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The Elder Law team at Van Winkle is unlike any other in Western North Carolina.

In addition to being President of the Van Winkle Law Firm, Caroline Knox is also a Board Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA). She is one of 20 elder law attorneys in North Carolina to hold this distinction. She has assembled a multi-disciplinary team combining legal, social work and geriatric case management that is unique in Western North Carolina.

As an elder law attorney, Knox works in a variety of areas for older adults: she prepares for incapacity planning through use of powers of attorney and other advance directives, and prepares for a streamlined transfer of assets at death through Wills, Trusts and beneficiary designations. In addition, Knox and her team assist in in planning for the emotional and financial needs of families who have a loved one facing an end-of-life transition, disability or change in personal health status.

Easing the emotional and financial strain

“It’s horrifying to see that happen to someone you love,” says James Grodnik about his wife Mary and her Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Michael McCall had a similar situation with his wife Dorene. Both men were retired and felt like they had planned adequately for their later years in life, only to find that nursing home placement for their wives presented financial and emotional challenges that could wipe out that planning in a matter of months.

A great relief

As clients leave their consultation with Caroline and her team, they feel a sense of relief. They can focus on their loved one and know Caroline’s team can find the proper in home care or placement, secure the family finances and prepare the necessary legal documents and benefits applications to ensure a smooth transition. The clients are able to leave the complications of long term care financing and placement at Caroline’s door, so that they can care for their loved one, themselves and their families as they navigate some of life’s most difficult transitions.

Providing a lifeline

“Nursing homes locally cost at least $8,000 per month,” notes Knox, “which is enough to impoverish anyone.”

Both Mr. Grodnik and Mr. McCall had to place their spouses in a nursing home or assisted living facility. Both knew that unless they had help, they could not continue on financially, much less care for their spouses emotionally. The Van Winkle Elder Law team helped facilitate placement for Mrs. McCall in the facility which would provide the right level of care to meet her needs and allow her to receive financial assistance. When her care needs changed, the team was there to find her next home.

Knox and her team helped by structuring estate plans and assets so that the husbands in this case were able to get help from Medicaid. This allowed both men to focus on spending quality time with their wives. For both, it also ensures that they will have some financial resources to carry them through whatever health challenges they may have in the future.

“It’s been a real lifeline for me,” said Grodnik, “because my life would have been far different.”

When there is No Family

Caroline often serves as the surrogate family for clients who have no one to help them manage their health care and financial arrangements as they age. She and her team provide case management which includes being the emergency contact, scheduling and accompanying clients to their medical appointments, arranging in home or facility care, paying bills, filing tax returns, and downsizing, including sale of real estate and tangible personal property. She and her team routinely manage trusts, public benefits and health care decisions for the disabled adult children of her clients, and for older folks who don’t have anyone else to help. It is possible to find a bank or a trust company to manage the finances, but very unusual to have a care team which can provide holistic services to combine the financial, personal, health care and crisis management often needed in these situations.