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Elon’s New Elder Law Clinic

Article Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2013

On August 15, 2012, the Elon University School of Law Elder Law Clinic opened its doors to serve the legal needs of low-income Guilford County seniors. To be eligible for services, clients had to meet the basic requirements of being over the age of sixty years old, with an income of less than $1700.00 a month for an individual, and be residents of Guilford County.  Under the supervision of Director Margaret Kantlehner, Clinical Practitioner in Residence Hannah Vaughan, and with the support of Legal Assistant Candy Albrecht, eight third year law students spent an incredible 1,381 hours on Clinic related work.  

During the first semester in operation, the Clinic processed over 150 requests for assistance. The students performed research and assisted clients with a variety of different matters. Student attorneys handled matters relating to public benefits, including advising clients on eligibility and estate recovery rules for Medicaid and Special Assistance. They also prepared a brief in support of a request for waiver of a Social Security overpayment. They served as Guardian ad Litem in two incompetency hearings. They guided a client through the foreclosure process on her home – researching foreclosure defenses, providing her with resources to pursue new housing, and offering to assist with the process of having her cats designated as emotional support animals when she moved. They extensively researched and advised multiple seniors about their rights as grandparents to custody or visitation of minor grandchildren. They advised a client about her claim for post-separation spousal support.  Students guided a client through the beginnings of a partition proceeding on her property, advising her as to her rights and actions she could take to protect her interests. They also examined a deed to real property that passed through intestacy in order to determine a client’s current ownership status in relation to other family members.  Of course, students also had plenty of opportunities to draft and advise clients about advance health care directives, powers of attorney, and wills.   

In addition to providing legal guidance and advice, students also formed meaningful relationships with their clients. Some of the most memorable moments for the students were the stories their clients shared of their own youths or about their departed loved ones.  One client recounted the story of how he convinced the love of his life (and wife for over 60 years) to go on a date with him by bribing her with a rare Hershey candy bar he had special access to while working as an usher at a Greensboro theater. Another client expressed his only problem with young people as the fact that he wasn’t a young person anymore himself. Through their relationships with clients, students were able to put their legal knowledge in context and learned that lawyers often counsel, comfort, and support clients far past the bounds of any technical legal issue.

The Clinic has drawn excitement among the law students, with enrollment at maximum capacity of eight students again for the Spring semester. The Clinic anticipates another successful term. For more information about the Clinic, or to send referrals, please contact Hannah Vaughan at (336) 279-9314.

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