Who We Are

About Us

The team at Collins Elder Law Group has one goal – protecting you! We have the experience, dedication and legal knowledge to create solutions that work for you and your family.

Kathryn Cook DeAngelo

Kathryn Cook DeAngelo joined Collins Family Law in August 2021 as Senior Counsel to the Collins Elder Law practice division. She graduated from Marshall University, Huntington, WV, in 1968 with a B.A. in Business Education. She also has an M.Ed. from the University of Maryland, College Park, MD. Prior to attending law school, Kathryn was a public school teacher and taught business/secretarial studies for twelve (12) years at DuVal High School in Prince George’s County, MD. In 1984 Kathryn graduated magna cum laude from North Carolina Central University Law School (NCCU Law}, Durham, NC. After graduation from NCCU Law, she had the distinct honor to be selected by the distinguished Henry E. Frye, former Justice and Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, to serve as his Law Clerk 1984-1985. At the conclusion of her clerkship, she moved to Myrtle Beach, SC, and became an associate attorney with the law firm Nettles, Floyd, Turbeville and Reddick, later becoming a partner in the firm Floyd, Prevatte and DeAngelo. In 1990 she established her own solo law firm in Surfside Beach, SC.

Since 1991 Kathryn has been a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys [NAELA]. In April 1995, she was the first attorney in South Carolina to become Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation [NELF] after successfully passing the first examination administered in November 1994 and completing ABA-approved requirements for the specialty certification. In November 2009, Kathryn was among twelve (12) North Carolina attorneys to become the first to be certified by the North Carolina State Board of Legal Specialization as a specialist in elder law by NELF.

After 34 years of law practice in Surfside/Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Kathryn closed her law offices in 2019, to move to Charlotte, North Carolina, where she would be closer to her son, other family members, and friends. Since her move to Charlotte, Kathryn has stayed connected with her legal community and colleagues in both North Carolina and South Carolina.

Some of Kathryn’s current memberships and affiliations include:

  • North Carolina Bar 
  • North Carolina Bar Association
  • North Carolina Bar Association Elder Law Section
  • Mecklenburg County Bar
  • Mecklenburg County Bar – CLE Committee
  • Mecklenburg County Bar – Linking Lawyers Committee
  • Mecklenburg County Bar – Lawyers Mentoring Committee
  • South Carolina Bar
  • South Carolina Bar CLE Committee
  • SC Bar – Professional Responsibility Committee
  • SC Bar – Professional Liability Committee
  • SC Bar – Elder Law Committee
  • Admitted to U.S. Supreme Court 
  • NAELA 
  • NC Chapter of NAELA 
  • SC Chapter of NAELA  
  • AV® Peer Review Rating Martindale-Hubbell 
  • North Carolina Bar, Board of Legal Specialization – Elder Law (Initial Term 2018-2020; Second Term 2021-2023) 
  • Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA), Certified by NELF
  • Corporate Compliance Certificate, 2016 Charlotte School of Law

Some of Kathryn’s past memberships, notables, and affiliations include:

  • U.S. Court of Appeals for Federal Circuit, Washington, DC
  • U.S. District Court, District of South Carolina
  • Floyd, Prevatte & DeAngelo Law Firm, Surfside Beach, SC (Partner)
  • NAELA Council of Advanced Practitioners [CAP] (2008 – 2017) 
  • SC Lawyers Weekly – South Carolina Leadership in Law Award
  • South Carolina Bar Board of Governors for the Third Judicial Region (2011-2014)
  • South Carolina Bar Foundation (2011-2014)
  • South Carolina Bar Representative House of Delegates for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit, Horry County, SC (July 2006 – July 2010 and July 2011-July 2014)
  • South Carolina Chapter NAELA, Board of Directors (2011-2013), past President (2001-2003), Chairperson of the Public Policy Committee (2011-2012), Legislative Committee, and CLE presenter
  • District of Columbia Bar
  • National College of Probate Judges (2006-2017)
  • South Carolina Bar Probate, Estate Planning and Trust Section, Member (1999-2002), Secretary (2002-2003), Vice-Chairperson (2003-04), Chairperson-Elect (2004-2005), Chairperson (2005-2006), Immediate Past-Chairperson (2006-2007), Section Delegate (2007-2008), and Ex Officio (2008-2010)
  • South Carolina Bar Elder Law Committee, a founding member, current member, Chairperson (2008-2010), Chairperson, Legislative Subcommittee (2010-2011) and served as Chair of subcommittee for Fabian bills (2016-2017), and CLE presenter
  • North Carolina Bar Association Elder Law Section (2010-2013; 2020-current)
  • North Carolina Chapter NAELA, current member and Board of Directors (2011-2016)
  • North Carolina Central University School of Law Board of Visitors (2006-2010); 
  • South Carolina Super Lawyers 2011-2016
  • Horry County, SC, Probate Court Advisory Committee (2002-2015)
  • Coastal Carolina University, Conway, SC – Legacy Advisory Council (2011-2015)
  • Best of the Beach Elder Law, Myrtle Beach Herald several years, including 2018
  • AVVO rating 10
  • South Carolina Super Lawyer
  • Guest Lecturer, Coastal Carolina University and Horry-Georgetown Technical College
  • Myrtle Beach City Council, Senior Advisory Board
  • Horry-Georgetown Technical Institute, Senior Summit Board
  • Frequent presenter and lecturer on elder law issues at countless Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses sponsored or hosted by sponsors, such as the South Carolina Bar, North Carolina Bar, NAELA, SC and NC NAELA Chapters, Mecklenburg County Bar, NBI, and various state, local, and community groups

Nicki Applefield Engel

Nicki Applefield Engel joined the Collins Elder Law Group in September of 2021. Since 2010, Nicki has been a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc. (NAELA), and she is the immediate past President of the North Carolina Chapter of NAELA. In 2019, Nicki was certified by the North Carolina State Board of Legal Specialization as a specialist in elder law. She is the current Vice Chair of the Elder Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association, and she serves as Co-Chair of the Pro Bono Committee of the Elder Law Section.

Nicki earned her J.D. from the West Virginia University College of Law in 2011 and her B.S. in political science from Appalachian State University in 2007. In 2011, Nicki became licensed to practice law in North Carolina, and in 2013, she became licensed to practice law in South Carolina. As an attorney focused on elder law from the start, Nicki has worked as a solo practitioner and in a larger firm handling estate and special needs planning, probate and trust administration, guardianship, Medicaid and Veterans benefits, and financial exploitation matters.

Although she has practiced elder law in North Carolina for over 10 years, she has worked with older adults for much longer. Prior to law school, Nicki was a public benefits paralegal with Legal Aid of North Carolina in Asheville. Her experience representing older adults and individuals with disabilities in public benefits cases sparked her passion for using the law to help people.

Nicki was born and raised in Charlotte, and she comes from a family of planners. Her father, Gerald Applefield, JD, CLU, ChFC, has provided insurance solutions in the financial services industry for decades, and her mother, Diane Applefield, CLTC, specializes in long term care insurance. Nicki’s planning background makes her uniquely equipped to prepare families for the challenges of life and to guide them through times of uncertainty and stress. Nicki thrives on devising and implementing creative strategies to meet client objectives, and she prides herself on providing comprehensive solutions to complex problems.

Nicki is thrilled to return home to Charlotte, where her parents, brother, sister-in-law, and three nephews live. Nicki and her husband Jeremy have two young children, Willow and Levi, and a sweet rescue dog named Piper. In her free time, Nicki enjoys outdoor activities with family, hiking, biking, playing soccer, live music, and exploring Charlotte’s vibrant dining and brewery scene.

Melissa Hansel

Melissa Hansel grew up in Georgia in a small town south of Atlanta. Melissa moved to chilly Boston to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Management with a concentration in Marketing from the Sloan School of Management, and double minors in Spanish and in Applied International Studies.

Melissa has a passion for legal operations worldwide. Her first foray into law was at the MIT Technology Licensing Office, which merged contract law with patenting inventions to facilitate their commercialization to benefit society. During her time at the MIT TLO, Melissa performed review of agreements/amendments, interfacing with outside counsel for patent deadlines, and government compliance for federally funded inventions under the Bayh-Dole Act. Melissa next utilized her contracts experience abroad in the Intellectual Property (IP) Department at Gomez-Acebo y Pombo, a large general practice law firm in Madrid, Spain. Melissa worked with IP attorneys to ensure accurate translation of legal documents from Spanish to English and created a tiered electronic database of resources related to know-how/trade secret protection, including sample contracts and case law.

Upon her return to the United States, Melissa worked with The Broad Institute, a biotechnology nonprofit founded as a collaboration between MIT and Harvard, where she directed systems and administration of their in-house intellectual property department, streamlined legal billing processes and cost control, spearheaded online marketing initiatives to commercialize Broad technologies, and managed a venture mentoring program for start-up companies to convey these technologies into the world of medicine.

Most recently, Melissa comes from a management role in BigLaw at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, where she administered operations and best practices for the IP Practice Group across several offices, including growth to double in size via several mergers and lateral acquisitions during her 10 years with the firm. Melissa managed all aspects of Practice Group operations, from human resources to finance to standard operating procedures to marketing and client service. With her technical background, Melissa also supervised and took an active role in several software upgrades and implementations during her time there.

Melissa enjoys managing the business of law and optimizing efficiency for attorneys and staff via improved systems and processes and by hiring and retaining the best people. She also loves a good project. At Collins Family Law, Melissa serves as an ambassador to all offices and works closely with the Firm Owner to provide overall direction for all departments and functions. Her goal is to optimize continued growth and profitability, and importantly, to continue to build the best collaborative culture throughout the firm and with firm clients.

Outside of work, Melissa values spending time with family, including her son and her dog Jenny, and loves getting outdoors to camp, hike, or enjoy the beach. She also enjoys hot yoga.

Gina Carnesi

Born and raised in New York City, Gina resides in the beautiful Lake Norman Area. She attended Adelphi University in New York and obtained her paralegal certification in 1994. She has over 20 years of experience in many different areas of law throughout New York City and North Carolina. Gina now focuses on Elder Law, Estate Planning, and Estate Administration which she enjoys. She also enjoys helping clients through very emotional, life-changing situations, and providing a listening ear.


Gina enjoys spending time with her three sons, cooking and spending quality time with friends and family.

Shawna Collins

Shawna Collins is the original founder of Collins Elder Law Group. She has lived in the Carolinas since she was very young, having been raised in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. She received her undergraduate degree from the College of Charleston in 1992 and law degree from the University of Florida in 1995, after spending her last year of law school at Wake Forest University.

Attorney Collins is licensed to practice law in the states of North Carolina and South Carolina. She has been an attorney for over 24 years, and has litigated civil and criminal cases. Shawna handles complex divorce cases, as well as municipal and civil litigation. Additionally, she handles complicated estate litigation matters, such as will contests where the validity of a will or the competency of the deceased is contested.

It is extremely important to Shawna that people are aware of all their options when faced with a legal dilemma. Litigating a case in court is merely one of many options. When a client comes into our office, they are often facing the most challenging period of his/her life. Shawna will listen carefully to your situation and offer advice as to what she believes to be in your best interests. If your case can be handled effectively outside of court to minimize litigation expenses, she will make sure you are aware of that option. If your case needs to be litigated, Shawna will be an aggressive and effective advocate for you.

Amanda Lynn

Amanda Lynn has lived in Union County, North Carolina, for the majority of her life and enjoys calling Union County home. While in high school and college, Amanda worked part-time at Collins Elder Law Group which helped Amanda gain invaluable insight into the dynamics of family law. Amanda has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Gardner-Webb University. After graduating college, Amanda joined Collins Family Law Group as the head paralegal and client liaison. In 2015, Amanda became the firm manager and has continued in that integral role ever since.

Amanda’s goal is to provide clients the understanding and support they need as they navigate the legal process. Amanda is the point of contact for clients and court personal. She also works closely with all attorneys and staff to ensure the firm continues to run smoothly and effectively to benefit the needs of the client.

In her free time, Amanda enjoys spending time with her husband, Chris and her two children, Grayson and Claire. Amanda loves traveling with family and friends.

Victoria Rowell Hoogland

Victoria Rowell Hoogland was born and raised in Union County, North Carolina. Victoria graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. While at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and in addition to her studies, Victoria worked as a bank teller and paralegal for a large real estate law firm for five years. Victoria draws on this experience to help clients facing difficult financial and emotional times that often arise in family law cases. Victoria joined Collins Elder Law Group in 2018 as a Paralegal and has since taken on the role of Firm Administrator. Victoria works with clients, attorneys, and staff to ensure that each client’s needs are being met with the care and competency that each client deserves. In her spare time, Victoria enjoys spending time with her husband, Pete, and her dogs, Connor and Franklin. Victoria loves taking care of her horses and cows on her family farm.

Toni Riggins

Toni Riggins is our receptionist and the first friendly voice heard on the phone at Collins Elder Law Group.

With over 25 years of experience, Toni has the unique ability to  make anyone feel comfortable while dealing with planning issues and financial decisions. She excels as a friendly, calming, and comforting point of contact for our firm. In her free time, Toni likes to spend time with her husband, family, and her pup, Taser.

Amber Johnson

Amber was born and raised in Union County, North Carolina and is proud to call it home. Before joining our firm, she graduated from Central Piedmont Community College with a degree in Business Administration. With over ten years of experience in customer service, Amber is very compassionate about helping others. This is true in her work ethic, as well as her personal life. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and traveling to the mountains with family and friends. 

Kristin Patera

Kristin has lived in Union County, North Carolina, for most of her life and currently calls it home.  With over 10 years of experience in the customer service industry, she uses her knowledge and understanding to guide our potential new clients to the attorney who she believes will best fit their personal needs.

As our Client Relations Manager, Kristin uses her relational skills and calming voice to help our clients through their stressful situations.  She recognizes that our clients need a person who can relate to them and provide personal guidance in their times of need. 

Outside of work, Kristin enjoys spending time with her family and friends, and traveling to the beach.

Sandy McManus

Sandy is from Charlotte, North Carolina, and has lived in the Charlotte area all of her life. She has worked extensively in customer service for the last 35 years, including serving as a manager for a local restaurant for over 30 years. Sandy makes certain all of our offices are well-equipped and organized. She also helps organize many of our after-hour and non-profit events as well. When she is not at work, Sandy is caring for (and organizing) her family and loved ones.