Top 15 Articles of 2015

From the 50th birthday of Medicaid and Medicare and the 80th birthday of Social Security to the once-a-decade White House Conference on Aging, we covered a lot of ground in 2015. It was a year that included a new act being passed in Virginia to help special needs familiesovertime pay for caregivers, and amazing new technological innovations to help seniors age-in-place. At the Farr Law Firm, we celebrated the birth of a baby (belonging to paralegal Lauren Frederick), and the news of another pregnancy (paralegal Arlene Figueroa). We grew in leaps and bounds with the addition of new staff, including three awesome paralegals: Eve Rubinoff, Arlene Figueroa, and Natasha Cranford, and a new cat — Angel — to help write “Critter Corner” articles.

To celebrate the new year, we’ve ranked our most popular articles from this past year. Check out the list to see the year’s highlights and tell us what you’d like to see next year. As always, thank you for reading our newsletter and blog!
1. She was in the Hospital a Week, and They’re Calling it Observation Status!: What if your loved one was taken to an emergency room, booked into a bed, and given every kind of test imaginable? Then, after a week in the hospital, surgery, and two weeks recovery in a nursing home, she receives notice that Medicare isn’t paying because the hospital had her in “observation status” rather than “inpatient status.”Following the notice comes a monstrous bill from the hospital (over $4,000), and an even larger bill from the nursing home (over $8,000).  How can they call that “observation status?”  Is it legal?  This article explains.
2. Virginia Becomes First State to Approve ABLE Act: The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 (ABLE Act), which was signed into law in December 2014, allows people with disabilities and their families to set up a special savings account for disability-related expenses. In July 2015, Virginia became the first state to approve legislation related to the ABLE Act, when Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a bill (HB 2306) allowing for the new savings vehicle.
3. Please Don’t Leave that to Me!: Certain items, such as firearms, airline miles, and vacation homes, cannot simply be left to others in the same way that you would leave other property. They may be subject to strict regulations, or loved ones may have specific instructions that may not be accounted for in your Wills or Trusts. Luckily, there are trusts and other strategies available for these things, which are explained in this article.
4. Living with Fewer Rights than a Convicted Felon: For those with cognitive challenges, there is currently a nationwide movement to replace overbearing guardianships with something called Supported Decision-Making (SDM). SDM is designed to make the person with cognitive challenges “the ultimate decision-maker,” while still providing the support the person needs to thrive.
5. Filial Responsibility Revisited: Filial responsibility laws say that adult children are responsible for financially helping parents who are unable to pay for care. In certain situations, parents can also be responsible for debts of adult children. The laws were rarely used in the past, but this has been changing.  This article talks about filial responsibility and provides an update for a case we covered in the past involving the Mohn family.
6. Are they Senior Moments or is it Dementia?: Forgetting important things can be annoying and embarrassing. Whether it is simply a senior moment or if it is actually due to Mild Cognitive Impairment or the early stages of dementia, this article provides details on the four most common memory complaints and tips for dealing with them.
7. Giving Money to Your Children (while you’re still alive): With the lofty cost of education and the tough economy, many of us are looking for ways to assist our children or grandchildren now, rather than waiting to leave them money and assets in our estate planning documents. If we choose to do so, what’s the best way to go about gifting money and assets to them, without incurring hefty taxes and jeopardizing eligibility for Medicaid? This article provides details.
8. Don’t Attempt this on Your Own: It’s commendable to be a DIY-er in your home. However, estate planning documents are not something you should do (or make updates to) yourself. This is because, there is a great likelihood of making serious legal mistakes or oversights, and you’ll never know because these errors won’t become apparent until you die. And, in these situations, the people left to deal with the mistakes and oversights are the ones you’re probably trying to protect. Read this article for more.
9. Seniors Should Be Thankful For This. . .:Thanksgiving is an ideal time to give thanks and reflect on the positive things that have happened over the past year. This article included brief summaries of twelve of our blog articles from 2015 that make us and many of our clients thankful.

10. A Different Type of Funeral: Non-religious funerals and memorial services offer a personal and fitting way to say goodbye to those who have not been involved in organized religion. They focus on the person who has died, paying tribute to the connections they made and left behind, and the way they lived their life. This article describes how an increasing number of people coming towards the end of their life want to work with a celebrant themselves to plan their own funeral.11. Seniors Should Consider Cruise Ships Rather than Nursing Homes: Long term care can have a major financial impact, being that it costs $10,000 – $14,000 a month in the Metro DC area. As this article explains, with a cruise costing $70-$200 on average per night for seniors, depending on accommodations, cruises are, in fact, a lot cheaper than nursing homes.

12. Facing the Elephant in the Room: Talking about end-of-life issues is an expression of love and an opportunity for closeness. By confronting the topic of death and talking about it, we come to appreciate the extraordinary everyday moments of our lives. This article explains reasons why death is a topic that’s fundamental to us all, and ways to start the conversation about it.
13. A “Guardian Angel” When One is Needed Most: Many people use doulas for labor and delivery. However, few know that there are doulas out there that can help people during the end of their lives, as well. This article describes how hundreds of individuals facing the end of life are not alone as a result of a relationship with an End-of-Life Doula.
14. Exciting Age-in-Place Technology from the 2015 mHealth SummitThe mHealth Summit, a conference and expo for exploring what is new in mobile, telehealth, and connected health, convened in DC in November 2015. As described in the article, this year’s event featured influencers from over 50 countries that discussed the advancement of mobile and connected health, including some exciting new technologies for aging-in-place.
15. Veterans Don’t Delay (3-Year Look-Back is Imminent): For veterans applying for the Aid and Attendance benefit, a 3-year look-back and other restrictions will be imposed on transfers of assets as early as January 1, 2016, including gifts to persons, trusts, or purchases of annuities. Benefits could be denied for up to 10 years due to transfers, as described in this article.

Thank you for making these our top stories of 2015. We promise many new and exciting things to come in 2016! We also hope you will consider taking the advice that these articles offer. Please consider attending one of our monthly seminars, and as always, if you or a loved one is nearing the need for long-term care or already receiving long-term care, or if you have not done Long-Term Care Planning, Estate Planning, or Incapacity Planning (or had your Planning documents reviewed in the past several years), please call us for a no-cost initial consultation:

Fairfax Elder Law: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Elder Law: 540-479-143
Rockville Elder Law: 301-519-8041
DC Elder Law: 202-587-2797
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