Growing older comes with the hope for a relaxing retirement, enjoying friends, children and grandchildren and perhaps even a few memorable destination trips.
But behind the wall of aging is a web of complexities that must be prepared for and anticipated – especially for those individuals with mental illness, injury or physical disabilities or who have any other special needs to take into consideration.
Fortunately, Attorney Alyson C. Fudge at Lowcountry Law Office on Aging, Mental Health & Disabilities, LLC, has dedicated her practice to addressing the needs and concerns of such individuals.
Having completed an undergraduate degree in psychology and then serving under Judge Irvin G. Condon in law school during her judicial clerkship with the Charleston County probate court, Fudge realized her undergraduate degree would serve her well.
Recalling her journey to how she arrived at her practice today, Fudge stated, “I had to major in something, and I thought that psychology was more interesting than a history or a political science major, so I just thought why people do what they do and they’re behavior/mental-health issues was something that was interesting to me. When I started clerking for the probate court and discovered that the probate court handles wills, trusts and estates and that they deal with people who have passed away, I also realized that they have a separate division for people who are very much alive but have mental-capacity issues. I saw that they handle situations with people who have mental-health issues, adult drug and alcohol problems and that they deal with people who have chronic long-term addiction issues. That was what really caught my attention and fascinated me with the mental-health side of things and how that works from a legal perspective.”
She continued, “As it turns out, I use the psychology degree pretty much every day.”
When asked what sets her practice apart, Fudge explained that her focus is handling everything under one roof, which is often hard to find.
“They may handle parts of it – basic estate planning, wills, probate of estate – but they don’t do guardianships and deal with mental-capacity issues. The attorneys who deal with mental capacity issues don’t necessarily do probate of estates or drafting wills, trusts and documents. As far as dealing with Medicaid and the funding side of paying for caregivers, that’s a totally different part as well, so people who do one don’t necessarily do the other.”
Lowcountry Law Office also offers in-home consultations to accommodate the needs of those who are less mobile, and depending on the situation, Fudge has even been to consultations in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.
So, with all variables aside, when does Fudge recommend meeting with her?
“In an ideal world, the people who do not have mental-capacity problems should do at least a will and powers of attorney when they’re adults and own anything or have children. Powers of attorney need to be done before someone needs assistance, not when they need assistance,” Fudge explained.
Fudge is passionate about her practice, speaking regularly to members of the public and local legal community regarding a wide range of legal issues pertaining to aging, mental-health law and disabilities.