Greetings - Welcome to our firm's Blog! Curious to learn more about topics of interest in regards to Estate Planning, Medicaid Planning/Asset Protection and other elder law matters in general? Be sure to check out our online blog! 

To see a listing of our website blog articles tagged and sorted by their own specific topics,  just click on their corresponding 'Blog Categories' links below, located directly under the 'Contact Us Today' field on the lower right of this page. (If viewing this on a desktop or laptop computer.)

Prefer to listen to podcasts on the go instead? Our newest media offering from the firm is an ongoing podcast put out by Robert and Cricket Haley, called 'Aging Intelligently'. 

Welcome to Aging Intelligently, where we walk with you down the path of getting older and together, climb those obstacles that seem insurmountable. Information and preparation can change your perception of aging. To learn more, we invite you to also check out our Aging Intelligently website, located here.

Certified Elder Law Attorney®, Robert W. Haley, and his wife, Cricket, a Certified Elder Care Manager, share their journey from fat to fabulous. They discuss their research, personal experience and interview other experts in the fields of Elder Law, Care Management, Finance, Nutrition, Fitness, and even Travel, so you too, can be holistically well and secure wherever life's path may lead.

*This podcast is accessible through many applications, including AppleSpotify, Anchor, Breaker and Google podcastsSubscribes Welcome! 

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.

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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.

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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: 

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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.

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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: http://www.virginialiving.com/vote2020/

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

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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:

https://www.martinsvillebulletin.com/news/local/new-owners-take-over-former-blue-ridge-rehab-and-blue/article_a35e025f-8923-5b75-aba8-d870c118acf3.html?fbclid=IwAR2bCccgrPc4TuETWiXCOLFOVJ8BwfgQQwsXET-mblyIgIVkDSImgeqqjhg

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In 1965, an amendment to the Social Security Act established Medicare and Medicaid, two government-run health programs. Their names can often lead to some confusion about what each program actually covers. In the case of Medicaid for example, it can cover services that Medicare typically doesn't.To read the full original article which highlights the differences between the two programs, click here

Are you or an aging loved one worried about the rising costs of long-term care? Believe it or not, you don't have to give up your entire life's savings!  Give our offices a call for more information on how we can assist you and your family with the complicated process of Medicaid Planning / Asset Protection.

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The Estate & Elder Law Center of Southside Virginia, PLLC is pleased to announce that Managing Attorney Robert W. Haley has been named to the Virginia Business Legal Elite List for 2019! Begun in 2000 as a collaboration with the Virginia Bar Association, Virginia Business annually polls more than 14,000 attorneys in the commonwealth, asking them to select from their peers the best lawyers in each practice category. Mr. Haley concentrates his practice in Elder Law and Estate Planning. 

Mr. Haley holds an AV rating under the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings, the highest rating for ethical standards and professional ability. He is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA®), which is the only approved designation for certification by the American Bar Association, through the National Elder Law Foundation. His firm specializes in Elder Law concerns such as Estate Planning, Guardianships, Estate Administration/Probate, Medicaid Planning and Asset Protection. In addition, his offices offer a much-needed service called Life Care Planning for our clients, done in conjunction with Covenant Care Management, LLC. 

One of the few Certified Elder Law Attorneys in Virginia and the only Certified Elder Law Attorney in Southside Virginia, Managing Attorney, Robert W. Haley is also included on the Super Lawyers List, a nomination from his peers.  In addition, he has been named a Certified Advanced Practitioner (CAP) by his peers in the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). Mr. Haley is one of only around 90 attorneys with this level of expertise in the nation! With offices in Bassett and in Danville to serve you, his entire staff’s focus is on providing you with the best possible legal representation. 

For more information on available services, please visit www.VAElderLaw.com or call 855-503-5337.

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Scam Alert! This Social Security scam is similar to the IRS phone scams over the last few years... Always a vulnerable and popular targer of scammers, seniors are at risk of losing an entire life's savings! In 2018 alone, more than 35,000 people had already reported the scam.

Here's what to know:

  • Your Social Security number is not about to be suspended. You don’t have to verify your number to anyone who calls out of the blue. And your bank accounts are not about to be seized.
  • SSA will never call to threaten your benefits or tell you to wire money, send cash, or put money on gift cards. Anyone who tells you to do those things is a scammer. Every time.
  • The real SSA number is 1-800-772-1213, but scammers are putting that number in the caller ID. If you’re worried about what the caller says, hang up and call 1-800-772-1213 to speak to the real SSA. Even if the wait time is long, confirm with the real SSA before responding to one of these calls.
  • Never give any part of your Social Security number to anyone who contacts you. Or your bank account or credit card number.

If you get one of these calls, tell the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

Click here to read the article.

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As an Elder Law Attorney, “Tell me about your mother (or father)” is a question I ask someone every day.  When they reply, “Well, we have had sitters come in to be with her (or him) for the last few years” I cringe every time.  Because I know that in many cases, the family has been paying the sitter or caregiver in cash, with no written contract in place. Then, when we try to make the parent eligible for Medicaid, there is a problem, a big problem.

Let me tell you a story:  A former client came to me for advice.  Years earlier she had liquidated all of  her father’s real estate for close to $250,000.  Over the next four to five years she used every dime of that money to pay for caregivers for her father.  She had seven ladies that she used to care for her father from week to week. Yet, when I asked the question, “did you have a contract with the caregivers?” her reply was “No, I paid them all in cash.”  My heart sank as I told her, “I’m sorry, your father probably will never qualify for Medicaid.”  She was shocked!  She had done all the right things to care for her father, what went wrong???

A few years ago the Medicaid Manual was amended and it tightened the rules on how Medicaid would consider payments for caregivers.  If you do not use a written contract, or if you did use one and that contract does not meet all of the requirements listed under the Manual, that money will absolutely be considered a gift and Medicaid will penalize you.  The penalty results in a period of time that your loved one will not be eligible for Medicaid.

Reasons a PROPER Caregiver Contract is Essential!

If you regularly provide paid care to a family member, such as a parent or grandparent, it’s very important to have an experienced Elder Law Attorney (preferably a Certified Elder Law Attorney) prepare a proper caregiver contract (also known by many other names, such as a personal-care contract or a family-care contract) setting out the terms of your arrangement. And to avoid a situation such as the case described above, the terms of the agreement must be supported in advance by a proper specialist in geriatrics, typically a Geriatric Care Manager.  And, you must be sure to adhere to the terms set forth in the agreement.

The following are excellent reasons to have a proper caregiver agreement:

  • It is important for Medicaid eligibility: The money a parent pays to a caregiver, absent an agreement in writing, will simply be deemed a gift by Medicaid, causing a period of ineligibility during which the parent will not qualify for the Medicaid benefit. How? At the time of a parent’s Medicaid application, Medicaid will total all the payments made to a caregiver in the past 60 months and divide that total by the state’s “penalty divisor.”  As an example of how this works, let’s say a parent pays a family caregiver $60,000 over the course of three years and then applies for Medicaid. Without a proper caregiver contract in place, Medicaid would deem those payments as gifts, causing a penalty period of over 10 months!
  • It sets boundaries: A detailed caregiver agreement makes clear the extent of the services being provided by a caregiver and the amount of money the caregiver is getting paid. A caregiver contract sets the understanding about the requirements and limits of the relationship.
  • It helps avoid misunderstandings with other family members about who may be providing care and how much money is changing hands. If the agreement doesn’t solve a particular disagreement with family members, you may be able to add something to the document, or change its terms, to address the problem.
  • It offers security and peace of mind: A caregiver contract can offer caregivers security that they will not suffer undue financial consequences. At the same time, the agreement can also offer the care recipient peace of mind that she or he has a caring advocate to manage care needs.

Paying a Family Caregiver

Yes, you can pay a family member to provide care.  Even though most family caregivers want to help, and feel a sense of duty to care for a loved one without pay, the fact is that it is a job – and a very difficult job with heavy time commitments and heavy physical and emotional responsibilities. Family caregivers deserve to be paid, but the payment arrangements must be done through a properly-drafted caregiver agreement that only an experienced Elder Law Attorney can prepare.

Caregiver Contracts

At the Estate & Elder Law Center of Southside Virginia, we prepare caregiver contracts frequently as part of our practice and often, that contract is supported by an independent evaluation that we obtain from a Doctor, Nurse Practitioner or other professional Geriatric Care Manager.

Caregivers . . . Care for Yourself and Your Loved Ones

Are you a family caregiver? You may not be aware that the month of November is recognized as National Caregivers Month! At the Estate & Elder Law Center, we recognize that caring for a loved one strains even the most resilient people. If you’re a caregiver, take steps to preserve your own health and well-being.  Part of taking care of yourself is planning for your future and for your loved ones. If you have not done your own Incapacity Planning or Estate Planning, or if you are caring for a loved one without a caregiver contract in place, or if your loved one is beginning to need more care than you can handle, please contact an experienced elder law attorney immediately to make an appointment. Don’t go it alone – Help is available!

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Did you know? In 2008, Congress declared the third week in October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week. This week is to be used for estate planning attorneys to spread the word about their services and why it is so important to put together an estate plan.

We think it's equally important to let seniors know the importance of planning with an elder law attorney to address the real possibility of needing long-term care.

For example, one misconception is that many people think they are too young to have a plan in place. The truth is, The sooner you plan, the less likely you will lose your savings to the high costs of long-term care! Tragedy can strike anyone at any time. It's best to hope for the best but plan for the worst.

Some other common misconceptions include:

(1) Elder law plans are just for the rich. FALSE!

The truth is, very few of us can afford to pay thousands of dollars a month out-of-pocket for care! Working with a Certified Elder Law Attorney to put a comprehensive plan in place can save you and your loved ones not just tens of thousands of dollars, but it will also lessen the emotional turmoil on your family.

(2) When I die, my kids will obviously just get everything. FALSE!

Probate court is no place any family wants to be after a loved one dies. Creating a proper elder law plan is the only sure method to stay out of the courts, avoid unnecessary court fees, and make sure that your specific wishes are carried out. 

These are just a few examples. Contact us to schedule a consultation and start the process of making sure your family's future is protected both now and in the future.

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