Category Archives: Personal

Don’t Let Another Year Pass Without Naming Guardians For Your Kids!

Written by Evan Farr

If you’re making New Years resolutions this year and still have minor children at home, don’t forget to add naming legal guardians to the list!

Statistics show that 69% of parents do not have legal guardians named who can raise their kids if something tragic happens to them.  Many assume a family member would step in, or that they can simply “tell” someone about their guardianship wishes, but unfortunately, our legal system does not work that way.

Instead, if you don’t legally document your choice of guardians, a judge (who does not know you or your wishes!) will have to step in and make this decision on your behalf.  That means your kids could be placed with someone you would NEVER choose if something happened to you.

I’m often reminded of the Barber family car accident in 1996.  Mel and Casey Barber were killed in a horrific crash, while their 3 small boys survived.   If that’s not terrible enough, the boys were forced into foster care because their parents did not have documents in place that would allow them to stay with another family member.  A lengthy court battle ensued, and eventually a judge (who didn’t know Mel or Casey Barber) made the decision as to who would care for the boys.  Was this the same person the Barbers would have chosen? We’ll never know because they didn’t put their wishes in writing.

But here’s the thing—naming legal guardians to care for your minor children is EASY!  There is simply no good reason to go another day, week or year without them.  Here are four easy steps to help you get started with the process:

1. Sit down and brainstorm all the people who could possibly raise your kids if you were killed or incapacitated in an accident. Don’t limit your choices to family either. Think outside the box and write down everyone who even remotely fits the bill.

2. Determine who you would NEVER want to raise your kids in your absence. You’ll need to tell the courts who you DON’T want raising your kids in the event that individual contests your wishes and seeks custody anyway (This can be kept private and only revealed if the need arises).

3. Weigh your values. Make another column and write down what is important to you and/or your spouse.  Do you value education?  Religious or spiritual training? The ability to live in a certain community?  Being raised in a two-parent family?  Whatever your values may be, be honest about them, write them down, prioritize them and eventually rank the top three.

4. The next step is to match your top guardian choices to your top values. This will give you a clear picture of who you can trust to raise your children with the values you hold near and dear to your heart.

Finally, get with your estate planning attorney and legally document your choice of guardians so there’s no question as to who you want to raise your kids if something happens to you!  It’s the only way to guarantee your kids will be physically and financially protected in your absence. The four steps above are a great way to start, but putting your wishes into a proper legal document is essential.

Another integral part of your child protection plan is THE Child Protection Plan of the Farr Law Firm. This document acts as a stopgap should you become incapacitated but not killed–a unique circumstance that is not covered by your Will! Read more about it here.

Evan Farr Featured in Newsweek Magazine

Written by Evan Farr

The Farr Law Firm is  Proud to Announce our Recent Recognitions :

Evan Farr was recently featured in Newsweek Magazine, the second-largest weekly news magazine in the U.S.

Evan was listed as  a “Nationwide Top Attorney”  as part of the magazine’s “Nationwide Top Attorneys 2011 Showcase,” a special advertising section.  The Nationwide Top Attorneys Showcase can be found in the December 26, 2011/January 2, 2012 issue.

This is the second time that Evan Farr has appeared in Newsweek Magazine.  In the December 28, 2009/January 4, 2010 issue of Newsweek, Evan was listed in the  ”Best of D.C. Area Lawyers” special advertising section.

About the Farr Law Firm

Using a holistic and often proprietary approach, our firm uses a vast knowledge, understanding, and deep respect of the elderly to help our elderly clients obtain the highest quality care at the lowest possible cost, which typically involves protecting assets in order to become eligible to have Medicaid and/or Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits pay for the appropriate level of care — be it home health care, assisted living care, or nursing home care.

Unfortunately, Medicaid eligibility rules are the most complex and confusing maze of legal rules in existence.  The United States Supreme Court has called the Medicaid laws “an aggravated assault on the English language, resistant to attempts to understand it.” and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has called the Medicaid Act one of the “most completely impenetrable texts within human experience” and “dense reading of the most tortuous kind.” Veteran’s Aid and Attendance rules are likewise also exceedingly complicated and often treacherous to navigate.

Let Evan Farr and the Farr Law Firm provide you with expert and experienced asset protection planning and in-depth representation in connection with Medicaid and Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits, so you don’t wind up possible spending your entire life savings on long-term care, unnecessarily jeopardizing your future care and well-being, as well as the financial security of your family.

Upcoming Seminar

We are conducting a completely free, no obligation seminar this month.  Please be sure to RSVP before we reach maximum capacity!

Happy Holidays from the Farr Law Firm!

Written by Evan Farr

To all of our colleagues, business associates, and previous, current and perhaps future clients, here is a special Holiday Card just for you!

First and foremost, we would like to thank all of you for another productive and prosperous year at the Farr Law Firm. The year 2011 brought about a few changes to the Farr Law Firm, including an expansion of our office into neighboring Suite 203 and the addition of two new staff members to our team. We’ve also added our three-part Lunch-n-Learn workshop series to our seminar repertoire which have been extremely well received. We helped over 280+ new clients reach their Estate Planning and Elder Law goals this year, and to further serve our military community we began offering a 15% discount on all of our estate planning services.

Lastly, in an effort to make your experience with our Firm as seamless as possible we recently launched our new “mobile-friendly” website.  For those of you who are familiar with our current website don’t worry! Nothing is changing for desktop computer users.  What will be different, however, is that from this point forward all users accessing our website via mobile phone or tablet computer will be automatically re-directed to our user-friendly and easy-to-navigate mobile website.  You can “Tap to Call,” get real-time directions no matter where you are currently located, claim your military discounts, check on upcoming seminar dates/times, and find the answers to your most frequently asked questions and more.  Should you for some reason wish to view our desktop-version on your mobile phone, simply follow the link at the bottom of the page: “Full Site.”

We extend our warmest holiday wishes to you and your family and we hope that you will enjoy special time with family and friends, reflecting on the year gone and looking forward to what comes in 2012.

Happy Holidays from all of us at the Farr Law Firm,

Evan, Dean, Justin, April, Karen, Connie, Jeannie, Grace, Brent, David, and Matthew (and Chancellor too!)

Veterans Aid & Attendance Benefits Increase

Written by Evan Farr

Good news! For the first time since 2008, the Department of Veterans Affairs has announced an increase in maximum  Aid and Attendance benefits available to veterans of the armed forces. These new figures for 2012 reflect a 3.6% cost-of-living adjustment, effective December 1, 2011:

$20,447 per year (~$1,704 per month) for a qualified veteran;
$24,239 per year (~$2,020 per month ) if the veteran is married;
$13,138 per year (~$1,095 per month ) for a surviving spouse of a qualified veteran;
$31,578 per year (~$2,631 per month ) if both spouses are qualified veterans.

What is Veterans Aid & Attendance?

Veterans Aid & Attendance pension benefits are intended to be a form of financial assistance to meet the care needs of veterans and their surviving spouses. If you are younger than age 65, then you must be completely disabled in order to receive this benefit. Those over 65 do not have to be disabled. However, the veteran or spouse must be in need of regular aid and attendance due to: Inability of claimant to dress or undress himself (herself), or to keep himself (herself) ordinarily clean and presentable; frequent need of adjustment of any special prosthetic or orthopedic appliances which by reason of the particular disability cannot be done without aid (this will not include the adjustment of appliances which normal persons would be unable to adjust without aid, such as supports, belts, lacing at the back etc.); inability to feed himself (herself) through loss of coordination of upper extremities or through extreme weakness; inability to attend to the wants of nature; or incapacity, physical or mental, which requires care or assistance on a regular basis to protect the claimant from hazards or dangers incident to his or her daily environment.

It is helpful to note that not all of the disabling conditions in the list above are required to exist. It is only necessary that the evidence establish that the veteran or spouse needs “regular” (scheduled and ongoing) aid and attendance from someone else–not that there be a 24-hour need.

How do I know if I can qualify for Veterans Aid & Attendance Pension Benefits?

You or your spouse must have served on active duty for at least 90 days, at least one day of which occurred during a period designated as wartime (see below). There must have been an honorable discharge as well. Single surviving spouses of such veterans are also eligible.

Periods Designated As Wartime:
World War II — December 7, 1941 through December 31, 1946
Korean Conflict — June 27, 1950 through January 31, 1955
Vietnam Era — August 5, 1964 through May 7, 1975; for veterans who served “in country” before August 5, 1964, February 28, 1961 through May 7, 1975
Gulf War — August 2, 1990 through a date to be set by law or Presidential Proclamation

If you would like to learn more about the Veterans Aid & Attendance program and how the Farr Law Firm can help you obtain the benefits you deserve, contact us!

If you would like to sign up to receive Evan Farr’s Aid & Attendance 4-Part Mini Series via e-mail, please click here.

Filing a Veterans Aid & Attendance Claim

Estate Planning for Single Adults

Written by Evan Farr

When we typically think of estate planning, we see grandma and grandpa putting together a will and possibly setting up some trusts for the following generations. It’s all about providing for our offspring, right?

Not necessarily. Even if you are single and/or have no children, a Virginia wills and estates lawyer should still be in your plans. Why? Because estate planning is really about YOU.

While it is absolutely advisable for married people or those with children to work with a wills and trusts lawyer, it is actually just as important for single adults, as well.

In fact, there are times when it’s almost more important for singletons. After all, when a married person suffers a major illness, it’s usually pretty clear who will take on medical and financial responsibility. The water gets a bit murkier for unmarried individuals.

If you were to suddenly become incapacitated, who would make your medical decisions for you? If you haven’t worked with an estate planning attorney, the answer to this question becomes quite complicated. Possibly your parents would be called in to determine how your medical care should proceed. Maybe it would be a sibling. Most likely, it would not be your best friend or your significant other or whomever you would choose. Even if your parent or sibling would be your first choice, that doesn’t mean that the courts would agree without having your express wishes legally documented.

And what about your finances? If you are unable to take care of your finances for a period of time, who do you think will do so? The answer to that is: whomever the courts say. Again, it could be a parent, a sibling, some other relative, or even a court-appointed individual.

Finally, what will become of your things if you should unexpectedly pass away? Who would have legal rights to your belongings, to your home, to your pets? You may think you know the answers, but without clearly outlining your wishes with an estate planning attorney, you have very little control over the matter.

A single adult without children does not need to worry about creating guardianships and trusts to provide for his or her offspring, but it’s certainly a good idea to look out for yourself. Some of the basic legal documents any single person should have include:

  • A will to determine what will become of your assets in the event of your death.
  • A power of attorney for healthcare (or Advance Medical Directive) to name the person you want making medical decisions on your behalf.
  • A living will to clearly explain your wishes regarding medical procedures and life support.
  • A power of attorney for financial matters to name the person you feel should be responsible for your money if you are incapacitated.
  • A revocable living trust to centralize management of assets if you become incapacitated and keep your assets out of probate if you should pass away.

These five documents are crucial in ensuring that your wishes are met and that you have control over your future. A wills and trusts attorney in Virginia can easily get you on the path to having these affairs in order.

Wills and Basic Estate Planning

Financial Powers of Attorney

Medical Powers of Attorney

Tackling the “Sibling Situation”

Written by Evan Farr

Siblings often have trouble agreeing on anything, so why should it be any different when it comes to Mom and Dad’s elder care?  Unfortunately those of us in elder law see quite often how families have a very difficult time when it comes to determining what is best for aging parents.

In some cases, one sibling may be expected to take on an unreasonable portion of the elder care with other siblings not recognizing (or possibly not caring) that it is a hardship. Perhaps it’s because of geographical closeness, or financial stability, or even perceived favoritism of a particular sibling. Other times, siblings simply can’t agree on the best course of medical intervention or the choice of an assisted living facility.

A certified elder law attorney like Evan Farr can actually help to avoid or work through some of these issues.

The best approach is to start early.  Most siblings can likely agree that having your parents make their wishes known in advance is a good thing. (And sticking to them, no matter what, when they become necessary.)  The attorney can help them draw up some very important documents before they are even needed. Such as:

  • Medical Power of Attorney – This names the person responsible for making medical decisions when the parent is unable to do it for himself or herself.
  • Financial Power of Attorney – This is used to determine who will have control of the parents’ finances in order to keep the household going, pay medical bills, etc. during an illness or crisis.
  • Living Will – A living will helps to outline the parents’ wishes when it comes to medical interventions and end-of-life care.  Having this in place takes some of the burden off of the adult children who would otherwise be making these choices.

If possible, it’s best to have all of the siblings aware of and in agreement about these documents, as it can cut down on the amount of frustration later. Of course, children must also realize and respect that it is entirely up to the parents who they want to nominate as their primary Agents, and whether they may act independently or if they must act in cooperation with one or more siblings.

When things do become more intense and these documents come into play, it is still likely that siblings will have disagreements about what is best.  The one who has the largest responsibility for day-to-day elder care may become resentful, while another may also harbor resentments that someone else was chosen to take care of the parents’ finances.  Throw in the emotions that surface when facing your parents’ mortality, and there is potential for a major explosion and grief.

In order to diffuse the situation, an elder law attorney can direct you to other forms of outside help.  For example, some families choose to hire a “geriatric care manager.”  This person is able to manage many aspects of the parent’s care, and because he or she isn’t a family member, much of the associated drama is mitigated.  When a situation has become too out of hand, the siblings may need to agree to use a mediator.  This impartial listener can help to determine the best course of action for getting the parents the care they need while meeting the needs and wishes of the siblings as appropriately as possible.

In order to salvage an uncomfortable family situation, it may be advisable for members to seek family counseling.  This is most likely to work when all of the members are invested in a positive outcome.  The staff at the Farr Law Firm can help direct you to many resources for counselors and mediators here in the Northern Virginia area.

If you’re a parent that would like to start laying the proper groundwork for your children now, contact the Farr Law Firm to discuss drawing up the proper documents to make future life transitions as smooth as possible for your family.

Basic Estate Planning

Life Care Planning

Farr Law Firm Trusted Referrals

Three Tips to Outsmart Timeshare Reps

Written by Evan Farr

If you and your family are fortunate enough to go on that well-deserved resort vacation this year, then there is a good chance you’ll find yourself listening to the all-too-familiar ‘timeshare marketing pitch.’   Most people are familiar with the concept of a timeshare, but there is more to it than meets the eye.  The repercussions of owning a timeshare can vary tremendously depending on many things, including whether it is a real property interest, a mere right to use the property, or some other arrangement. Read on for more.

#1 Timeshares are not Inherently Bad Investments. If a timeshare really interests you (and they are legitimate and worthwhile investments for many families), you can plan in advance to take ownership the right way and avoid legal traps and snares down the road.  Most people do not realize the thicket of possible legal ramifications inevitable to owning one (or more).  Timeshares are typically sold in a high-pressure environment, chock full of free food, gifts, and even vacations; these tools are all part of an intentional business model designed to encourage vacationers to make impulsive buying decisions.

#2 – Type of Ownership is Critical. If you own real property outside of Virginia and die without proper estate planning documents in place (no, a simple Will is not enough!) then the representative of your estate must appear in every state where such property is located.  This means that even if you live in Virginia but you own a timeshare for one week in Florida, if it is considered “real property,” then the Florida courts must determine how it is disposed. Combine that inconvenience with the fact that each state has slightly different estate administration laws and the representative of your estate could have a messy complication on their hands.

If a timeshare is in the form of a deeded contract, it is considered ownership of real property.  As you may know, real estate may be sold, rented, and gifted among other things.  And as you may have guessed by now, also incident to ownership are real estate taxes and probate.  Usually, taxes are included in the timeshare maintenance fee, but probate is another issue.  If you die without a trust to dispose of your assets, then the court system will “probate” the Will, or follow the statutes of the state if there is no Will.  In any event, dying without a trust and with real property can cause major headaches for your executor.  Luckily this can all be avoided.

If the deed to your current or prospective timeshare is a “leasehold deed,” then it means ownership only lasts for a specified period of time.  A “right to use” contract means what it sounds like – the purchaser acquires a right to use and enjoy the rights of the property owner (usually a resort).  However, the pitfall of a “right to use” contract is the fact that it is possible for “other” benefits you may not care about, like a club membership, to be included.  The “right to use” form of timeshare acquisition is used heavily overseas and in Mexico, because the ownership of foreign real property interests opens the door to many more legal issues.

#3 – You Do Not Have to Decide Then and There. Do not sign anything before you leave, unless you have a revocable living trust and have already met with your lawyer regarding the timeshare you are considering.  The concept of a timeshare is attractive, but before saying “yes,” it is absolutely imperative to speak with a good estate planning attorney.  For those who own timeshares already, it is still equally as important to not purchase another one until you have consulted an attorney, and also equally as important to talk to a good estate planning attorney if you own a timeshare but do not intend to purchase another.

Revocable Living Trusts Explained

Consult an Estate Planning Attorney Now!

Budgeting for Seniors

Written by Evan Farr

Budgeting is part of any effective Life Care Plan and becomes even more important when seniors experience a big life change, such as moving into an assisted living facility, losing a spouse or having a drastic change in health. It begins with an assessment of your resources and your needs. The purpose of Life Care Planning is to improve the quality of life for the person for whom we are planning. Budgeting helps us understand what tools and resources we have to work in accomplishing that goal.

As you prepare your budget, there are several basic concepts you should consider. First, you should determine your needs, broken down on a monthly basis if possible. Consider everything from daily living expenses (rent, food, utilities) to recurring monthly fees (car payments, Netflix subscriptions) and other miscellaneous expenses (charitable donations, gifts, recreational activities). Don’t forget to include extraordinary emergency expenses that could catch you off guard (replacing a roof, unexpected healthcare expenses, etc) as well.

Then think: Is your monthly income sufficient to meet your needs and, if not, how will you supplement or enhance your income to meet your needs? Be realistic. Where possible, consider limiting certain risks by purchasing insurance. If you need professional help, speak with a Certified Financial Planner or someone else who has the skills to help you establish a budget.

Armed with this, we can help you move forward in drafting a Life Care Plan (and the appropriate Medicaid planning) that will give you the best life possible, without depleting your life savings or going into debt.

To Refresh:

Create a budget by:
1. Naming categories that describe your expenses.
2. Estimate expenditures for each category. Use last year’s expenses as a guide.
3. Find areas where you can cut back.
4. Implement your budget, and stick to it.
5. Review and modify your budget at regular intervals.
Helpful Budgeting Links:

BetterBudgeting

Kiplinger Household Budgeting Worksheet

MoneyHelp Budget Planner

Key Dollar Amounts for Elder Law

Remembering 9/11

Written by Evan Farr

As I’m sure many of you know already, this Sunday marks the ten-year anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 at 8:46 a.m. ET. Instead of writing a typical Elder Law or Estate Planning article this week, I decided to simply pay homage to the occasion instead.

Ten years ago this Sunday, our country was shaken to its core by the brutal acts of terrorists. How could we ever forget?Early on the morning of September 11, 2001, hijackers took control of four commercial airliners en route to San Francisco and Los Angeles after takeoff from Boston, Newark, and Washington, D.C. At 8:46 a.m., five hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into the World Trade Center’s North Tower and at 9:03 a.m. another five hijackers crashed United Airlines Flight 175 into the South Tower. Another five hijackers flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. at 9:37 a.m. A fourth flight, under the control of four hijackers, crashed United Airlines Flight 93 near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m. Flight 93 did not reach its intended target (believed to be the Capitol in Washington) due to the brave actions of passengers and crew who fought back against the hijackers after learning through phone calls that other similarly hijacked planes had been crashed into buildings earlier that morning.

Home of the Brave, indeed.

Wherever you were during that fateful late summer’s morning and whatever you were doing, I’m sure that like me you stopped in shock and watched our country change forever. On Sunday, I will for a moment be reflecting on the past ten years and what they have meant for our country, while still holding hope for the future. In fact, there is a strong movement across the country to encourage all Americans to participate in a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. on Sunday morning in remembrance for all those who lost their lives that day and in the years and wars following.

At the main sites of attack, several memorial services are planned. At Ground Zero in Manhattan, a ceremony with New York City officials and families of the day’s victims will officially open the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. In our own backyard of Washington D.C. there will be a memorial ceremony held at the Pentagon Memorial, attended by members of the military and families of those who died in the attack on the Pentagon. And in seldom-mentioned Shanksville, Pennsylvania there will also be a service at Memorial Plaza to honor the brave souls of Flight 93 who wrested control away from the hijackers and in the process saved hundreds of lives.

I hope you’ll join me in a moment of silence and remembrance and amid that, I wish you a good weekend. God Bless America.

To participate in an event in your community, visit this Yahoo page for a comprehensive list of events across the country.

Two Lessons from Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Written by Evan Farr

You may be aware that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. However, fewer people realize that before October, is September: National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.  More than 15,000 women will die from ovarian cancer this year, slightly less than half the number who will die from breast cancer (about 39,000).  The prevalence of all forms of cancers reminds me to remind my readers of the importance of Incapacity Planning and Asset Protection Planning.

According to HealthNews.com citing the American Cancer Society, “every year almost 22,000 American women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and more than 15,000 die from the disease.”  According to government statistics, 207,090 women are diagnosed [with breast cancer annually] . . . and 39,840 die [from the disease].

Ovarian cancer affects women in their middle-to-later years.  9 out of 10 women who get ovarian cancer are over the age of 40, and the greatest numbers of ovarian cancers are discovered in women aged 60 years or older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Asset Protection Planning and Incapacity Planning are the vital legal services where an Elder Law attorney guides the individual (or couple) through the complex Medicaid qualification, application, and approval processes.   It may be necessary to employ a complex set of asset protection strategies, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in many cases.

Proper planning can protect the assets from nursing home creditors, allowing Americans from all walks of life to legally and ethically qualify for Medicaid and Veterans Benefits, passing on an inheritance if they so choose, and enjoy the standard of living and quality of life they prefer.

This September and October, remember the acronym, “RAP:” Recognize the risks, including your family history; Abstain from cancer-causing behavior like smoking and chronic inactivity; and Plan for the future, regardless of your current state of health.

More ovarian cancer articles you may be interested in:

Breakthrough in Ovarian Cancer Research Brings Hope
Do all contraceptives lower ovarian cancer risk?
National Ovarian Cancer Coalition
Advance Care Plan Explained