Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Evan H. Farr Honored For Career And Community Achievements And Leadership

Mr. Farr is the only elder law attorney in the commonwealth to receive the 2012 Virginia Lawyers Weekly “Leader in the Law” distinction.

Certified Elder Law Attorney Evan H. Farr of The Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. (, an Elder Law and Estate Planning firm based in Fairfax, was recently honored as one of 2012’s “Leaders in the Law” – an annual award presented by Virginia Lawyers Weekly.

The “Leaders in the Law” award honors those within the legal community who are working to better the legal profession through mentoring and involvement within their community, as well as going above and beyond in their everyday job. Honorees set the standard for other lawyers in Virginia and represent the most influential individuals within Virginia’s legal community.

Here is a sampling of Evan’s accomplishments in 2012:
  • Evan co-authored (along with other top attorneys from across the country), a consumer-oriented book, entitled "Protect & Defend." Americans proved their desire to learn more about protecting their assets: the book ranked #1 on two best seller lists and made it on to a total of four best seller lists total.  The book is available on 
  • Evan is the current President of the Virginia Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.  He has been an integral part of the push towards developing and mastering legal strategies to help middle class citizens protect their assets from the expenses of Long-Term Care.  Specifically, Evan's Living Trust Plus™ is an asset protection trust Evan has created and uses to protect assets from general creditors as well as long-term care creditors.  Clients are thrilled and surprised when they learn of the capabilities of the Living Trust Plus™ and how it can literally change their life and their loved ones' lives, too.  In fact, Evan started a national network of Living Trust Plus™ attorneys who license the software from him and are able to use this trust for their clients.  The website brings in traffic from across the U.S., where visitors can then search for attorneys in their state whom Evan has licensed.
Farr was honored at the seventh annual Leadership in the Law event hosted by Virginia Lawyers Weekly  on Oct. 25 at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond.

About Evan Farr, CELA

Evan Farr is the Principal Attorney of The Law Firm of Evan Farr, P.C., an Elder Law firm serving Virginia, DC, and Maryland. The Firm is dedicated to helping protect seniors and their families by preserving dignity, quality of life, and financial security. Evan has been named by Virginia Super Lawyers Magazine as one of the top 5% of attorneys in VA since 2007, and by Washington, DC Super Lawyers Magazine as one of the top 5% of attorneys in DC since 2008.  In 2011 and 2012, Evan was named by Washingtonian and Northern Virginia Magazine as one of the top attorneys in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area, and was named in Newsweek Magazine as one of the top attorneys in the country. Evan is also a well-known public media figure, having been quoted or cited as an elder law expert by the Washington Post, Newsweek Magazine, Northern Virginia Magazine, Trusts & Estates Magazine, The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and the American Bar Association, and has appeared on television on PBS, MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN.

To learn more about Evan Farr, visit the Farr Law Firm’s website at, or call 703-691-1888.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Power of Music: Bringing Alzheimer’s Patients “Back to Life”

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, affecting 5.4 million people in the United States. The disease swiftly deprives patients of their memories and other brain functions. Many Alzheimer’s patients’ who need around the clock skilled nursing and medical care reside in nursing homes.

Ninety-two year old Ron sits in a wheelchair and hardly speaks or moves, until a nursing home worker puts on his headphones and he hears familiar music. Suddenly, his feet tap, and he hums his favorite songs out loud. His daughter Tina explains how Ron always loved singing and dancing when she was growing up. "He used to walk my sister and I to school and he would often be humming a tune or singing his favorite songs. It is no wonder he is reacting to the music as he is."

In nursing homes that use music, the personalized playlists are often meaningful songs chosen by loved ones.  According to Alzheimer’s experts, music helps patients become more alert, more cooperative, more attentive, and more engaged. In many cases, even if they can't recognize loved ones and they've stopped speaking, when the patients hear music, they “come alive”.

Geri Hall, a clinical nurse specialist at the Banner Alzheimer's Institute, explains how music activates a part of the brain that stays active despite the dementia. "There is something about music that gets through to Alzheimer’s patients right up until the very end of the disease," she said, adding that “familiar music from the past can help people with dementia feel at home. It calms them, increases socialization, and even decreases the need for mood controlling medications."

At The Law Firm of Evan Farr, P.C., we were intrigued by the power that music has on Alzheimer’s patients, and wanted to share this information with you.  If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s and want to find quality care for them in Virginia, get tips from expert Evan H. Farr, in “The Virginia Nursing Home Survival Guide.” One of the greatest concerns people have about nursing home care is how to afford it.  Read more about this in Chapter 5 of the book or on The Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. website.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Are You Childless and Aging? Be Sure to Plan for Future Care.

Jennifer and her brother always kept an eye on their mother, Ann, who was 91 and suffering from a stroke when she died three months ago.  Both siblings made sure they lived near their mother in Oakton, and together they brought her food, took care of the bills, drove her to doctors’ appointments, and oversaw her caretakers. 

But Jennifer, a 66-year old real estate agent, cannot hope for the same kind of care when she gets older, because she is divorced and doesn’t have any children.  While taking care of her mother, she sometimes thought, “Who will take care of me?” Her brother, Michael, who is four years younger and also childless, may be able to help care for her (and vice versa), but maybe not. 

According to census data, in 2010, almost 19 percent of women between the ages of 40 and 44 had not given birth, compared with around 10 percent thirty years prior.  Even for those with children, some children are better at caring for aging parents than others, but at least the expectations are clear.  As was the case with Jennifer and Michael, children are often the ones to hire caregivers and check up on their parents.  With childless people, the lines of responsibility can be unclear.

Do you want to stay at home for as long as possible and receive in-home care?  Do you prefer a particular type of assisted living facility?  At The Law Firm of Evan Farr, P.C., we recommend that you set up both an Advance Medical Directive that designates someone who could view medical records and handle medical decisions and a Power of Attorney that designates someone to handle your finances.  Having these documents in place will ensure that people you trust will carry out your wishes should you become incapacitated.  Not having these documents in place puts more stress on the people who are trying to help you. Even worse, these people may not have the legal authority to help you, to speak for you, or to handle your finances!  In addition, if childless people don’t want their assets to go to relatives whom they dislike or barely know, they should have a Will or a properly drafted Living Trust.
Childless or not, couples who are unmarried (straight or gay) should understand that without proper legal documents, the partner of an incapacitated person may not be given a say in health care decisions.  In addition, without proper planning, the partner of a deceased person may not be allowed to stay in the couple’s house or to gain access to retirement funds or many of the benefits that a traditional married couple would have. 

Lastly, but importantly, don’t forget about your pets!  A Pet Trust ensures that they will be cared for. Although Jennifer will almost certainly outlive her cocker spaniel, Maggie, she has arranged for her brother to take care of him, just in case.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Important Medicare Change: Patients No Longer Need to Show Progress to Receive Nursing Coverage

Medicare coverage of short-term rehabilitation in a nursing home is about to undergo a major policy change, resulting in beneficiaries with chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), diabetes, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, arthritis, heart disease, and stroke no longer need to show ongoing improvement to maintain Medicare coverage.

For decades, when short-term rehabilitation patients in nursing homes failed to show improvement but still needed skilled nursing in the form of custodial care or therapy, Medicare would routinely terminate their Medicare coverage, forcing these patients prematurely into private pay or, if they could financially qualify, Medicaid.  This need for ongoing “improvement” was a pervasive, though unwritten ”rule of thumb” followed by Medicare and by Medicare contractors when doing Medicare evaluations in nursing homes.  However, nothing in the Medicare statute or its regulations has ever stated that “improvement” is required for continued skilled care. 

A class action lawsuit, Jimmo v. Sebelius, was filed against the Obama administration in January 2011 in federal court. This case and a similar case in Pennsylvania aimed at ending the government’s use of the “improvement standard” were both settled by the Government.  This settlement should result in Medicare no longer focusing on “the presence or absence of an individual’s potential for improvement.”  Rather, Medicare must continue to provide short-term care whether or not the patient is improving, provided the patient needs skilled care.

It must be understood that Medicare coverage for nursing home care is still a very limited type of short-term benefit, as it only covers a maximum of 100 days per benefit period, and only if the patient requires skilled nursing care. However, under the new settlement, Medicare coverage should no longer be terminated just because the patient’s medical condition is no longer improving. On the contrary, coverage should remain available for services that are needed to maintain the person's condition or to prevent further deterioration.
In summary, Medicare coverage in the past has often been erroneously denied for individuals with chronic conditions, for people who are not improving, or who are in need of services to maintain their condition. With this new government settlement, it should no longer be necessary for an individual’s underlying condition to be improving in order to continue to get Medicare coverage!   I emphasize the word should because the people who implement these policies may not conform to the new settlement as quickly as they should, so coverage appeals may be necessary in the short run until the local workers on the ground all get educated about this new shift in governmental policy. 

Luckily, the Medicare program has an appeal system to contest improper termination of coverage. Beneficiaries and their advocates should use this system to appeal Medicare determinations that unfairly deny or limit coverage.
For more information about this settlement, see:

To appeal what you believe is an improper Medicare termination in a nursing home, please download this self-help packet:                                                                                 
To appeal what you believe is an improper Medicare termination of home health care, please download this self-help packet:  


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Halloween May Be Scary, But Probate Could Be Your Worst Nightmare!

This is the story of Ella, a client in her mid-fifties whose father recently passed away and whose mother died when she was a child.  Her father’s Will stated that his estate, including real estate in Virginia and Florida, and $250,000 in additional assets, would be divided equally among his four children.  Ella’s sister, Christine, was the executor.  Upon their father’s death, Christine moved into the family home in Virginia, which she lived in rent-free. She deliberately delayed the closing of the estate for five years, which kept the probate going in both states and proved to be very costly.  All the while, Christine paid no utilities bills, wrote checks for food and other personal expenses using the estate’s checking account and bought many high priced items (cars and designer clothing).  She refused to give her siblings ANY information about what was going on concerning the estate.

How could this situation have been avoided?  If Ella’s father had a Living Trust at his death, the trust assets would have been quickly distributed to all of the siblings, according to the terms of the trust. There would not have been the five-year delay and the hefty fees of probate in both states, and Christine wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of the situation. 
At The Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C., we would have recommended a Revocable Living Trust (RLT) for  Ella’s father, because he owns real estate in more than one state.  As was the case in Ella’s situation, without the RLT, the estate had  to go through probate in both states. An RLT could have provided how the real estate and other trust property would have been distributed at Ella’s father’s death, and saved his children a lot of time, emotional pain, and money. Read more about RLTs.

If you haven’t already done so, sign up for our newsletter today, and receive a fascinating four-part Special Report, entitled “Lessons Learned from Estate Planning Mistakes of Celebrities,” highlighting the true nightmarish probate stories of celebrities like Amy Winehouse, Michael Crichton, Etta James, and Whitney Houston.

P.S. There is still time to take advantage of your 10% discount off all planning in honor of National Estate Planning Awareness Week (Offer valid for the remainder of this month, from October 23-31, 2012). Call The Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. today at 703-691-1888.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Alzheimer’s Study Shows Plaques May Exhibit Bigger Risks than the Gene Itself

According to the American Health Assistance Foundation, more than 36 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and the amount is projected to increase to 115 million by 2050. More than 100 years after it was first identified, scientists have yet to find a cause or a cure for the memory-robbing disease.

A recent student of 141 healthy subjects found that Alzheimer’s plaques may be bigger risks than the Alzheimer’s gene itself. Participants in the study who had clumps of amyloid beta plaques in their brains at the start of the research, had as much as a 20 percent greater decline in memory and thinking over an 18-month period than those with fewer plaques. Read the article.

Clearly more research is necessary into this devastating disease which affects one in eight people over the age of 65. The organizations that are conducting Alzheimer’s research in the U.S. are the Alzheimer’s Association and others, so if you are thinking of making year-end charitable contributions, you may want to consider donating to these worthwhile research endeavors. However, always beware of the negative affect that charitable giving can have on Medicaid qualification.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Gray Divorce is Almost NEVER Required for Medicaid Asset Protection

Mark and Maura have been happily married for fifty-five years.  Mark suffers from advanced Parkinson’s disease and now needs a nurse to attend to his needs for most of the day.  Maura has been caring for him at home, but it is becoming clear that she will no longer be able to continue such care.  Mark and Maura have about $300K in cash and stocks. 

Maura comes to see me for Medicaid Asset Protection.  She heard from a neighbor that divorce is the only way she could get Mark qualified for Medicaid.   Fortunately, I explain to Maura that her neighbor is wrong, and she is greatly relieved.

For many people, marriage involves more than just finances, and the idea of divorcing a loving spouse of many years is unconscionable.  The healthy spouse, as was the case with Maura, may feel as if she is deserting her sick husband, and the couple will have to deal with the public nature of the divorce proceedings.

In a divorce, there is also always the possibility that the judge will not order a division of property in accordance with the parties' desires or even in accordance with the parties' written agreement.  A divorce may be worthwhile only if a judge grants all of the assets to the healthy spouse.  Yet a judge may be unwilling to do so if he feels that the sick spouse with high medical costs deserves more.  The judge may also view the parties' agreement as an act intended for Medicaid eligibility only and may be unwilling to use court authority to help the healthy spouse engage in Medicaid Asset Protection.

There is also the issue of incompetence.  Getting a divorce is much more complex when a guardian has to be appointed by the court for the spouse who is no longer competent.  Legally, it would be the guardian’s duty to act in the best interest of his client only and he or she would not be as worried about the best interests of the healthy spouse. If this is the case, it could be difficult for the couple to obtain their desired financial outcome.

The Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. helps couples like Mark and Maura obtain Medicaid assistance without having to divorce or deplete their life savings.  With proper planning, a spouse who is able to stay at home can retain all of the couple's assets and most or all of the income while Medicaid takes care of the nursing home.  We aim to ensure that the spouse who is remaining at home is able to maintain his or her dignity and standard of living.  Read more about the services we offer to help couples in similar situations.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

National Estate Planning Awareness Week is This Week!

If you haven’t heard, this week, October 15 through 21, is National Estate Planning Awareness Week! The concept was created by the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils as a call to action, because estate planning is one of the most overlooked areas of personal financial management today.

More than 120 million Americans do not have estate plans to protect themselves or their families from the unexpected. Overlooking estate planning results in many wasted dollars and hours of frustration and emotional hardship each year that can be minimized with advanced planning and action.

If you do not have an up-to-date estate plan and you happen to get sick and cannot take care of your own financial affairs, or if you suffer an untimely death, the courts will appoint someone to manage them for you. The person they appoint may not be who you had in mind to take care of these important matters.

Whether a simple trust or a more complex strategy is what you require, an estate plan should be an essential part of your lifetime planning. For peace of mind, the time to address or update your estate plan is now. If you live in Virginia, DC, or Maryland, call the Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. today to set up a free consultation.

Special Offer: Take advantage of 10% off all planning for the remainder of this month (October 18-31, 2012) in honor of National Estate Planning Awareness Week.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Need for Transparency in Medical Care

Currently in the U.S., patients are unable to find out details, such as a surgeon's rate of complications or the mistakes a hospital makes. The type of data that may influence a patient’s medical treatment decisions is unavailable, except subjective values such as a hospital’s reputation among specialists.

Dr. Marty Makary, a cancer surgeon and author of "Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won't Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care," is calling for an end to the silence that often protects incompetent or careless practitioners and hospitals alike. His commendable goal is to reduce the over 9 million patients harmed or killed every year in the United States by medical mistakes.  Unfortunately, through predictably, he is facing resistance from hospitals and medical professionals.  Click here for an article about Dr. Makary’s struggle.

We here at The Law Firm of Evan H. Farr agree that there should be transparency in healthcare, similar to the transparency of information that is readily available for nursing home care. Nursing homes are currently rated annually by Medicare, and the quality of care ratings for more than 17,000 nursing homes is available publically on the web on’s Nursing Home Compare website. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Giving New Meaning to Freezing an Estate

An Estate Freeze is usually an estate planning strategy whereby an estate owner aims to freeze the value of certain assets for estate tax purposes.
Check out this interesting article about an entirely different type of estate freeze.  Jeffersons' actor Sherman Hemsley.   Apparently Hemsley was found dead in his home and his body has remained frozen at a funeral home until the rightful heir(s) of his estate can be sorted out.   Yet another important reason for proper estate planning.

Read More . . .