Top 16 Articles of 2016

From the presidential candidates’ views on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, to a new president being elected, we covered a lot of ground in 2016. It was a year that included the passing of the Special Needs Trust Fairness Act to help special needs individuals, overtime pay for caregivers being instated and subsequently shut down in Virginia, and amazing new technological innovations to help seniors age-in-place. At the Farr Law Firm, we celebrated the birth of two babies (belonging to paralegals Arlene Figueroa and Natasha Cranford), and the marriage of attorney Justin Cohee to his lovely bride, Ashley. And we grew with the addition of an experienced estate planning and estate administration attorney, Sara Entis.

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!

16. Sharing Your Legacy – A No-Cost Service for Our Clients: At the Farr Law Firm, we are now offering our clients a way to easily capture and pass on their personal legacies . . . and best of all, we are offering this as a gift to all of our clients, whether you’re a current client, a future client, or even a past client! This article discusses Legacy Stories and The Living Legacy Project.

15. The Little-Known Pitfalls of Medicare Advantage Plans: Nearly 18 million people are currently enrolled in Medicare Advantage (MA) Plans. Many baby boomers are enticed by them, as many of them offer $0 premiums, but what most people don’t realize is that there can be enormous unexpected out-of-pocket expenses when you get sick.

14. The Most Important Day of the Year (and only 20- 30% realize it!): National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is an annual observance that is celebrated in April to raise awareness about Advance Medical Directives. It is an extremely important day that emphasizes advance care planning and raises awareness, especially for anyone who is reluctant to talk about death, those who are experiencing declining health, and those who don’t want to discuss loss of decision-making control.

13. One Typo Could Cost You Your Computer: Cyber crooks are using .om websites to spread computer malware, remotely access PCs and Macs, and to steal log-in credentials. Malicious criminals for years have been buying domain names with a missing or misplaced letter in website addresses belonging to well-known companies, and they simply wait for you to make a typo.

12. What Medicare Won’t Cover: Medicare is our country’s health insurance program for people age 65 or older. The program helps with the cost of health care, but it doesn’t cover all medical expenses or ANY of the cost of long-term care. This article discusses what Medicare covers and what it is not covered.

11. $10,000 – $12,000? That’s for a Year, Right?: The cost of a nursing home in the metro DC area is $10,000- $12,000 A MONTH, an amount that is catastrophic for most of us. Each few years, Genworth conducts surveys of long-term care across the U.S. and summarizes the data in a Cost of Care Study, in an effort to help Americans plan for the potential cost based on their preferred location and setting. This article discusses the findings from the 2016 survey.

10. New, Overlooked, and Odd Tax Deductions for Seniors: It’s important to be aware of all the deductions and tax credits available to you so you don’t miss out on valuable savings — and a bigger refund. This article discusses some tax deductions that you should be taking advantage of that can save you hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars, including some that are pretty odd.

9. Huge Rate Hike for Federal Government Long-Term Care Insurance Policies: According to the Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) Website, a new contract was recently awarded to John Hancock Life and Health Insurance Co., that will result in larger out-of-pocket costs for Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program enrollees (an increase of 225%).

8. Virginia’s New Emergency Contact Program: Virginia’s Emergency Contact Program is a free public service which allows citizens to store emergency contact information. This new program gives law enforcement a way to notify a participant’s family or friends in the event of a serious crash or other emergency that leaves him or her unable to communicate.

7.   I’m Not Dead Yet! Many adult children and grandchildren have had experiences with their families being torn apart by an inheritance battle. Minimizing the risk of an inheritance war requires several actions that combine psychology, a lot of self-awareness, a good dose of common sense (and of course, an experienced estate planning attorney!)

6.   New Virginia Regulations Limit Caregiver Pay: Last year, the federal Department of Labor extended the overtime and minimum-wage protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act to most home care workers, including the homecare workers paid by the state using tax-funded Medicaid dollars. In Virginia, Medicaid caregivers used to be paid “straight time” — their standard hourly wage — for any hours they worked beyond 40 each week. After court battles, the Department of Labor rule went into effect in January 2016, and for the first time, the Commonwealth of Virginia had to start paying time-and-a-half for overtime. Despite the national mandate, the Virginia General Assembly capped hours at 40 again as of July 1, 2016.

5.   Home Health Aides Are Quitting Their Jobs: The in-home care industry has been anticipated to be the largest job creator between 2012 and 2022, with an estimated 1 million new caregivers required during that time. In a recent survey, it was found that one quarter of workers said they were very likely to leave their job in the next year or were currently looking for a different job. Some are questioning whether there will be enough people willing to fill the positions and the need for home health aides in the future.

4.   Special Alert to Existing Clients and Potential Clients: A once-popular estate planning tool, called a “Credit Shelter Trust” or – also called a “Bypass Trust” or a “Family Trust” — may now cost families more than it saves. If your estate plan includes one, it could be doing more harm than good, and you need to consider updating your documents as soon as possible.

3.   Enough is Enough! I Quit: Most of us, when we have a vulnerable loved one, want to take care of them, but in many cases, we can only do so much. How can we maintain our sanity, while ensuring their loved one has the best care?

2.   The Death of Long-Term Care Insurance?: John Hancock Life Insurance Company announced in November 2016 that it is leaving the long-term care insurance market, just as dozens of other insurance carriers have done before it, and that it will discontinue the sale of individual long-term-care insurance policies starting next year. The company, among the top three in market share for traditional long-term-care insurance, will no longer issue new policies after February 2017, according to a memo sent to distribution partners and producers.

1.   Guess What! I’m Getting Married!: When you see a subject line like this one, the first thing that comes to mind could be happiness for the couple who is planning to share their life together. The second may be shock or even suspicion, because it seemed to have come out of nowhere, or because the person getting married is a disabled or vulnerable elderly person. This article discusses some red flags that you and your loved one should look out for when he or she is embarking on online dating for the first time.

Thank you for making these our top stories of 2016. We promise many new and exciting things to come in 2017! We also hope you will consider taking the advice that these articles offer. Please consider attending one of our monthly seminars in Fairfax or Fredericksburg and, as always, if you or a loved one are 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 an 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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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.