Archive for May, 2013

Getting Ready to Retire?

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

If you are getting ready to retire, you know that there are lots of things to consider.

Do you want (or need) to move?  Will you be staying in the same town?  Does a different state offer a better tax environment?  Will your finances allow you to do the things you had planned?  How will you invest your assets to make the most of your retirement funds?

As a lawyer, I can’t really help with a lot of these questions.  But there is one thing that most people don’t think about when they are planning to retire and that is something I CAN help you with.

Everyone who is thinking about retirement should think about executing a General Durable Power of Attorney.

The excuse of ‘I still have lots of time’ just isn’t valid anymore.  If you are getting ready to retire, you need to start thinking about what is going to be happening in this last phase of your life.

Someone asked me recently what was the one biggest mistake people make regarding elder law.  The answer was easy, that mistake is not doing the Power of Attorney early enough!

A Power of Attorney allows you to designate someone else to make decisions for you… to make sure your bills are paid….and to make sure that your financial life is going the way you want. A Power of Attorney can allow someone else to make the needed decision about where you will live if  you are not able to make that decision yourself, and to sign the entry forms for assisted living or a nursing home on your behalf.

A Power of Attorney can also eliminate the need for a court to order a guardian or conservator.  And, if there is a situation where the court really needs to make that decision, the Power of Attorney tells the court the name of the person that you wanted to hold that position.

The agent under the Power of Attorney has to make decisions and take actions that are in your best interest, and while you are able to keep an eye on things, there should not be a problem with what is being done.  If you don’t like the way your agent is taking care of your affairs, and you are still competent, you have the right to rescind the Power of Attorney.

The big problem is that the Power of Attorney must be established while you are still competent and capable of making that decision.

I have adult children come into my office frequently saying that they need a Power of Attorney because their Mom or Dad has dementia and is no longer able to care for themselves.  It is very sad when I need to tell them that it is too late.

If Mom or Dad is already suffering from dementia, it is very possible that they are not sufficiently competent to execute the Power of Attorney themselves.  So, instead of a relatively inexpensive process to draft and execute the Power of Attorney, the family is faced with the more expensive and longer process of filing a lawsuit to establish the guardian and/or conservator for the elderly parent.

The parent who is already confused and frustrated by their condition now needs to face a hearing before a judge who will tell them that they are not competent to take care of themselves.  This is often a very sad, but necessary step in the lives of the elderly.

It could be fixed with proper planning that includes the establishment of a General Durable Power of Attorney.

So, while you are making all of your other retirement plans, be sure to add an appointment with an Elder Law Attorney to review your situation and find out if you have the proper estate planning documents in place.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

May is National Foster Care Month

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

Every month has a number of things to focus on, and I usually point out that May is Elder Law Month.  But this year, I wanted to focus on Foster Care.

I see a lot of kids that go into foster care, but it is not a step that is taken lightly or easily.

The courts in Virginia are eager to reunite the natural family and there is a very involved process to remove a child from his or her natural family to be placed into foster care.  Also, the children that are placed into foster care come back before the courts on a regular basis to review that decision and to see if the child can be returned to his or her natural family.

Children are not generally taken from a family and put into foster care unless there is some sort of breakdown in the parent-child relationship.  Sometimes this is visible when the child is physically abused by the parent.  Sometimes this is visible when the parent is physically abused by the child.  Sometimes this is visible because the child is getting into trouble with the law and the parents are unable to handle the child.  Sometimes the parent is not able to get the child to attend school on a regular basis.  Often these children are determined to be a ‘juvenile delinquent.’   Rarely do well-behaved and emotionally stable children end up in foster care, so the foster parent has to work with a child that has already experienced some negativity in his or her life.

Often, the breakdown of the parent-child relationship occurs when the child reaches his or her teen years.  As one mother pointed out to me recently, “she is 14 and I can’t just pick her up and carry her into school.”

The decision to have a child enter the foster care system is not just about the child.   Since the goal of foster care is to reunite the natural family, the parents are also enrolled in age appropriate parenting classes and are generally offered other services that can be of use to help them become better parents for their child.

The foster parents do receive a small payment, but that is not the reason they agree to do this work.  These foster parents don’t just take a foster child into their home, they take that child into their family.  They love and nurture the child as if it was their own child.  The foster parents take the child to doctor and dentist appointments, school events, sports practices and the ‘normal’ events a child attends.  The foster parent also takes the child to court dates and meetings with social services and psychologists as needed.  These are activities that most natural parents don’t need to worry about.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, most of the foster children have already been involved in some sort of negative experience in their short lives and the child is often difficult to handle.  The foster parents attend special classes and get additional training on how to deal with difficult children with as much love and affection as possible.  The foster parent also knows that the goal is to have the child leave them and go back to their natural parent.  This can be a very difficult emotion to live with every day.

The foster parent also gets to know the natural parent and I often see them in court sitting together.  I sometimes wonder about how difficult it is to know all about the situation that brought this child into your home and still be friendly and encouraging to the parent that was involved in that situation.

Are all foster parents terrific?  Probably not.  But the majority of foster parents are caring and loving people who have chosen to help society by helping one child at at time.

I am so very thankful that our society has people that are willing to take on the role of foster parent.