Top 18 Articles of 2018

From consequences related to the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to changes in Veterans’ Pension Laws, we covered a lot of ground in 2018. It was a year that marked the passage of the CHRONIC Care Act, the ACA being struck down by a Federal District Court, and amazing new technological innovations to help seniors age-in-place. At the Farr Law Firm, we expanded with the addition of Certified Elder Law Attorney Bill Fralin, Estate Planning Attorney Alicia Truitt, Paralegal Randy Dossey, and Client Services Assistants Sierra Kolasa and Debbie Mitchell.

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To celebrate the new year, we’ve ranked our 18 most popular articles from 2018. 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!

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18. How to Prepare for Retirement When a Recession is Looming – Some day our long run of economic growth could end in a damaging recession, and the way things are going, “some day” could be very soon. When this happens, jobs will disappear, paychecks will shrink, and investors will panic. How do we know a recession is looming? This article describes some signs for concern from economists.

17. Is Medicare Going Broke? – The Medicare Board of Trustees issued its annual financial review of the program, and it triggered some pretty alarming headlines. For instance, the “go broke” headline referred to in this article was focused on the report’s projection that the trust fund that pays for hospital services, called the Hospital Insurance (or Part A) trust fund, will be depleted in 2026, three years earlier than projected in 2017. This sounds alarming, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. Read this article for more details.

16. 2019 Medicare Changes: New Elder Care Services May Be Added to Some Medicare Advantage Plans – The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services have allowed Medicare Advantage (MA) plans to cover a broad array of health services to improve the health and well-being of seniors. To accomplish this, in the new year, insurance companies will be able to offer a host of new benefits within their MA plans. Those benefits include meal delivery after a hospital stay, transportation to providers, in-home care, and more. This article focuses on the details on some of the elder care changes you could see in certain MA Plans.

15. Passing Along Your Values with Your Valuables – You’ve spent nearly your entire adult life building your legacy. You may have raised a family, built a career, or even launched a business. While it might not be pleasant to think about your own death, it is a good idea to take the time to sit down and decide what will happen to your assets AND your legacy. This article focuses on conveying what kind of lasting legacy we want to be left behind after we are no longer here.

14. Hospitals Must Tell Medicare Patients If Care Is ‘Observation’ Only – For years, seniors often found out only when they got surprise bills for services, that Medicare doesn’t cover observation time for patients, including some drugs and expensive rehabilitation care in a nursing home after the hospital stay. This article describes how under a federal law that was enacted last year, hospitals across the country are legally required to alert Medicare patients when they are getting observation care and why they were not admitted — even if they stay in the hospital for a few nights or more.

13. Social Security is 83! How to Get the Most Out of the Program – Currently, there are around 62.5 million people receiving a monthly Social Security benefit check, including 43.1 million retired workers. This article explains how to get as much as possible out of the program and enjoy a more financially secure retirement.

12. How Can You Reduce Your Capital Gains Taxes? The single biggest asset many people have is their home, and depending on the real estate market, a homeowner might realize a huge capital gain on a sale. The good news is that the current tax code allows you to exclude some or all of such a gain from capital gains tax, as long as you meet three conditions under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 121, as described in this article.

11. What’s my REAL Risk of Needing Long-term Care? – Many of us have seen the statistic that says that someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services and supports in their remaining years. This article takes a look at what long-term care entails, and what exactly is included in the 70%.

10. Navigating an End-of-life Rally – Those of us who have a loved one in hospice may dream of having one final conversation or connection with him or her. For many, that wish becomes a reality, but it is often accompanied by false hope. This article explains how “terminal lucidity” (commonly known as an “end-of-life rally”) refers to the phenomenon of someone briefly perking up before death.

9. With the New Tax Law and Life Changes, it’s Time to Review Your Estate Plan – Changes to the law and significant events in your life could alter the way that you originally meant to apportion assets in your estate planning documents. The only way to ensure that your estate plan truly reflects your current wishes and needs is to have your documents reviewed and updated frequently, and with the new tax law, this is especially the case.

8. 2019 Key Elder Law Dollar Amounts – These are figures for 2019 that are frequently used in the elder law practice, including the figures for Virginia Medicaid spousal impoverishment, the Federal long-term care insurance deductibility limits, Medicare premiums and co-pays, Social Security Disability, and Supplemental Security Income.

7. Long-Term Care Insurance vs. Life Insurance with a Long-Term Care Rider – Currently, costs for long term care facilities in the D.C. Metro area can run anywhere between $120,000 – $150,000 annually. With the average stay of approximately 3 years, it definitely makes sense to consider long-term care insurance or a life insurance policy with long-term care benefits. Which is better is different for every person and depends on a variety of facts and circumstances, but this article offers some general guidance.

6. What the ACA Verdict Means for Seniors – If (and that’s a BIG IF) Judge O’Connor’s ruling is ultimately upheld by the Federal Circuit Court and then by the U.S. Supreme Court, it will drastically impact the well-being of older adults, those 50-64 nearing Medicare, frail seniors, and younger people with disabilities. The ruling came on December 14, 2018, on the eve of the deadline for Americans to sign up for coverage in the federal insurance exchange created by the ACA. At this point, however, nothing will change in health-care services or insurance while the courts consider the issue.

5. Is the Charitable Tax Deduction Gone for 2018? – According to the Tax Policy Center, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) will prevent 21 million Americans from taking a charitable deduction. Among middle-income households, the share of taxpayers claiming charitable deductions will drop from 17% to 5.5%. But, there are ways to continue to give to charities and maximize tax deductions, as I described in the article.

4. Changes to Veterans Pension Rules Are Looming — Plan Now! – It was actually more than three years ago that we first wrote about proposed new VA regulations that everyone thought were going to be imminent. As it has turned out, the VA didn’t take any action to implement these regulations during these past three years but did do so this past year, and the changes went into effect on October 18, 2018. This article describes the new rules that make qualifying for the Veteran’s Aid and Attendance pension benefit more challenging than it has been.

3. The 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s – One of the most commonly used scales to measure stages of dementia is the 7-stage scale, often referred to as the Reisberg Scale, or GDS (short for Global Deterioration Scale for Assessment of Primary Degenerative Dementia). The GDS scale divides the disease process into seven stages based on the amount of cognitive decline in the inflicted senior. This article explains what to expect during each stage.

2. Recent Law Expands Coverage of Chronic Care Through Medicare – Due to the recent passage of the CHRONIC Care Act (“Creating High-Quality Results and Outcomes Necessary to Improve Chronic Care”), those enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans who have chronic illnesses will be covered for certain supplies and services not previously covered. As this article describes, the new benefits that will begin in the year 2020 include new telehealth measures, safety measures for the home, and more.

1. Can They Kick Her Out of Assisted Living? – Although being evicted from assisted living sounds terrible, sadly, this action isn’t unusual. In fact, in 2016, almost 3,000 complaints of this kind were received by long-term care ombudsmen across the U.S. Across the country, assisted living facilities are evicting residents who have grown older and frail because the facilit can no longer take care of them appropriately, or because the resident runs out of money. Although state regulations vary, evictions are usually allowed for a variety of reasons, several of which are described in this article.

Elder Lawyer in Fairfax, Fredericksburg, Rockville, and Washington, DC

Thank you for making these our top 18 stories of 2018. We promise many new and exciting things to come in 2019! We also hope you will consider taking the advice that these articles offer. 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 a no-cost initial consultation. Happy New Year!

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

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