From time to time, we are asked - "What is the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?" Together, Medicare and Medicaid help millions of Americans access affordable health care. The programs have different eligibility criteria but offer a needed service for those in need. At our firm, we assist our Asset Protection clients with the difficult and lengthy process of Medicaid Planning. If you and your family are concerned about your financial future or a loved one's financial future in regards to the rising cost of long-term care and the nursing home, don't go it alone: We are here to help!

The two programs sound a lot alike. They even look alike, minus the last two letters in their names. It is not surprising that they often get confused in the public eye. To make the most of these programs, you first need to understand what makes Medicare and Medicaid the same and yet different.  

“The life of the dead is placed on the memories of the living. The love you gave in life keeps people alive beyond their time. Anyone who was given love will always live on in another's heart.” - Cicero

A recent study has found that more than a third of dying elderly patients received needless “invasive and potentially harmful” treatments in their last weeks of life.  This study was an analysis of more than 1.2 million patients in 10 industrialized countries around the world.  It found that ordered treatments made no difference in the course of the elders’ illnesses.  Published in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care, this study found around a third of elderly patients with advanced, irreversible conditions — such as cancer — were given treatments that were of no benefit to them.

When a celebrity passes away, the general public is often reminded of the importance of Estate Planning.  In the recent case of Prince, his estate is estimated around $300 million, with no evidence or record of a will having been done at this point.  In addition to the usual assets left behind when someone passes, in this case there are also countless unreleased songs, music rights and intellectual property to consider. The result of a lack of planning? Most likely a long and drawn out expensive mess! Considering Prince's usual approach to handling his various other business affairs in life and being very hands-on and certainly no stranger to attorneys, it is surprising that a Will, Trusts or other Estate Planning documents were not put in place.

For years, songwriter and actor Kris Kristofferson was told he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or some other type of dementia. His memory was getting progressively worse.

But Kristofferson, 79, has revealed that he was misdiagnosed — he actually has Lyme disease, according to a June 6 story in Rolling Stone. A positive test result confirmed the hunch earlier this year, the magazine said.

I often wonder how, in this day and age of ever increasing laws and regulations why more attorneys do not choose to follow a path of specialization in their law practice.  When I first started practicing in 1995 my office used to do real estate closings, title searches, no-fault divorces, foreclosures, partition suits and even some general district court representation.  In our firm I decided that we needed to specialize and enhance our expertise in the fields of estate planning and elder law.  To that end, we even changed the name of the firm to The Estate & Elder Law Center of Southside Virginia, PLLC.  That's it, that is all we do.  

Every few years, Genworth conducts surveys of long-term care across the U.S. and summarizes the data in a Cost of Care Study, in an effort to spur Americans to plan ahead for the potential cost based on their preferred location and setting. The 2016 survey has been released and it provides state-specific cost of care data for all 50 states and comparison to the national median.

Unfortunately, according to the study’s findings, the cost of receiving care continues to rise sharply year over year, especially for services in the home, where most Americans prefer to receive long-term care. Below are some highlights from the survey:

There is an article on AgingCare.com on the four factors one should consider when selecting an elder law attorney.  I think this is an excellent guide for consumers and I wanted to address how our firm stacks up to the criteria!

 1. Seek a referral or recommendation:  We are proud that we receive referrals not only from our clients, but also from other attorneys!  We have wonderful referral relationships with our colleagues in the Bar.  

We have become an online world! We take for granted the ability to order something directly through Amazon or Ebay and have it arrive in a day or two! You can design and print a banner for an upcoming birthday party through VistaPrint and have it shipped directly to your house in the same amount of time. Need a website?  You can put it together entirely through GoDaddy right now without any programming or design skills in some cases. These are just a few examples. Online retailers are outpacing brick and mortar stores with a vengeance, and that trend will no doubt continue as technology and time marches on.  Almost every industry or field has at least one online equivalent that is looking to compete for a customer’s business and legal work is no exception. I am talking of course, about LegalZoom. 

Something to think about! We all live in a digital age these days, so what happens to your online accounts and access to your various devices when you pass away? In an age where many of our documents and assets are in digital form, it’s worth taking a little time to ensure that our loved ones don’t encounter major hassles when it comes to accessing them once we are gone. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that technology is one less thing for your family to have to worry about during a difficult time.

Appointments, pills, medical records, finances: Caring for someone affected by chronic or long-term health issues can be deeply rewarding—but it also means you have a lot on your plate.

Here’s some help: Take Care: A Guide for Family Caregivers. This straightforward, quick-to-read reference can help you manage the challenging logistics of caregiving and keep both your loved one and you happier and healthier.

These crimes can take many shapes and forms, and estimates of the amount of scams against seniors vary. A 2010 survey of seniors by the nonprofit Investor Protection Trust projected that 1 in 5 seniors had been taken advantage of financially. A study last year in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that 4.7 percent of Americans—about 1 in 20—reported that they had been financially exploited in their later years. The study provided perspective: If a new disease struck that same percentage of older Americans, researchers wrote, “a public health crisis would likely be declared.”