Top 19 Articles of 2019


Those who read our newsletter or follow our blog know that we covered a lot of ground in 2019. This past year, the Federal Tax Act increased the federal estate and gift tax exemption from $11.18 million dollars per person to $11.4 million dollars per person ($22.8 million dollars per couple). On the gift tax side, you can now gift up to $15,000 to each recipient each year without having to file any gift tax return or declare any gift.

This past year, the Federal government issued new rules affecting more than 21 million seniors enrolled in the Medicare Advantage (MA) Health Plan. The changes resulted in plan participants (approximately 36% of the total Medicare population) receiving new and more flexible supplemental benefits.

The BOLD Act (Building Our Largest Dementia Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act), a measure aimed at building a public health model to fight Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, was signed into law. The SECURE Act (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement), which involved taxpayer-friendly measures including the increased federal estate and gift tax exemptions mentioned above, was designed to boost retirement savings and it was also signed into law.

At the Farr Law Firm, we expanded with the addition of probate paralegal, Tony Bond, and Client Service Assistant, Brenda Demello.

To celebrate the new year, we’ve ranked our 19 most popular articles from 2019. Check out the list to see the year’s highlights and remind yourself of the most important issues of the past year and tell us what you’d like to see next year. And as always, thank you for reading our newsletter and blog! We are here to educate and to make a positive difference in your life and the lives of those you love!

19. Alexandria, VA becomes Fifth Dementia Friendly Community in Virginia
Recently, Alexandria, Virginia announced that it is becoming the 5th community in Virginia to emulate Bruges, Belgium and become dementia-friendly!

18. What’s the Difference Between Retirement Planning, Financial Planning, and Estate Planning?
While financial planning, retirement planning, and estate planning are all connected, they are all important in their own right, and you need to understand them each to plan properly and effectively.

17. Common Advice to Prevent Falls Has Been Proven to Be Ineffective
According to a recent report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, what is currently being done to prevent falls isn’t working. What’s needed is a more personalized approach to preventing falls, more involvement by medical practitioners, and better ways to motivate older adults to take action.

16. What to Do When Long-Term Care Insurance Premiums are Skyrocketing
Premiums for long-term care insurance have been going up drastically for years, and are continuing to skyrocket, and consumers are getting blindsided by the increases. In a 2016 survey, the consulting firm Milliman found that regulators approved rate increases of 40% or more on about half the requests that insurers made. A quarter of their requests resulted in premium increases of 20% to 39%.

15. Would You Choose Death on Your Own Terms if You Had a Terminal Illness? In Ten States, it’s Legal.
Medical aid-in-dying allows terminally ill adults to request and receive a prescription for medication that they may choose to take to bring about a peaceful death when they are ready. Currently, ten jurisdictions authorize medical aid-in-dying: California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington state, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine and Washington, D.C., while others are considering it.

14. A BOLD Step in the Fight Against Alzheimer’s
In January 2019, President Trump signed into law the BOLD Act (Building Our Largest Dementia Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act), a measure aimed at building a public health model to fight Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. It passed the Senate unanimously and through the House 361-3. The BOLD Act is intended to allow better Alzheimer’s public health interventions to be implemented across the country.

13. CarFit Can Help Keep Seniors Safe on the Road Longer
It is understandable that seniors want to stay on the road for as long as possible and maintain their independence. By taking actions to promote senior safety, such as a CarFit inspection, seniors can potentially stay on the road longer, and be safer than ever before.

12. Take Advantage of This Popular Social Security Claiming Strategy Before It Ends This Year
Due to changes in the Social Security rules that were signed into law in November 2015, Congress phased out the Social Security strategy known as “Claim Now, Claim More Later” at the end of 2019.

11. Alternate Endings: Six New Ways to Die in America
Some people who are nearing death and others who are recently deceased have chosen through planning non-traditional end-of-life options and meaningful remembrances. The film, “Alternate Endings—Six New Ways to Die in America,” looks at what it means to be near death, either from age or terminal illness, and captures the healing power of honoring, giving thanks, and staying true to loved ones who have passed away.

10. Open Enrollment is Now Much Easier
After ten years of having a difficult tool for researching Medicare Advantage Plans that didn’t work well on mobile phones, Medicare has finally made its online Plan Finder more robust and easier to use!

9. “High-Functioning Autism” Descriptor No Longer Being Used
“High-functioning autism” is a descriptor that has been used a lot for people with autism spectrum disorder who don’t have an intellectual impairment. Although the descriptor was originally used to portray people without an intellectual disability, it somehow has crept into a more generalized everyday use. A recent study suggests that term should not be used at all.

8. Saying Goodbye to the Family Home: Helping Your Aging Loved One Grieve a Move
Sometimes, the upkeep and maintenance of a family home is just too much to handle for seniors who live alone. However, the process of moving requires a goodbye, which for many involves a grieving process. Luckily there are things you can do to help make the transition easier.

7. Social Security Error Affects Medicare Coverage For 250,000 Seniors
Since January of this year, the Social Security Administration didn’t deduct premiums from some seniors’ Social Security checks that were supposed to pay for Medicare Advantage and private drug coverage. Social Security Administration calls what happened, “a processing error.”

6. The Dangers of Joint Bank Accounts
Adding a family member to a bank account seems like it might not be such a bad idea given Emily’s goals. But anyone considering doing so should be aware that simply making someone the joint owner of a bank account can have quite serious and negative unintended consequences — and it’s usually not the best solution, as I will explain.

5. Be Careful Who You Choose as Your Trustee
Selecting a trustee can be one of the toughest decisions you can make, and it’s important to choose carefully. Choosing someone who is reliable, trustworthy, and honest is crucial, because although the law imposes a duty on trustees to faithfully carry out the trust’s terms, that doesn’t always happen as you know from the situation with Fred Smith of Utica, Michigan.

4. Where Not to Die This Year
When the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was signed into law in 2017, it ushered in the largest federal estate tax exemption since the federal estate tax was first imposed. After Trump’s estate tax cut, the federal estate tax is now reserved for the richest of the rich, but in the 17 states and the District of Columbia that levy their own state-level estate and inheritance taxes, it’s another story.

3. SECURE Act is Signed into Law: Five Ways it will Change Retirement
On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed the SECURE Act. This new law does several things that will affect your ability to save money for retirement and influence how you use the funds over time. Most (but definitely not all) of the changes are taxpayer-friendly measures designed to boost retirement savings. In fact, the SECURE Act as a whole is expected to generate $16.4 billion in tax revenue over the next 10 years.

2. When Safe Deposit Boxes Aren’t Even Safe
There are currently around 25 million safe deposit boxes in America, and to the surprise of many, they provide few protections for customers. Many people who have them don’t realize that there are no federal laws that govern the boxes and no rules that require banks to compensate customers if their property is stolen or destroyed.

And our top read article for 2019 is…

Drumroll please!

1. Son Is Liable for Mother’s Nursing Home Expenses
In Amsterdam Nursing Home Corp. v. Lynch, the patient was not on Medicaid, and was expected to pay out of pocket, but failed to do so. The nursing home filed a complaint for the unpaid costs of $213,909.02, alleging claims against Ms. Lynch for services rendered and against her son for fraud because the asset transfers to him left his mother unable to pay her creditors. Neither the mother nor the son responded to the complaint, so the nursing home was forced to take them to court.

Thank you for making these our top 19 stories of 2019. We promise many new and exciting things to come in 2020! 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, Retirement Planning, or Incapacity Planning (or had your planning documents reviewed in the past several years), please call us for a no-cost initial consultation. Happy New Year!

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

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