We hope you have a safe and happy Memorial Day Weekend! As a reminder, our offices will be closed on Monday, May 30, 2022. We will be available on Tuesday, May 31, 2022, in the unfortunate event that you need our help with holiday-related traffic incidents. This holiday weekend typically experiences more drivers on the road, which can lead to more traffic issues. Police also tend to increase patrols during this time. Be careful, relax, take your time, and enjoy the scenery of the uniquely Alleghany Highlands!
Mark your calendar for May 7, 2022! The tour, entitled “STILL STANDING: Brownsburg’s Slave Houses,” will feature five sites in the Brownsburg, Virginia area. Each site will have docents who will speak to visitors about the architecture of the slave houses as well as the people who lived there. Collins & Hepler’s very own Jeanne Hepler will be there acting as a docent to answer questions for the visitors at the Oakbourne building.
The tour will begin starting at 10:00am at the Brownsburg Museum, 2716 Brownsburg Tpke, Brownsburg, VA 24415, where visitors will pick up an information brochure with a map to the various sites. The hours of the tour are from 10:00am to 4:00pm. Visitors will be able to learn more about the enslaved people’s lives and their contributions to the community. The tour has received acclaim by several state-wide organizations as well as area historical societies. Slave houses can be toured for free thanks to area sponsors, including Collins & Hepler, PLC.
What is a Power of Attorney?
It is a legal document that designates an individual to make decisions on your behalf in case you cannot make choices for yourself. The individual is your personal agent: someone who acts in your best interests if you are unable to for whatever reason. A Power of Attorney gives your agent certain abilities, like handling your finances, filing your taxes, or making medical decisions for you.
That sounds like a lot of power. When would I need a Power of Attorney?
There are different powers of attorneys for different circumstances and for different lengths of time. You could need a power of attorney if you decide to live overseas for a few years, if you become incarcerated, if you fall into a coma, if you become affected by dementia, or a host of other financial or healthcare-related reasons. A Power of Attorney generally comes into play when you become incapacitated.
Okay, that could be helpful. Why do I need a Power of Attorney?
Everyone should establish a power of attorney. Anyone can become incapacitated at any time, but it is especially important for seniors to set up a power of attorney before they become physically or mentally incapacitated. That way, you can ensure that someone will get your estate and your affairs in order. Otherwise, if you become incapacitated without a POA in place, then no one can handle your affairs until someone pays a lawyer to go to court and be appointed your guardian and conservator. So not only do you risk leaving your affairs in limbo, but you also risk not being able to choose the person who handles those affairs.
A Power of Attorney is very valuable because it appoints a spouse, child, loved one, attorney, or friend to can handle your estate, health, and finances if you become unable to do so yourself, rather than wait for the worst to happen without having a plan in place.
yThe Virginia DMV uses a demerit system to keep track of your driving record. For each year you go without getting a ticket or driving infraction, you earn a point, and with each traffic violation, you lose points, i.e. gain demerits.
The points appear on your personal record to indicate whether you are a good or bad driver. For example, a perfect record has +5 points. The good or bad points don’t influence your car insurance, but they will influence how police officers and judges deal with you, which matters when faced with traffic fines. The more demerits you have, the more likely you are considered a bad driver, and the more likely you are to be convicted of a traffic violation, which in turn earns you more demerits.
And so the cycle goes on.
Here are some examples of traffic violations you should know and how many demerit points each is worth:
If you accrue too many demerit points, or if you have too many traffic violations in a short amount of time, you can be put on probation and your license can be suspended. Traffic violations and demerit points stay on your personal record for a number of years, so it is very important to be a safe driver, know the law, and understand how the system operates.
If you are pulled over and given a ticket for a traffic violation, contact a traffic attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can help you dismiss or amend your charge, so that you won’t risk having demerits that can affect your driving record for years to come.
If in-home care is not an option for you or your elder loved one, then you may be thinking about other kinds of long-term care and living situations. First, you should consider the level of independence you or your loved one has and the type of care needed. With this in mind, you will be able to narrow down the kinds of homes and facilities that can best suit your needs.
Independent Living homes are also known as group homes, retirement communities, or residential facilities. These are small, private facilities that house roughly 20 residents or less who live in private or shared rooms. Residents receive personal care, meals, and access to staff, but nursing and medical care are not provided on-site.
These facilities can house from 25 residents to over 100, and residents have their own apartments and share common areas. In addition to meals, housekeeping, laundry, 24 hour supervision, and social and recreational activities, the facilities also provide different levels of care, including aid in personal care and medication.
Skilled Nursing Facilities
Skilled Nursing Facilities are similar to assisted living facilities, but they generally have the most focus on medical care. They additionally provide supervision and security, as well as assistance with everyday activities and physical, occupational, or speech therapy services.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)
CCRCs are communities that offer different levels of service or care in one spread-out location, where independent housing, assisted living, and skilled nursing are all offered. Where you live depends on the level of service you need, and various healthcare services and recreation programs are also provided.
Virginia Lawyer’s Weekly recently named partner Jeanne Hepler as one of their Go-To Lawyers for Elder Law!
Read the full interview here.
A Special Needs Trust (SNT) protects assets for someone who is chronically ill or physically or mentally disabled so that they can remain eligible for public benefits while being able to inherit or draw income from a separate fund.
Various benefits like Supplemental Security Income, Medicare, Medicaid, or other programs provide monetary assistance for qualifying individuals who make below a certain amount. SNTs are set up so that the individual has a resource that does not belong to them, but that they can still draw from. A trust of this kind does not count as part of the individual’s assets, therefore they can qualify for financial assistance while still retaining a source of income. Generally, the funds have to be used for certain purposes, such as medical expenses, payments for caretakers, transportation costs, and other things that public benefits do not cover.
Having a protected source of income in a Special Needs Trust is incredibly beneficial for someone with a disability or chronic illness, where medical and living expenses are high but disability benefits can only go so far. It is important that the SNT gets established before the beneficiary turns 65 years old.
There are different kinds of SNTs that accomplish the same goals—supplying the individual with income while they remain eligible for public assistance—but in different ways. Additionally, the party who creates the SNT will designate someone to control it. That person will oversee the management of the trust and disburse the funds to the beneficiary.
The disabled or chronically ill person can put their own money into a first party SNT that they can draw from later. However, first party SNTs may be subject to Medicaid repayment rules, meaning that the money is still considered the individual’s and will be used to evaluate whether they qualify for financial assistance programs.
There are also third party SNTs, which are also called Supplemental Needs Trusts, which have funds that get put into the trust by someone else, such as the parents of the individual, which the disabled or chronically ill person draws from later. These funds are not subject to Medicaid repayment rules and do not effect the beneficiary’s eligibility for public benefits.
An SNT can be created as part of someone’s will or as a standalone. If the SNT is created under a Last Will and Testament or a Living Will, then the beneficiary cannot withdraw funds until the testator dies. If an SNT is created on its own and not part of someone else’s will, the beneficiary does not need to wait to withdraw funds. They are also designated as revocable or irrevocable, meaning that if the beneficiary has the power to revoke the trust, the assets will be considered available for Social Security and Medicaid purposes (remember, these programs consider the individual’s finances when deciding how many benefits they can award). If the SNT is irrevocable, the beneficiary cannot dissolve the trust and the assets cannot be seized by certain programs.
When setting up a Special Needs Trust or any kind of fund for yourself or a loved one, you should consult an attorney to draw up a valid legal document that will ensure that the trust has a clear directive and purpose. Seek out an attorney who has experience in trusts, estate planning, elder or disability law.
Happy New Year! Whether you are celebrating with family, making goals to achieve in 2022, or planning for the future, we wish you health, wealth, and happiness!
Maybe you are planning on selling your home, or maybe you are looking to buy.
In a real estate transaction, there is a buyer and a seller. There is also the buyer’s real estate agent (also called a realtor or a broker) and the seller’s real estate agent. The agents’ roles are to help the buyer and seller navigate the process of transferring real property and ensure that each individual’s interests are protected. The buyer searches for a home to purchase while their real estate agent negotiates the sale and prepares the purchase offer. The seller formally agrees to list their home for sale and authorizes their real estate agent to market the home, attract buyers, and negotiate a home sale on their behalf. Usually the buyer and seller will each have their own agent.
A mortgage lender (which could be a bank or a mortgage broker) helps the buyer apply and be approved for a mortgage. A buyer will usually work with a mortgage lender before looking at any homes with a real estate agent, because the mortgage lender will give the buyer a “pre-qualification” letter that states how much money the buyer is financially qualified to borrow in order to purchase a house. This “pre-approval” can be very important in a competitive real estate market, as it can make your bid more attractive to a seller than a potential buyer without pre-approval.
Once an offer is made, the buyer will usually be given the opportunity to hire a licensed home inspector who will evaluate the home and ensure that the property is up to county or state code. The home inspector will evaluate sanitary facilities, living, sleeping, cooking, and dining areas, water quality, temperature, roofing, electricity, any lead paint, ability to access the property without trespassing onto someone else’s property, ensure there is safe drinking water, make sure there are no pests, mold, or mildew, and consider any non-residential use of the property. Generally, the home inspector will assess the property to make sure the house is fit to live in safely and comfortably. The inspector then provides a written report, which can be used by the purchaser to negotiate certain repairs or upgrades as recommended in the report.
Buyers will also pay for an appraiser to inspect the homes and give a Notice of Value that shows the parties how much the home will cost. The primary function of the appraisal is to satisfy the lender that the home is worth the purchase price, since the home will be collateral for the loan.
A title company generally acts as the combined agent of mortgage company, buyer, seller, and other related parties, and their role is to ensure that the seller legally owns the property and can transfer the title to the new buyer. A buyer pays an initial deposit called “earnest money” to the title company to hold until the home’s closing, and the escrow officer is the person responsible for taking care of the money and having it available at closing to give the deed to the buyer. The company also issues a title insurance policy. An attorney may also be the escrow officer and replace the role of the title company instead.
The closing agent is either a title company or an attorney, who collects and the purchase money and closing costs, prepares the necessary documents for closing, ensures that the documents are executed properly and recorded in the public records as necessary, and then disburses the proceeds of sale to the seller after seeing that all closing costs are paid. The closing agent will also inspect the legal title and certify to the lender and/or purchaser that they are receiving a good and sufficient legal title to the property.
The different parties to the home-buying process work to accomplish a series of goals:
Clearly, selling a house is harder than it looks. That is where qualified professionals can help you navigate a complex process while keeping your best interests in mind.
The Nursing Home Improvement and Accountability Act is a bill that was introduced in August which addresses common issues that nursing home staff and residents face, especially in the wake of COVID. Nearly 1 in 3 COVID-related deaths were connected to nursing homes, and more than 184,000 nursing home and long-term care residents and staff have died from the virus. The NHIAA is designed to improve staffing issues, quality, oversight of nursing home and long-term care facilities, require an infection preventionist to be working full-time, and improve transparency for residents and their families. Keep reading to learn about what the bill intends to do for seniors and staff:
1. Resolve Staffing Issues
The NHIAA will require all nursing homes to employ an “infection prevention and control specialist”—someone who controls and prevents the spread of diseases—and ensure that nurses are available 24 hours a day (currently nurses must be present only 8 hours a day). It also gives power to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to study how many nurses and nursing assistants are needed in nursing homes to be able to provide quality care to residents. Then the HHS can also use that information to ensure that facilities are never understaffed.
2. Protect Seniors’ Legal Rights
Many nursing homes require applicants to sign an arbitration agreement before being admitted into the facility, which requires the residents and the facilities to resolve issues together instead of suing each other in court. The bill will protect seniors so that they won’t have to choose between long-term care and their right to sue their nursing home if they suffer during their car.
3. Ensure that Nursing Homes are Financially Stable
To ensure that nursing and long-term care facilities are financially secure, the bill requires that the post a bond of $500,000 to the HHS as an emergency fund. This bond ensures that there will always be money available in case of emergencies or unexpected circumstances, for example, if the facility must suddenly close or if it faces financial hardships. The HHS will also provide additional oversight to low-performing nursing homes to help improve their quality of care, infection control, and emergency preparedness.
4. Modernize the Physical Environments
Facilities will receive help to upgrade their physical space for residents and staff. The NHIAA proposes to “enhance staff experience” and “promote evidence-based, patient-centered care for residents” to make nursing homes better places to live and work. There will also be a demonstration program which provides money to nursing homes so that they can invest in improving the facilities and raise workforce standards.
You can read more about the Nursing Home Improvement and Accountability Act here and read it in its entirety here.
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