara best home visit

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!

Click here for full newsletter

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.

Click here for full newsletter





Avoiding the Double Whammy

Reva Best

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.

Click here for full newsletter