I think a relevant question is: how long are you prepared to be there for your mother? Normally, I would recommend that you stay with your mom since she is at stage 4, and that is generally considered a terminal period (5-year survival rate is 5%), but what if she has stage 4 for another 3 years or more? Will you be okay with putting off law school for that long? Have you talked with your mother about what she wants for you? I wouldn't assume you'll have plenty of time to spend with your family unless they live in NY too, and even then law school is law school. As for deferring because the ordeal would distract you from your studies, this would probably only be true only of your first year if you assume that she will pass away in the next year or so. If it were me I would stay if I thought she was going to die imminently, but in your mother's case that seems very hard to predict.