Friday, May 31, 2013

Planning for a Special Needs Child

More than 20 million American families are raising a child with special needs and the number continues to increase. More than $13 billion a year is spent to care for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other special needs.  For the average affected family, this translates to $30K per year. Fortunately, there are many ways to plan for the long-term care of a disabled child, including:
  •  Special Needs Trust: A Special Needs Trust is a vehicle that provides assets from which a disabled person can maintain his or her quality of life, while still remaining eligible for needs-based programs that will cover basic health and living expenses. Special Needs Trusts fall generally into two main categories: Third-Party SNTs that one person creates and funds for the benefit of someone else, and First-Party SNTs (also called d4a trusts) that are created for the person with special needs using that person’s own money.
  • Guardianship and Conservatorship: Parents don’t remain legal guardians of their children forever, unless they take special action to do so. In Virginia, at age 18, parents must petition the court to become legal guardian and conservator of their special needs child, unless the child is capable of making his or her own sound decisions, in which case it is usually better to allow the child to sign his or her own Incapacity Planning documents, including a General Power of Attorney and an Advance Medical Directive.

If you have a special needs child who will likely need care for life, it’s important to provide legal protections for your child. The Fairfax Special Needs Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. can guide you through this process. Be sure to check out our dedicated Special Needs Website at If you have a loved one with special needs, call 703-691-1888 to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Challenges with Naming Co-Fiduciaries

A client who has two or more children is typically asked to choose one over the other(s) as the primary agent under a Power of Attorney or as primary successor trustee under a Living Trust.  The question the client sometimes asks is if they can name both children or all of them as co-fiduciaries. Most parents are convinced that their children will cooperate fully, and that there will never be any disagreements between or among them. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case.

In cases where parents name co-fiduciaries, siblings can agree on a general direction without agreeing on the specifics of how things should be accomplished.  If all parties don't agree, disputes may ensue that can cause rifts among siblings and create disharmony in families.

These are some challenges when co-fiduciaries are named:
•    Getting everyone to coordinate their schedules to be at the same place at the same time, especially during business hours, can prove a daunting challenge.
•    Delivering important documents from one to another to another for signatures can cause unnecessary delays.
•    Some financial institutions and health care providers may refuse to honor a Power of Attorney or an Advance Medical Directive that allows either co-fiduciary to act individually; they don't want to end up caught in the middle of a dispute, being blamed by one co-agent for allowing the other co-agent to make or carry out some decision personally.
•    When co-fiduciaries disagree and become deadlocked, they can go to court to get the deadlock resolved which turns out to be an expensive solution. In addition, it allows the possibility that a judge, rather than family members, will be making decisions on the client’s behalf. It could very well produce or deepen a rift in the family that may never heal. Such consequences are hardly what the client imagined, let alone intended.

If you don't have your estate planning or incapacity planning documents in place, now is the time. Call the Fairfax Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. at 703-691-1888 to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.   

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Will or a Revocable Living Trust? -- Five Questions to Ask Yourself

A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that declares how an estate or property will be managed after your death.  A Revocable Living Trust (RLT), on the other hand, is created as a guideline that determines the manner in which your estate or property is to be handled throughout your lifetime and also upon your death.

For those with minor children, it is crucial to declare how property or money will be used to provide for these children. For those with investments or accumulated savings, it is also essential to state the name of a responsible party who will manage these funds. If you die without estate planning in place, such as a Will or Trust, the state determines who will be your ultimate heirs.

What type of estate planning is right for you and your family? To make an important decision like this one, you should meet with a Certified Elder Law Attorney, such as Evan H. Farr, CELA. Before you do, you can read our FAQs about estate planning here. In addition, if you are looking to decide between a Will and a RLT, these are five questions to ask yourself.

1.   Are you seeking to avoid probate?
You must first open probate to carry out the instructions in a Will. A Trust, however, provides a way to bypass probate because the Trust owns the property the day it is transferred to it. Therefore, upon your death, it does not impact ownership in the property.

2.   Is privacy one of your goals?
If a Will is probated, then all records of the proceedings are publicly available. Therefore, a Will is probably not a viable option if one of your goals is privacy.

3.   Do you have a blended family?
If you have children that are not children of your spouse, then a Will is not be the best option to leave your property. A Trust is much more flexible than a Will and is a much better option for blended families. Read our blog post about blended families. 

4.   Are you looking to protect assets from creditors? Probate is also a process by which creditors of a decedent file claims to collect their debts. A Revocable Living Trust will protect your assets from creditors.

5.   Are you seeking to plan for mental disability or special needs?
If you have special needs or dependents with special needs, a Trust can be customized to meet these needs. A Will, on the other hand, allows you to transfer property but does not allow you to exercise substantial control over your heirs' use of property.

The choice between a Trust and a Will is actually fairly cut and dry – Wills are virtually useless for most people while Trusts can accomplish the goals of almost everyone.  Which type of trust makes the most sense depends on the specifics of your particular family situation.Call The Fairfax Estate Planning Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. at 703-691-1888 for an appointment for a no-cost consultation to discuss these and other strategies to fit your situation.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Consumer Reports Probes DIY Estate Planning

Recently, a probe into do-it-yourself estate planning was conducted by the highly respected and objective magazine Consumer Reports.

Members of the Consumer Reports team created three Wills using downloads and worksheets that you can purchase from three of the most popular websites that sell fill-in-the-blanks legal documents.  They presented these Wills to a panel of three legal professors.

The documents got three thumbs down because:
•    the professors found information that was not current;
•    users were not able to customize the documents appropriately;
•    the sites lacked flexibility and had incomplete information;
•    it was possible to include conflicting clauses in the documents.

Even if the online documents were perfect, estate planning is about much more than getting the documents right. Sometimes the documents are right and they still don’t work because your financial affairs are not in sync with them. It can get rather complicated, and it takes a Certified Elder Law Attorney, such as Evan H. Farr, to help you plan effectively. The Fairfax Estate Planning Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. can help you leave your hard earned money and assets, as well as a sense of your values, to your loved ones. Call us today at 703-691-1888 to set up an appointment for a no-cost consultation.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What Does "Per Stirpes" Mean?

If you’ve started your estate planning, you’ve seen the legal term “Per Stirpes” in your documents. What does it mean?  

“Per Stirpes” is Latin and means "by representation".  In estate planning, it means that descendants of the next generation following a beneficiary will each receive an equal share of the beneficiary's share if the beneficiary has predeceased the decedent.  

The following is an example:  

Mark dies without a spouse. He had one son, Kevin, who tragically died before him.  Kevin had two kids, Ryan and Hallie, and they survived both Kevin and Mark. 

Mark’s Will specified that when he dies his estate goes to Kevin "on a “Per Stirpes” basis".  Since Kevin's not around to receive his inheritance, Ryan and Hallie will take it on Kevin's behalf, 50/50.  It doesn't matter if Ryan and Hallie have kids of their own because those kids (Mark's grandkids) would not inherit anything from Mark since their parents survived them.

If the term “Per Stirpes” is still unclear or if you don’t have your estate planning documents in place, please ask your attorney at The Fairfax Estate Planning Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. to explain it when you are doing your estate planning.  Call 703-691-1888 today to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Evan Farr selected to conduct a 4-hour live webcast about Living Trust Plus from the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Studios

The Living Trust Plus™ (LTP) is such an important development in elder law and estate planning, that Evan H. Farr, CELA has been flown down to Orlando to teach other attorneys about it. He will do so in a 4-hour webcast on Tuesday, live from the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Studios. 

Whether you’re rich, poor, or somewhere in between, you  cannot afford to ignore the potentially devastating costs of nursing home care and other types of long-term care. Both Medicaid and Veterans Aid and Attendance benefits have extremely stringent financial requirements in order to qualify for benefits. So strict are the requirements that many applicants who sorely need the assistance fall through the cracks. Evan H. Farr, CELA, provides attorneys all over the country with the in-depth guidance they need to create the types of trusts necessary to help clients qualify for Medicaid and Veteran’s assistance.

If you’re a client or potential client who would like more information about the Living Trust PlusTM, go directly to the pioneer and expert who developed The LTP, Evan H. Farr, CELA. Call 703-691-1888 to make an appointment at The Fairfax Medicaid Asset Protection Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. or  click here to register for one of our other upcoming Living Trust PlusTM informational seminars.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Does Your Estate Planning Include Children Conceived After Your Death?

Elizabeth and Bill got married in their late 40’s and were having trouble conceiving. As Elizabeth was nearing menopause, they harvested and fertilized her eggs. They underwent cryopreservation (or preservation by freezing) because IVF resulted in more embryos than were needed.  More than half a million cryopreserved embryos are now in storage in the United States. Putting aside any number of religious, ethical, and social issues, assisted reproductive technologies is also creating very difficult problems for some estates.

Several states have recently changed their laws to address the situation of posthumously conceived children. Commonly, the new laws put a time limit on when a child who’s conceived after the parent’s death must be born in order to inherit. Otherwise, there would be the very real possibility that a child born many years after his parent’s death would be legally entitled to inherit part of his estate—which could turn out to be an administrative nightmare. Read the US News and World Report article, “Posthumous Births: An Emerging Estate Challenge.”

According to Virginia Law, Va. Code Ann. §20-158B and Va. Code. Ann. §20-164(i), “a deceased parent is not a parent of a posthumously conceived child unless implantation occurs before the treating physician can reasonable by advised of the decedent’s death, or the decedent parent consented in writing before implantation to be treated as a parent.”

So, for people who have created frozen gametes, as far as estate planning is concerned, it is worthwhile to consider and specify in your estate planning what rights a posthumously conceived child should have to the deceased’s estate.  Since laws are frequently changing, the time to protect your family and get started with your planning is now. Call 703-691-1888 to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation at The Fairfax Estate Planning Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. today!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Is Living Trust Plus the Right Strategy for You?

On Saturday, May 18 at 10 a.m., the Fairfax Asset Protection Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. will hold its monthly “Living Trust PlusTM Seminar: How to Protect Your Assets from the Expenses of Probate and Long Term Care” at our office in Fairfax. There is still limited space if you’d like to attend. Register for this seminar and /or view upcoming dates.
Whether you're rich, poor, or somewhere in between, you cannot afford to ignore the potentially devastating costs of nursing home care and other types of long-term care. Nursing homes are the most likely and one of the most expensive creditors that most Americans are likely to face in their lifetimes.

Why should you consider Living Trust PlusTM? About 70% of Americans who live to age 65 will need long-term care at some time in their lives, over 40 percent in a nursing home. The average cost of a nursing home in Northern Virginia is $12-$14,000 a month—an amount that can be devastating to most families. Living Trust PlusTM maintains much of the flexibility of a revocable living trust, but protects your assets from the expenses and difficulties of probate PLUS the expenses of long-term care while you’re alive, PLUS lawsuits and a multitude of other financial risks during your lifetime. Read more on our website.
Almost everyone who drives has auto insurance, and almost everyone who owns a home has homeowners insurance, yet only about 10% of the population have Long-Term Care Insurance.  The other 90% are totally at risk for winding up financially destitute because of the need for nursing home care. 

If you’re a client or potential client who would like more information about the Living Trust PlusTM, click here to register for this Saturday or one of our other upcoming Living Trust PlusTM informational seminars.
At our seminar, you will:
  • Learn how to protect your assets and obtain valuable Medicaid and Veterans benefits to pay for long-term care.
  • Learn what the most important estate planning document is, and find out whether yours is up-to-date!
  • Find out if your Will is sufficient to meet your needs, or if a Trust is a better instrument for you!
  • Find out how you can protect your assets from lawsuits, divorce, and long-term care creditors!
We hope to see you at an upcoming event! If you cannot make it to a monthly seminar and would like to learn more about Living Trust PlusTM, call us at 703-691-1888 to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Feeling Torn Between Caring for Your Children and Your Parents

Jennifer’s mother, Katherine, lives with her, her husband, and their two children. Katherine is mentally fine, but physically she needs a lot of care; her needs are increasing, and she requires assistance from her daughter to lift things, bathe, and dress.  Jennifer’s children have lots of activities and homework that they need help with, as well, and her husband travels a lot for work.  Jennifer often feels caught in the middle between her mother and her children, both of whom need her time and attention.

What happens when, like Jennifer, you have your own family, and one or both of your parents are showing signs of their advancing age and need your help? Perhaps they are no longer able to drive safely, or may need help around the home. You now have many demands on your time and energy. How can you make the right choices to be available for both your parents and your children? Below are some steps you can take to achieve balance:

1.    Admit to yourself that you can't be everything to everyone at all times.
2.    Determine the needs of your children and look into resources that may be available to help you. Jennifer, in our example above, can get help with childcare, sign her children up for an afterschool enrichment program, and/or carpool with other parents to bring children to activities.
3.    Get help for mom and/or dad, so that you are not the only one who is seeing to their needs. If Jennifer’s parents have extended family, perhaps there are others that can get involved. If she is lucky enough to have siblings in the area, sharing the responsibility could be a big help. If the budget will allow, she could hire an aide or companion to check on her mother, do light housekeeping and cooking, and give her some companionship.
4.    Another alternative is to consider assisted living, where meals are served in the dining room, housekeeping and laundry services are provided, and there are numerous activities and outings for seniors to enjoy. Seniors in assisted living facilities have the option of living independently, yet they can request additional services, such as assistance with bathing and dressing and other needs, as it becomes necessary.

Many decisions in life demand that we make difficult choices. If you feel sandwiched between your children and your mom and/or dad, you shouldn't have to choose; you love them all. Be sure that you make whatever plans are necessary and plan ahead so that you can ensure their well-being while allowing yourself to enjoy the loving moments with everyone.

Since Katherine, in our example, is starting to need assistance with activities of daily living such as dressing and bathing, she is on what is called the “Long-Term Care Continuum”. Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting assets from having to be spent down in connection with entry into a nursing home, while also helping ensure that you or your loved one get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Nursing homes in Northern Virginia cost $12-$14,000 per month. Learn how you can help your parents protect their hard-earned assets and preserve their dignity and quality of life at the same time. Call the Fairfax Estate Planning Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. today at 703-691-1888 to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Older Americans’ Month

Older Americans are being challenged to “Unleash The Power Of Age” over the next month as the nation marks the 50th anniversary of Older Americans Month this May.

Older Americans Month was first established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. At that time, it was known as Senior Citizens Month and there were only 17 million living Americans who were at least 65 years of age. In 1980, it became known as Older Americans Month, and since then it has been a time to celebrate those 65 and older through ceremonies, events, and public recognition.

Every President over the past five decades has issued a formal proclamation commemorating the month during or before the start of May, asking that “the entire country find some way to pay tribute to and recognize the accomplishments of local elders who have remained active, productive and influential members of the community.”

Older Americans Month presents a special opportunity to reach out to the elders in our lives, to thank them for their contributions and to encourage them to unleash the power of age and share it with us. Visit the Older Americans Month website at for ideas on celebrating older Americans.

To celebrate Older Americans month, give yourself and your family much needed peace of mind by protecting your hard earned income and assets. The cost to your family if you neglect to plan could be disastrous.  If you already have an estate plan and long-term care plan, call the Fairfax Elder Law Firm of Evan H. Farr to review and update your plan! Ask about The Farr Law Firm’s Lifetime Protection Program, which ensures that your documents are properly reviewed and updated as needed, so that they will have maximum effect at law. If you don’t have an estate plan or long-term care plan, now is the time to get started. Call us today at 703-691-1888 to set up an appointment for a free consultation.