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A brief video message from The Estate & Elder Law Center of Southside Virginia, PLLC directly from Managing Attorney, Robert W. Haley, Certified Elder Law Attorney, regarding the COVID-19 virus:

While of serious concern to all ages, the elderly are particularly at risk and susceptible to the effects of Coronavirus (COVID-19)! Various MFLA nursing home and rehab facilities in the area, such as Stanleytown Health & Rehab and Riverside Health & Rehab below as well, have issued press releases concerning this matter.

To read the RIVERSIDE HEALTH & REHAB press release, please click below:

In addition, similar facilities have additional policies in place, effective immediately per their representatives, such as MULBERRY CREEK (formerly BLUE RIDGE HEALTH & REHAB) in Martinsville: No visitors, not even family, until further notice. However, they will allow communication by phone to relay to you how your loved one is doing.

BLUE RIDGE THERAPY CONNECTION IN STUART: Medically necessary visits allowed only, no outside laundry, and no outside gifts or food may enter the facility.

If your loved one is in a care facility, be sure to call that facility directly to be up-to-date on their latest policies as the circumstances regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to evolve. We will post more information as we receive it - Likes & Shares Appreciated!

We understand how stressful and difficult this time of year can be when trying to keep an elderly loved one well! As if battling the cold and flu season wasn’t enough, we’re currently facing a novel coronavirus that’s rapidly spreading across the U.S. and a growing number of countries. As of Monday, March 2, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) clocked the total number of cases in the U.S. at 43. Seventeen patients have been hospitalized, and 6, all in Washington state, have died, reports CNN. 

The CDC advised that person-to-person spread of the virus in the U.S. is likely to continue — and that more cases are expected to be identified in the coming days. 

That said, zeroing in on the facts about the virus might allay fears. “Since this virus is in the family of viruses that cause the common cold, it’s likely that healthy children and adults will resolve the illness on their own and recover without any problems,” notes Dr. Rodney Rohde, Ph.D., chair and professor of the Clinical Laboratory Science (CLS) Program and Associate Dean for Research for the College of Health Professions at Texas State University. 

Also, if you should need to schedule an appointment when calling our office and your's or a loved one's health and wellness is a concern, you do have another option for meeting with the attorney - Both of our Bassett and Danville offices have Video Conferencing capabilities! 

To read the entire article from, check out this link below:

Picture it: In classic black-and-white movies, including some of the later popular Hammer-era horror movies from the late-60's to early '70's and other genre movies that date much earlier, there are usually scenes of a formal reading of a will. All the relatives are gathered around anxiously with bated breath. In those movies, family members in a shadowy office or in the parlour of some palatial, european countryside estate, listen intently to the estate's attorney as he reads aloud the Last Will & Testament of the deceased. In truth, a reading of the will rarely happens in real life these days, and only actually took place many years ago on occasion.
The simple truth is that will readings are not legally required in any state.  In reality, it is difficult to find more than a few examples in the past century of a formal will reading actually taking place. As an easy example, history tells us that in ancient times Julius Caesar's will was read aloud.  This appears to have been done for more of a political reason than for any true legal purpose.
So Why Aren't Readings Of The Will More Commonly Done In Real Life? Movie scenes showing a small-scale public reading of a will are certainly dramatic and may help to advance the plot forward. But there are good reasons why such readings like this should not actually occur in our everyday life!
For one thing, a reading of a Will can be awkward and potentially be very embarrassing to those who discover on the spot that they may have been disinherited or those who received far less than they might have been expecting. That type of discovery would be uncomfortable, to say the least.
Naturally, movies often play up this fact for the purpose of entertainment.  Those scenes of formal will-readings in these movies are particularly dramatic because, quite often, those who most expected to receive sizable bequests or property or assets typically received nothing, and those who expected nothing quite often received the bulk of the estate!
Another reason against doing a formal will-reading in that type of scenario is that, in real life, wills are typically filled with language that most laymen will find unclear and would require informed and careful explanation. That is not to say that readings of a Will never occur in these modern times, but they are the exception, not the rule!

Sure, it seems crazy to start thinking about a possible future when you're infirmed and need long-term health care if you're only in your 50's. You're young, or relatively young, and healthy. But that's the point.  You don't want to someday be unable to take care of yourself and wish that you had done some pre-planning. If you're in your 50's, and you're not thinking about long-term care, these are some reasons you should be considering it, such as: 

(1.) You have plenty of time. That's why planning for long-term care now is a good idea. If you wait to plan for long-term care in your 60's, 70's or beyond, you're going to find that certain strategies aren't available (or practical) any longer.  There are generally three approaches people take to long-term care, which are:

       (a.) Private Pay: That is, no insurance, no government help – just you. You could research how much you'd likely spend if you became chronically ill and save for it. But that really isn't realistic for most people.  The problem with private pay is that people often find themselves needing that money 10 to 15 years into their retirement just to make it. So people who are intent upon self-funding might find themselves without options later on after they begin paying a bill of over $8000.00 per month!

        (b.) Medicaid:. Not Medicare, which won't pay for long-term care. "But Medicaid was created to do just that," experts say. For persons with typically less than $150,000 to $500,000 in retirement assets, Medicaid may make more sense.  But experts always advise talking to an elder law attorney, who can guide you through the ins and outs of Medicaid.

        (c.) Long-Term Care Insurance: After you purchase the policy and pay the premiums, of course – such as long-term insurance or a hybrid life insurance and long-term care policy. Clients who find insurance appealing need a competent broker that can walk them through the myriad of options available. There are even strategies an elder law attorney can implement in conjunction with a purchase of long term care insurance to ensure you get the biggest bang for your buck! Remember this, if you are thinking about the need for long-term care insurance, the 50's is the best time to buy it and take advantage of lower premiums!  If you wait, you may not be able to afford the monthly premium.

(2. ) You're still healthy:  Hopefully that's the case. Particularly if you're interested in any sort of long-term care insurance, which helps pay for the cost of having somebody help you with tasks like getting dressed and going to the bathroom. It's an unpleasant thought, of course, which is why many people don't like thinking ahead.

The key to purchasing long-term care insurance is to do so when you're still healthy to qualify. Once health deteriorates, clients may no longer be eligible for coverage, or their premiums may increase.  Approximately 25 percent of applicants who wait to apply for long-term care insurance after age 60 are declined for health reasons.

(3.) Insurance is cheaper. Any health insurance is always cheaper when you're younger, which is why – if you plan to get it, you'd likely want to get long-term care insurance now versus much later. Some experts advocate buying long-term care insurance as early as your 40s. The premiums are less the younger you are, so it pays to get started early. The earliest I have heard of is a couple buying their policies when they were 43 years old.  "Although we've had two premium increases since we bought them, we still pay around half of what people looking to buy traditional LTC at my current age of 55 [would pay] – and the benefits I own on that old policy are far greater than what I can quote a 55-year-old couple." 

The average cost of long-term care insurance is all over the map, depending on the insurer, your age and the policy, so it's difficult to say how much any one person will pay. Still, to give you an idea of why it's cheaper to get it sooner rather than later, it can be instructive to look at some of the numbers on the website of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, a national trade association. A couple, both 55 years of age, with a shared policy would, on average, pay $2,350 a year with a $150 maximum daily benefit and a three-year benefit period. The same couple, if they were each 60, would pay $2,970 a year.

(4.) You'll have some peace of mind, earlier. I often tell clients that if they can tell me the exact date they plan to die, I’ll tell them exactly what to do!!  Yet, nobody knows the future, and so your planning may not help you someday – or you may draw up an elaborate plan only to later discover that someday, wow, you're a 101-year-old marathon runner who needs no help being taken care of, and all that money spent was for naught. But, still, there is something to be said for knowing that you probably have things figured out, way ahead of time. Life favors the prepared, after all.

Terri Cochran is the editor of a non-profit newsletter. She is 66 and says that she bought a long-term care insurance policy when she was 53. Her husband, Vince, the owner of a small laser manufacturing company was 69 and at the beginning stages of a neurodegenerative illness that they were then unaware of. An insurance company cold-called him, to sell him long-care insurance. He was ultimately denied due to his poor health, but Cochran decided to buy some for herself.

"I was afraid he would have expensive medical bills in the future, so it was another reason for me to have my own insurance," Cochran says. "Sure enough, he soon needed 10 hours a day of [care from] home health aides, which we paid out of pocket for well over 10 years until his death in 2016. We were lucky to have the money to pay for aides. I couldn't work either since he needed my full-time care."

Cochran says she feels prepared for the possibility that someday she may need long-term care, but even with the peace of mind of having a plan in place, she is a little unsettled.  "If I do need to use my long-term care insurance, I hope the insurance company isn't difficult to work with. Because I hear horror stories about people trying to collect on their insurance when they need it," she says.  But, imagine the horror stories of needing long-term care and not being prepared.

We deal with clients daily that are now in crisis and at a time when they would much prefer being with their spouse or loved one, they are busy gathering reams of documents, statements, policies, titles, deeds in order to structure accounts and investments, protect assets and apply for Medicaid on their behalf.  While this is successful, waiting until the last minute certainly has costs, emotionally, monetarily and mentally.    

If you feel the need to begin your planning, contact our office or a Certified Elder Law Attorney in your area! 

Survey data collected by the federal government showed that the proportion of seniors reporting pot use rose from 0.4% before 2007, to nearly 3% by 2016. As legalization has spread to new states, Han and Palamar found, the share of people 65 or older using cannabis increased from 2.4% in 2015 to 4.2% in 2018.

Click here to read the entire original article.

While LGBTQ individuals have made significant strides in gaining equality under the laws of the United States, there is still a long way to go before discrimination is stamped out. Unfortunately, some of the discrimination that exists affects the legal rights of LGBTQ individuals towards the end of their life and after their death. Because the laws in place are not perfect, those who identify as LGBTQ in life will have certainly have specific challenges to consider when they create their estate plan.

Our firm understands the importance of everyone taking the crucial steps needed to protect themselves, their partners, and their families. We don't believe in cookie-cutter or 'one-size-fits-all' solutions in Estate Planning. When it comes to end-of-life issues, asset protection and protecting your family, you need to have the very best legal advice! As a member of the Virginia Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, our office has the credentials, experience and expertise to provide the legal assistance you require. We also have the compassion and commitment to providing the type of advice you deserve.

The Importance of LGBTQ Estate Planning

Before gay marriage was permitted, LGBTQ individuals did not enjoy any of the benefits the law automatically afforded to married couples, such as the ability to transfer assets tax-free to a spouse after death. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that marriage equality is the law of the land, you may decide to get married to your partner if you want automatic protections like the ability to leave property to your spouse without being taxed. However, the fact is, not everyone chooses to get married – and if you don’t, it will become crucial to address issues like making sure your partner can make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated.

Whether you marry or not, you may face issues associated with having non-biological children, with having property owned separately before you married, or with having non-supportive family members who challenge your wishes. These are just a few of the many different issues that an estate planning attorney familiar with LGBTQ issues can help you properly address.

For transgender individuals, other problems may also arise which are caused by the fact that their gender identity does not always match up with the gender shown on their birth certificate. When medical decisions must be made for you, or when you pass away and want to be remembered in a certain way, transgender status can complicate matters significantly. An attorney with experience handling transgender estate planning can provide assistance with naming a healthcare agent for you during your lifetime, leaving instructions for your funeral, and otherwise protecting your rights in the event of incapacity or death.

What Legal Tools Should Be A Part Of Your Estate Plan?

An estate plan for LGBTQ individuals needs to make full use of the legal tools that allow for Asset Protection/Medicaid Planning and that allow you to leave a legacy to those you love. This means your plan may need to include a Last Will & Testament, Trusts for Asset Protection and to facilitate asset transfers; and a Healthcare Power of Attorney along with a Living Will for end-of-life issues, in case of a serious illness or injury, to name but a few.

Because of your LGBTQ status, you may also have additional issues to address. For example, transgender individuals whose family members are not fully supportive during their life, may wish to ensure that their funeral is pre-planned ahead of time or that detailed instructions are provided so that they are remembered with their preferred gender rather than their birth gender. If you were unable to marry until recently and are thus not yet entitled to full veteran’s or Social Security benefits based on your spouse’s record, you may also need to make more comprehensive financial plans for your retirement.

The above examples are just some of the unique considerations that LGBTQ individuals may have when planning for their future. An attorney who understands LGBTQ estate planning can help you to determine how the law protects you and where you need to take steps to protect yourself.

Out office is committed to providing top-notch representation to everyone, including those who are homosexual, bisexual, or transgender. We pride ourselves on offering you the advice that you need to make sure you get the full protections available under Virginia law. Reach out to us for a consult through our website or call us a call today at (855) 503-5337 to learn more about how we can help and best assist you in planning for the future.

THE BIPARTISAN BUDGET Act of 2018 introduced a new tax form for seniors effective for 2019 taxes. Known as the 1040-SR, this form is designed to make filing taxes easier for older Americans. “Form 1040-SR is a good option for those ages 65 and over,” says Mark Steber, chief tax officer at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, headquartered in Jersey City, New Jersey.

As you prepare for taxes this year, start by lining up your age with the available options. If you were born before Jan. 2, 1955, you can fill out Form 1040-SR. The tax form is designed to be easier to fill out than the Form 1040, which is what seniors in the past frequently had to use.

Check out this link below to read the full article: 

The Shocking Truth: 

Over a Half a Million Pets are Euthanized Every Year –

Don’t Let That Happen to Your Beloved Companion!

Have you seriously considered what will become of your faithful companion – your beloved pet – upon your death or disability? If not, now is the time. If you don’t have a plan that quickly and easily provides for your pet’s food, shelter, and care, please keep reading.  

One of the main goals of estate planning is to provide for your loved ones, and for many of us, “loved ones” includes our pets. While you can always ask a friend or relative to look out for your pet, they aren’t legally obligated to unless you set up an estate plan for this.

The specific estate planning method you use will depend on your state laws, your pet’s needs, your goals and financial resources. Working together, you and your attorney can plan for the best method to ensure that your pet will continue to have a quality life.

Consider these frequently asked questions and be sure to ask your attorney for more details. Don’t wait until it’s too late …

Q: Can I provide for my pet in my estate plan?
Yes. However, even though you consider your pet as a companion and devoted friend, legally, your pet is ‘personal property’ – and is not given the status of a person. That makes it critical to choose the right planning method. You could provide for your pet in your last will and testament or by creating a trust.

Q: Isn’t my will the easiest place to plan for the care of my pet? 
Even though it may seem ‘easy’ to include a bequest for your pet within your will, it may not be the best approach. Why? Because your will must go through probate before it takes effect. This can be time-consuming and uncertain, and your pet will need immediate attention. Your pet is not like your spouse, adult children or your siblings – they can take care of themselves until the probate process is complete.  But since your pet needs food, water, shelter, and love every day, this may not be the best way to provide for your pet. During probate, your pet’s care, or even ownership, can be in jeopardy. So, while you may want to include provisions in your will for your pet, first consider other methods. Many people are now using a ‘trust’ to provide funds and direction for the care of their pet.

Q: How does setting up a trust help me provide for my pet?

Unlike a will that is subject to the probate process, a trust becomes effective immediately upon the terms outlined in your trust – usually death or disability. Your trust specifies the details concerning the care and control of your pet, as well as making funds available. Your trust can also give specific directions about the daily care, medical attention, physical control, and even burial of your pet.

Q: What is a trust and how does it work to provide for the care of my pet?
A trust is a legal entity set up to accomplish a particular purpose. You and your attorney will outline the specifics that detail when and under what circumstances the trust will take effect. This includes how the trust will be funded, who will be the trustee, successor trustee, beneficiary, and caretaker, and how the trustee or caretaker will manage your pet and the funds for your pet.

You want your loving pet to be fed, cared for, and to receive medical attention. You may also want to designate funds for pet insurance, or even to enforce the trust. In your trust, you can also leave real property for housing your beloved companion.

Q: What types of trusts are available to provide care for my pet?
A ‘pet trusts’ is really a generic term and is applied to a trust that provides for your pet. A pet cannot be a beneficiary of a traditional legal trust because one of the legal requirements for a trust is that there must be a beneficiary, and that beneficiary must be able to enforce the terms of the trust. Obviously, a pet cannot enforce a trust. So, the choice and structure of a trust must take this into account and be properly worded to accomplish your goals.

Most trusts for the care of pets include the following:

  • Statutory Pet Trust – Some states are enacting statutes that allow for enforceable pet trusts. This generally means that the trust can designate a third party who will have the power to enforce the terms of the trust – to compel the caretaker or trustee to use the trust funds for your pet. Some issues that arise with these trusts include whether the amount of funds in the trust is ‘reasonable’ according to court standards, and who the designated third party to enforce the trust would be.  
  • Honorary Trust – This is a type of trust set up for a specific purpose (such as to provide for a pet) but without a definite beneficiary. The problem with an honorary trust is that without a statute specifically authorizing it as a pet trust, it is essentially unenforceable.  
  • Traditional Legal Trust – One of the best methods to ensure the care of your beloved pet is to set up a traditional legal trust. Your attorney can carefully add language to avoid problems. One method used is to actually place the pet and sufficient funds into the trust. The pet and the funds are the body of the trust. Your attorney then names the caretaker of your pet as the ‘beneficiary’ of the trust. You name a trustee – the party responsible for managing the funds and the caretaker.

Q: How much should I leave for the care of my pet?

You and your attorney will work together to evaluate the factors that influence this decision. You need to consider your finances, your pet, and the amount of care that will likely be involved for the pet’s anticipated lifespan. Obviously, providing for the care of some pets will be more expensive than for others. If your pet is an elderly dog or cat, you would not need to designate as much for their care needs as you would for a young horse, reptiles, or for a parrot, as some animals certainly have longer lifespans than others. Contact us for more information.

THE POLLS ARE OPEN FOR 2020, and we need your help!!! Thanks for all of those who voted for us previously in last year's @VirginiaLiving’s Best of Virginia reader’s survey! Help us stay one of the bests and cast your vote for us in this year’s survey for 2020 by going to this link:

Virginia Living Magazine is currently taking votes for 'Best of Virginia', and The Estate & Elder Law Center of Southside Virginia (with 2 offices in Danville and Bassett) would definitely welcome your vote and support! Danville clients vote in the Central Region; Bassett clients vote in the Southwest Region.

Our Category this year would be #91: 'Best Law Firm', if you wanted to skip ahead in the form. It only takes around 5 minutes to cast your vote. Vote in as few or as many of the other categories as you like! There is a limit of one ballot per person.

Thanks to all for your support. You only have until 11:59 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31 to submit your ballot... Every vote counts, and Likes & Shares Appreciated! #VirginiaLiving #BOV2020 #BestofVirginia

For those who have loved ones in Blue Ridge Manor or Blue Ridge Rehab,  please be advised that these facilities have recently changed hands.

“We just really wanted to get started on a new day and better tomorrow for the building,” said Robert McClintic, CEO of Kissito Healthcare. “We want to rebrand the buildings for both” and are “looking at something new. We’re committed to this.”

In June, Martinsville Circuit Court Judge G. Carter Greer issued an emergency order and appointed a special receiver, Suzanne Roski of Protiviti Inc. in Richmond, in an effort to keep open the financially struggling Blue Ridge Rehab Center and Blue Ridge Manor assisted living facility in Martinsville. To read the full article, courtesy of the Martinsville Bulletin, check out the link below: