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Healthy Thanksgiving Alternatives

By Sara Negron, RD

Good Day Lorton valley readers, Hopefully, that left over Halloween candy is gone and out of sight. However, Thanksgiving is just around the corner, which means pie, stuffing, casseroles, and turkey with gravy. Holiday food, although delicious, can also make our belts feel a little tighter. In this article, I’d like to highlight ways to enjoy holiday food while watching calories, salt and fat content.

It all comes down to choices. You can use skim milk or 1% when making casseroles/potatoes. For a balanced meal; make at least one side with a green vegetable. Use a serving spoon as your guide: 1 spoonful = 1 portion. The palm of your hand = 1 serving of meat. Use flour and cornstarch instead of fat to thicken sauces. For desserts, choose low calorie toppings (whipped cream) instead of ice cream. Count calories from beverages.

Below are some nutrient comparisons of our holiday favorites (note: content may vary according to recipe/store brand).

Apple Pie

1 piece (1/8 of 9’’ pie) = 499 kcal Sodium = 327 mg Fat = 19.4 g

Pumpkin Pie

1 piece (1/8 of 9’’ pie) = 316 kcal Sodium = 349 mg Fat = 14.4 g Fat

Mashed Potatoes

½ cup homemade = 119 kcal Sodium = 350 mg Fat = 4.4 g


1 serving (1/6 box) = 108 kcal Sodium = 385 mg Fat = 1 g

Green Bean Casserole

1 serving (4 oz) = 100 kcal Sodium = 490 mg Fat = 5 g

Sweet Potato Casserole

1 serving (1/2 cup) = 190 kcal Sodium = 50 mg Fat = 3.5 g

My favorite side is stuffing. One serving however can be a high in sodium content. I decided make a veggie filled homemade stuffing using lower sodium ingredients.

Healthy homemade stuffing (serves 6)


4 cups cubed stuffing bread or toasted/stale bread (whole grain)

1 cup “low sodium” chicken stock (example: “simple truth organic”)

½ red onion (minced)

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup shredded

1 tbsp tarragon

¼ tbsp black pepper

1 tbsp poultry seasoning

Optional ingredients: dried cranberries, curry powder

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease a casserole dish with nonstick spray. Place the 4 cups of cubed bread into the casserole dish. Mix in the vegetables (celery, carrots, onion) in with the bread in the casserole dish. Add seasonings to mixture and stir. Pour stock into the dry mixture created in the casserole dish. Stir well. All ingredients should be moist. Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes. Let it cool and enjoy!

Nutrition per 1/3 cup serving: 90 calories, 6 g of protein, 17 grams of carbohydrate ( 1 carb choice), 4 grams of fat, 4 grams of fiber, 186 mg of sodium

Giving Money to Your Children

(While You’re Still Alive)

By Evan H. Farr Certified Elder Law Attorney  

With the lofty cost of education and the tough economy, many of us are looking for ways to assist our children or grandchildren now, rather than waiting to leave them money and assets in our estate planning documents. If we choose to do so,what’s the best way to go about gifting money and assets to them, without incurring hefty taxes and jeopardizing eligibility for Medicaid? Read on and I will explain.

Should You Give Now or Later?   Though it may seem like a matter of preference, there are positives and negatives to early inheritances. What are the advantages and disadvantages when it comes to passing on money to your family while you’re still around to enjoy the experience?   Advantages to Giving Early

1. Potential tax benefits: For wealthy individuals (those who pass away with estates greater than $5.43 million), if you don’t give early, you will get hit with an estate tax of 40%. For these people, early inheritances are a great tool for shrinking an estate to avoid this tax, and to make sure that more of your money actually reaches your loved ones, instead of going to the government in the form of taxes.

2. You get to see it benefitting your loved ones: There can be great joy in giving to your loved ones while you’re able to witness the fruits of your gifting. Whether you’re bringing together a cruise,making the down payment on your child’s first home, or funding education for your grandchildren, many want to feel the satisfaction that comes with spending their hard-earned money on a good cause.

… and the Disadvantages   1. Gifting can affect Medicaid eligibility: Gift giving can be a risky venture for people who may need Nursing home care within five years. Why? Medicaid presumes that all gifts made in the 5 years prior to filing for Medicaid were made in contemplation of applying for Medicaid. Individuals seeking eligibility for nursing home long-term care Medicaid benefits must disclose all gifts made by the individual or his or her spouse within the prior 5 years. Medicaid presumes that gifts made within 5 years of the eligibility request date were made in order to qualify for benefits.   If you have a history of giving small weekly or monthly gifts to a charity, most Medicaid offices will not construe those to be disqualifying gifts. For instance, in Virginia, these types of regular gifts are not penalized so long as they are under $4,000 per year and there was a regular pattern of making this gift for years prior to applying for Medicaid. So, for those who may need nursing home care within the next five to ten years must weigh the joy of giving against the potential cost of losing much-needed Medicaid benefits.   2. You could come up short: Unless your own retirement and long-term care are healthily funded and planned, giving a gift now means you may come up short later on — which helps neither you nor your beneficiaries. This is why you should make sure your own financial needs are 100% taken care of before considering giving an early inheritance.   3. Early giving can spur family drama: A downside to early giving is that it may cause resentment among loved ones who aren’t (or feel they aren’t) the recipients of your generosity. If you’re in a complicated family situation, and you aren’t prepared to deal with the fallout, you may even want to reconsider your early inheritance plan.   Like most financial choices, giving an early inheritance isn’t always the right move. If it’s on your mind (or even if it isn’t), it’s important to consult a Certified Elder Law Attorney to help you decide which option can best help you provide for your loved ones without compromising your own financial security and Medicaid eligibility.   Seek Guidance When it Comes to Gifting   With all of the frequent changes that take place in the tax laws, and even more frequent changes in Medicaid rules, I recommend that everyone should revisit their estate plans every year. In addition, be sure to make an appointment and consult with a Certified Elder Law Attorney, such as myself, to discuss any issues regarding gifting when it comes to your individual circumstances.

How To Make Shoulder Surfers “Wipe Out”


I travel a fair amount for work, and one of the things that helps pass the time is to have a movie or TV show downloaded and available on my laptop or mobile device. Putting on my headphones and settling in to catch up on my favorite TV series or movie that I missed when it was in the theaters can make a long flight pass by pretty quickly. One of the most annoying parts of this experience, however, is having a seatmate who just can’t keep their eyes off your screen. Some are more subtle about it, taking the occasional glance over. And then there are the folks who don’t have their own device (or book, or knitting, or other means of keeping themselves occupied) and have nothing else to do but stare at your laptop – how they are entertaining themselves without the soundtrack, I have no idea. In this case, it’s an annoyance. However, if you are conducting real work or business on your laptop or mobile device, it can mean the loss of confidential information through a practice called “shoulder surfing”. Criminals can use shoulder surfing—secretly watching what you type on your screen—to copy down credit card numbers or passwords. This is an old but still effective technique that can allow theft of sensitive information, without an actor having to access your device.

Fortunately, there are methods you can use to thwart the efforts of shoulder surfers. There are inexpensive covers you can place over your screen called privacy filters that block the view of anyone who is at an angle to your device. They see a dark screen; only you, sitting directly in front of the device, can see what is on the screen. They are made by a number of manufacturers, such as 3M and Fellowes, and come sized to fit everything from smartphones to full sized desktop monitors. Laptop privacy filters usually attach with adhesive tape that is included with the filter, whereas smartphone filters affix directly to the front glass—they are a little trickier to apply, but in most cases the store you purchase them from will be happy to assist you. Regardless, these screens are an excellent method to keep shoulder surfers from hanging ten on your device.

Thanks for reading! If you have questions or comments, please send them to me at . You can also follow me on Twitter, @cyberseccorner. Stay safe!


Please Don’t Leave that to Me

By Evan H. Farr, Certified Elder Law Attorney

Certain items, such as firearms, airline miles, and vacation homes, cannot simply be left to others in the same way that you would leave other property. They may be subject to strict regulations, or you may have specific instructions that may not be accounted for in your Wills or Trusts. Luckily, there are trusts and other strategies available for these things, as I will explain below.


Passing firearms in an estate is much different than passing on other personal property. The National Firearms Act (NFA) very strictly regulates the possession and transfer of firearms. In addition, states and even local jurisdictions have an array of firearms transfer rules that must be followed:

• Under the NFA, there are some commonly-known restrictions. For example, people convicted of felonies, domestic violence, or drug trafficking, and people with some types of mentally illness are not allowed to own firearms.

• Less commonly known is that dishonorably discharged veterans and persons who have renounced their U.S. citizenship are also not allowed to own firearms.

• If an executor follows instructions in a Will that directs the distribution of firearms to people in the categories above, the executor is violating the NFA and may be subject to criminal and civil penalties

• Even more nerve-wracking is that merely having a firearms appraised can cause its seizure. Because of this, bequeathing firearms in a Will is not a prudent way to plan. There are potentially serious unintended consequences to transferring firearms to a revocable trust, including the additional liability the successor trustee takes on when attempting to follow the required legal procedures for seeking ATF approval for distributing the gun to the trust beneficiaries. Therefore, a wise choice for transferring firearms is to use a Revocable Living Trust (RLT) designed specifically for the transfer, ownership, and possession of guns. Many estate planning attorneys call these “NFA” trusts or “Gun Trusts.” Using a “Gun Trust” can avoid or minimize many of the challenges of passing on firearms.

Keep in mind that it is important to obtain competent legal representation in order to avoid unforeseen hazards. Therefore, it is essential that you meet with an estate planning attorney experienced in these matters, such as myself, to set up a “Gun Trust.” Vacation Homes and Timeshare Vacation homes can be special places to many families. Parents often work hard to buy a vacation place and cherish the idea of keeping the property in the family, so their children and their children’s children can share lazy summer days or cozy fireside gatherings.

Before leaving an interest in your vacation home to a family member, confirm that the family member really wants it. Talk to your loved ones first to learn their preferences, then be sure to put the real estate in a trust and make your kids the beneficiaries. If you don’t put your out-of-state real estate in a trust, but rather let it pass through a Will, that real estate is going to have to go through probate in the state where it is located, causing a double nightmare for whoever you name as the executor of your Will. The trust structure lets you spell out under what conditions the house can be sold, how a sharing schedule will be decided, and who pays for upkeep. If possible, you can reduce conflict by leaving extra money to cover costs. And don’t even think of leaving a timeshare to anyone. A timeshare, to most people, is a liability because of the annual maintenance fee, and not an asset that anyone wants to inherit. Airline Miles

Frequent-flier miles can be worth a lot, but you may not be able to pass on the wealth. Some carriers explicitly say you cannot bequeath miles. And policies change. In fact, Delta disallowed mileage bequests in 2013. First, ask your airline. If you find out your miles cannot be left to someone else, you may be better off spending down miles now or buying trips for other people if you’re traveling less. Keep in mind, though, that even carriers that officially bar fliers from bequeathing miles—like American Airlines—often allow it on a case-by-case basis, so do always name a beneficiary in your Will. Beneficiaries may need to request and complete an affidavit and provide the death certificate. Something else to keep in mind: be sure a beneficiary knows the online log-in information of the deceased member to access the miles. It would be a shame to forgo the points a loved one has taken many pricey trips to earn. Planning for Unique Assets

Firearms, vacation homes, timeshares, and airline miles are unique assets that require an estate plan to be uniquely tailored to plan for them. If you already have an estate plan and long-term care plan, call an experienced elder law attorney and update your plan accordingly.


National Cyber Security Awareness Month - Your Evolving Digital Life


It’s October, and if you read this column on a regular basis you know that means it’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month, an annual effort spearheaded by government, private industry, and educational institutions to increase people’s awareness about staying safe online. Of course, for the Corner, this is a year-round effort; as a reminder in addition to the monthly column you can also follow me on Twitter at @cyberseccorner for the latest developments.

One of the themes this year is “Your Evolving Digital Life”. We are living in a world where more and more devices are becoming connected to the internet - and not just computers and mobile phones. Cars, refrigerators and thermostats are starting to feature internet connections, all in the name of convenience. Your refrigerator, for example, can tell you when you are running low on milk, and tell you what stores have the best deals. Some newer cars are coming equipped as rolling wi-fi hotspots, allowing you to stay connected no matter where you are. And there are a few lines of thermostats that will allow you to monitor and adjust your home’s temperature from your smartphone or tablet.

As all of these devices come online, however, the danger is that they can be used to work against us. Cyber criminals today use compromised computers as zombies as part of botnets, or networks of infected devices that can be used to deliver distributed denial of service attacks against websites. In these attacks, these computers are used to send massive amounts of internet traffic against websites, causing them to become overloaded and crash. They can also be used to send and relay spam emails, which can clog up inboxes and carry malicious links or attachments that can be used to further build the criminal’s network. In the near future, we can likely see other devices being infected to be part of these botnets. At this year’s DEF CON hacker conference, security researchers demonstrated the ability to hack into a Jeep, remotely taking control of the brakes, ignition, and other critical systems. Though the company patched the vulnerability that allowed them to do so, the exposure of these everyday devices to the internet will inevitably lead to more and more attempts by bad actors to take advantage of them.

Thanks for reading! If you have questions or comments, please send them to me at You can also follow me on Twitter, @cyberseccorner. And to read more about National Cyber Security Month, visit

Make Way for The Great Pumpkin!

By Sara Negron, RD

Dear Lorton Valley readers,

Fall is finally here. With it comes everything to do with pumpkins; so why not delve into the nutritious benefits of this multifunctional squash.

Believe it or not, most of the pumpkin is edible; the tough beige meat (without the skin), the seeds, and yes, the nasty looking stringy pulp. The meat and pulp are excellent sources of vitamin A, and good sources of vitamin C, iron and fiber. When roasted, the seeds provide protein (8 grams in two tablespoons), fiber, and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Roasted pumpkin seeds are also a rich source of magnesium, potassium, and copper. Magnesium is key to metabolism, blood sugar control, bone integrity, and control of inflammation. Potassium is involved in the maintenance of blood pressure and prevention of osteoporosis and muscle cramping. Copper is an antioxidant required for collagen production and prevention of iron deficiency anemia

Below are some of my own recipes; may make you think twice before throwing out the pulp after carving.

Pumpkin Spice Shake:

1 cup stringy pulp (seeds removed)

1 container blended vanilla yogurt

2 tablespoon apple or pear juice

Pumpkin spice seasoning to taste

1 teaspoon brown sugar

Nutrition: 130 calories, 15 grams carbohydrate (1 carb choice), 44 milligrams sodium)

Rinse the stringy pulp; remove the seeds. Add to blender with remaining ingredients; blend until smooth. Serve chilled.

Chipotle-Lime Roasted Pumpkin Seeds:

1.5-2 cups raw pumpkin seeds

1 tablespoon chipotle powder

½ tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt

2 tsp lime juice

spray oil

Nutrition (1/4 cup): 160 calories, 9 grams protein, 75 milligrams sodium, 4 grams carbohydrate

Rinse seeds and bring them to a boil in a saucepan. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove seeds; pat dry with paper towel. Spread seeds in an even layer on a cookie sheet; lightly spray with oil. Sprinkle seasoning and juice on seeds. Bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-40 minutes.

Pumpkin Mash:

6x6 inch pumpkin

Olive oil


Nutrition: 100 calories, 12-15 grams carbohydrate (1 carb choice)

Slice the pumpkin flesh into large wedges. Boil wedges for 15-20 minutes until soft. Remove wedges and place into an ice bath to cool. Once at room temperature, Remove wedges from ice bath and peel off the orange skin. Mash the yellow flesh with a fork. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Optional seasonings: pumpkin spice, curry powder, black pepper, cardamom.

Senior Medicare Enrollment Presentations

Medicare 101. Monday, October 19, 10:30 a.m.-Noon. Learn the facts about health insurance for seniors. Lorton Senior Center - Main Room, 7722 Gunston Plz., Lorton. To register call Kim Frengel at 703-550-7195, TTY 711. Find out more at

Senior Medicare Enrollment. Friday, October 23, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Review your health and drug coverage and consider changes for next year during Medicare Open Enrollment. Lorton Senior Center - Computer Room, 7722 Gunston Plaza, Lorton. To register call Kim Frengel at 703-550-7195, TTY 711. Find out more at

Fairfax County Offers Free Caregiver Seminars:

Legal Tools for Caregivers – WEBINAR, October 7, Noon-1 p.m. Learn about durable power of attorney, trusts, guardianship, and advanced medical directives. Presented by Edward Zetlin, Edward Zetlin Law. Register at and click on Caregiver Seminars. Call 703-324-5484, TTY 711. Hospitalization Happens: A Challenge for Caregivers, October 8, 3-4 p.m. A trip to the hospital may be confusing to the patient with dementia and the caregiver. Join us to discuss ways you can relieve some of this stress. Insight Memory Care Center, 3953 Pender Dr., Ste. 100, Fairfax. Register at and click on Caregiver Seminars. Call 703-324-5484, TTY 711. Caregiver Stress and Healthy Living, October 22, 7-8:30 p.m. Centreville Regional Library, 14200 St. Germain Dr., Centreville. Register at and click on Caregiver Seminars. Call 703-324-5484, TTY 711. Understanding and Caring for a Person with Dementia, October 27, 7-8:30 p.m. This class will discuss the different types of dementia, common behaviors, the reasons for troubling behaviors, communication techniques, and services available for caregivers. Hollin Hall Senior Center, 1500 Shenandoah Rd., Alexandria. Register at and click on Caregiver Seminars. Call 703-324-5484, TTY 711. Hiring In-Home Care – WEBINAR, October 28, Noon-1 p.m. Learn what to consider before hiring an independent aide or agency provider. Join us without having to travel. Register at and click on Caregiver Seminars. Call 703-324-5484, TTY 711.


Initiative Connecting VA Vets to High-Skilled Tech Jobs

Leaders from IBM and Corporate America Supports You (CASY), a national non-profit dedicated to helping veterans find employment, Virginia’s Veterans & Defense Affairs and local veterans today launched a new veterans’ initiative at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) to help local veterans translate their military experience into high-skilled jobs. Virginia has the fastest growing veteran population in the nation, with approximately 800,000 veterans statewide.

Between April 2015 and January 2017, Defense Manpower Data Center estimates 24,500 service members will transition out of service in Virginia. The new Veteran Employment Accelerator Grant program, spearheaded by IBM and CASY, will provide local returning service members with hands-on training, certification, and job placement assistance in the fast-growing tech sector.

Led by an IBM expert, more than a dozen veterans participated in a week-long training and certification course at NOVA on data analytics software called i2 Analyst’s Notebook. IBM and CASY, along with a network of companies, will help them transition to civilian careers, connecting them to job opportunities. Hundreds of veterans around the nation will participate in this program.

“Our veterans who fought bravely for our country are highly skilled, but need help translating their military skills to civilian careers,” said Diane Melley, IBM Vice President of Global Citizenship Initiatives. “This new program will equip our courageous men and women with the training, credentials, and job assistance they need to succeed in the 21st century workforce.”

“IBM’s commitment to helping veterans transition to civilian life will help combat unemployment in the military community,” said Erin Voirol, Chief Operating Officer of CASY and the Military Spouse Corporate Career Network. “Veterans receive training directly linked to in-demand, skilled jobs. This program supports CASY’s mission, in partnership with NOVA and the Virginia Veterans Affairs Office, to ensure our returning soldiers are career ready.”

By 2018, the U.S. could face a shortage of as many as 190,000 people with the required analytics experience as cyberattacks and fraudulent activities continue to ripple across many industries. Data analytics, used in credit card and retail industries and law enforcement, help predict and prevent criminal, terrorist and fraudulent activities.

The veterans program is part of IBM’s philanthropic Impact Grants that arm non-profits, government and education institutions with effective tools, skills, and expertise to strengthen their infrastructure, build leadership, and better serve their communities.


Healthy Bag of Lunch

By Sara Negron, RD

It’s the end of summer and this means, back to school and back to work. Busier schedules can make it difficult to eat healthy. This month, I’d like to highlight healthy lunch ideas for work and school.

Packing lunch from home is easy, economical, and healthy. It can be leftover’s from dinner, sandwich or salad. Keep in mind the content of our lunches: a balanced meal of fruits, vegetables, protein, and fiber-rich carbohydrate. This balance is meant to provide us with the right amount of energy to finish the day. Based on a 2000 calorie, 2500 mg sodium/day diet; a healthy lunch should strive for: under 550 calories, less than 650 mg per meal, and between 3-5 servings of carbohydrate (45-75 grams), remaining calories/sodium allotted for snacks. Try to eliminate empty calorie junk foods; potato chips, candy bars, cookies. The following are nutritious alternatives to replace these empty calorie foods:

Protein: hardboiled egg, “Baby Bell” cheese/string cheese, peanut butter, hummus, tuna fish. Vegetables: baby carrots, celery, rinsed salad greens, sliced bell peppers and mushrooms, grape tomatoes. Carb: Trail mix, minute brown rice packs, whole grain bread/crackers, granola bar, pita chips, whole grain tortillas, and wholegrain pretzels. Fruit: grapes, bananas, clementines, apple slices, fruit cups (packed in juice)

Let’s delve into school lunch. It’s important to check into what is being provided and the amount of time allotted for lunch. The following website provides nutrient content and menus for Fairfax County Public Schools:

footnote: Potatoes prepped with low fat methods are nutritious and a good source of potassium. Frying removes nutrients, and adds fat.

Below are some of my favorite lunch recipes with comparisons to an average lunch:

Vegetarian Sandwich w/ fruit and cheese:

1 Wholegrain tortilla (I use “Trader Joe’s” Brand)

½ Red Bell Pepper (sliced)

2 Tbsp hummus

½ cup raw spinach

1 serving grapes

1 “Baby bell cheese” (skim)

Bottle of water

Nutrition: 394 calories, 450 mg sodium, 4-5 carb choices (~60 gms)

Versus: PB&J sandwich, Juice, Bag of Chips: 586 calories, 662 mg sodium, 4 carb choices, 5.5 carb choices (~84 gms)

Steak Salad with pita:

1 cup salad greens

3 oz sliced leftover steak (palm of hand portion)

½ cup sliced grape tomatoes

chopped red onion to taste

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, ½ tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp feta cheese

1 small pita bread (wholegrain)

Nutrition: 368 calories, 610 mg sodium, 2 carb choices (27 gms)

Versus: McDonald’s southwest grilled chicken salad with southwest dressing: 450 calories, 1220 mg sodium, 3.5 carb choices (37 gms)

When Are Children Legally Responsible for Parents’ Care?

By Evan H. Farr, Certified Elder Law Attorney

More than half of U.S. states, including Virginia and Maryland, have filial responsibility laws, which say adult children are responsible for financially helping parents who are unable to pay for care. In certain situations, parents can also be responsible for debts of adult children. The laws were rarely used in the past, but this has been changing. Last year, a debt collector pursued Peg and Bob Mohn of Bangor, Maine for their late son Earl’s unpaid medical bills. Earl wasn’t married and had been sick off and on for most of his adult life. He had no assets when he died that creditors could have filed claims against. The Mohns, who are in their 70s, did not budget to cover their adult son’s medical expenses. To collect the debts, the Hamilton Law group (based in Pennsylvania) sent the Mohns multiple letters demanding payment of debts to physicians’ offices that had treated Earl several years before he died. Believing they had no other choice, the Mohns set up a payment plan and had been paying $50 a month since October toward their son’s debt of about $2,000. However, payment was not deducted from their account in May of this year and beyond. Why? Because, that month, the Pennsylvania state attorney general’s office proceeded with a lawsuit against the Hamilton Law Group, claiming that the debt collector improperly used the state’s Colonial-era Filial Responsibility Law “to coerce payments from debtors’ relatives, who were not responsible for the debt.” The lawsuit seeks restitution for the people affected, including the Mohns, and a court order barring the allegedly improper methods of debt collection. Is There Still Reason to be Concerned? Filial Responsibility Laws were drafted centuries ago so family members would take responsibility for each other and the government wouldn’t have to. Its use waned when the modern public support system was developed, but the law gained new life in 2012 when the state Superior Court ruled that George Pittas, of Allentown, PA, was responsible for nearly $93,000 in bills from the rehabilitation center that had treated his mother after a car accident. Important considerations about Filial Responsibility laws: The law doesn’t always make parents and their children responsible for each other’s debts. The debtor must be indigent and the person targeted for payment must have the ability to pay. The law is not designed to collect money from family members in situations where public money is available and has been applied for. To enforce filial responsibility laws, a nursing home usually needs to prove that a resident can’t pay in order for an adult child of that resident to be responsible. There is also no consensus about enforcing filial responsibility laws among states. Know Your Rights If you or your parents are contacted by a debt collector, you are entitled to receive paperwork that explains how much you owe and to whom you owe it. If you don’t believe you owe the money, you should hire an attorney and within 30 days you should write a letter to the debt collector explaining that. Plan Ahead The only way to make sure you do not fall victim to any filial (or parental) support action is to plan ahead for long-term care, with the help of an experienced elder law attorney.

IPv6 and Why You Should Know About It


Pretty much everyone these days has some type of computing device they use every day, both at home and at work. In addition to your desktop computers, you probably have some type of laptop or tablet, and more likely a mobile phone or smartphone (yes, those are computers). All of these devices connect to the internet in some way, whether via a hard wired Ethernet cable or a wireless connection. More devices are added every day – and not just computers and mobile devices. Appliances such as refrigerators, as well as cars and trucks are all being wired in daily all over the world. By some estimates, there are over ten billion internet connected devices. The problem is, each of those devices needs an address to be connected to the internet, and those addresses – as they are allocated today – are running out.

Most devices now, when they are attached to the internet, are assigned an IP (internet protocol) address in what is called IPv4 space. These addresses are a series of numbers that identifies each device, whether it’s a laptop, smartphone, or watch. In IPv4 space, there are about 4.3 billion addresses that can be allocated. However, since some are used for special purposes, they can’t be used by your device, so the number is actually somewhat lower. Now, since we have over ten billion addresses, how do we avoid running out? Methods such as network address translation (NAT) are commonly used – for example, your home router has one IP address on the internet, and then within your home network every other device gets assigned an internal address for that network. However, eventually the number of addresses that can be used in IPv4 will be used up. This is why internet providers are in the process of switching over to a different address space called IPv6 in the near future.

IPv6 is designed to provide a massive address space. If you thought IPv4’s 4.3 billion were a lot, IPv6 provides 340 undecillion possible IP addresses. Written out, that’s 340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 – enough to allow virtually everyone to connect their home devices to the internet without a router. Most new devices and operating systems are IPv6 compatible, and ISPs are gradually converting to IPv6. Check with your internet provider to find out when you can start using the new technology.

Thanks for reading! If you have questions or comments, please send them to me at . You can also follow me on Twitter, @cyberseccorner. Stay safe!

Help Someone Else and You Might Go to Jail 

By Evan H. Farr, Certified Elder Law Attorney 

Ray is a loving father and a good friend who enjoys helping others. He helped his son build a deck, assisted his friend in finding a home, and even does his daughter’s taxes on Turbo Tax each year. However, when it comes to estate planning, incapacity planning, and/or Medicaid planning, Ray realized he could not do his own planning or offer his assistance to others. Why? 

Although he has good intentions, Ray is not a lawyer. And those who practice law without a license can cause great harm to the person they are trying to help and their families. In addition, those who practice law without a license – as well as the person who uses the non-lawyer – will be subject to criminal penalties. 

In Virginia, it is illegal to prepare or help to prepare any legal documents for another person. In fact, unauthorized practice of law is a Class 1 misdemeanor and can subject you to jail time for up to a year plus a fine of up to $2,500. The following is taken from the Virginia State Bar Professional Guidelines, Unauthorized Practice Rules (UPR), when it comes to estate planning: “A non-lawyer shall not, with or without compensation, prepare or draft, or cause his own lawyer to prepare or draft, for another, legal instruments of any character, including the filling out of a form for any will or trust.” (Read exceptions.) 

In some other states, the penalties are even more severe. For example, in Florida, practicing law without a license is a third degree felony, with penalties including five years in prison. On January 15, 2015, in a case that focused on Medicaid planning, the Florida Supreme Court ruled (Fla., No. SC14-211) that non-lawyers are engaging in the unauthorized practice of law if they do any of the following: 

• Draft a personal service contract;  • Determine the need for, prepare, and execute a Qualified Income Trust, including gathering the information necessary to complete the trust;  • Render legal advice regarding the implementation of Florida law to obtain Medicaid benefits, including advising an individual on the appropriate legal strategies available for spending down and restructuring assets. 

The rationale behind the Florida ruling included testimony that described the type of harm caused by non-lawyer Medicaid planners, which can include denial of Medicaid eligibility, exploitation, and catastrophic or severe tax liability. 

Hiring a non-lawyer or asking a friend or family member to handle Medicaid planning, Veterans planning, estate planning (e.g, preparing or downloading a Will or trust template) or incapacity planning (e.g., preparing or downloading a Power of Attorney or Advance Medical Directive for you to sign) may seem innocent and may save you money in the short run, but it will almost always prove to be a costly and painful mistake for you and is a criminal activity for the other person. 

Likewise, although it’s not a crime to do these things for yourself, to avoid catastrophic results, estate planning, incapacity planning, Medicaid planning, and Veterans planning documents are not something you should do yourself, just as you should not perform surgery on yourself. If you have a friend or loved one who hasn’t had the chance to meet with an Estate Planning Attorney this year, or if you or a loved one needs long-term care, make an appointment with an experienced elder law attorney. 

Play Smart Digital Defense during March Madness


It’s tournament time again for college basketball, and no doubt many of you are entering office pools and filling out brackets in preparation for this year’s edition of March Madness. Millions of people will be tracking the games online or streaming the tournament live at work—when the boss isn’t looking, of course. And of course as with any large sporting event, scammers and cyber criminals will be trying to take advantage of basketball fans in any number of ways.

• If watching the games online, make sure you are streaming the video from a legitimate source. Every year around tournament time, bogus streaming sites pop up claiming to offer live video of the games; many of these sites are set up by scammers and can lead to viruses.

• Look out for phishing emails that contain links or attachments offering game picks, bracket advice, or other tournament related lures.

• Mobile users: watch out for fake apps claiming to offer access to game video or team news. Cyber criminals plant these in app stores, hoping to lure users into installing them on their devices. These apps can infect your phone or tablet with spyware or cause it to send spam texts which will cost you money.

• Scammers also build fake team websites purporting to offer exclusive team news or merchandise in order to lure you into giving up your credit card information.

• Planning on attending in person? Beware of criminals claiming to sell counterfeit game tickets online. Scammers frequently use classified ad sites such as Craigslist to post ads for fake tickets. The Federal Trade Commission recommends you buy your tickets from the NCAA, the school, or legitimate ticket brokers, and use a credit card—never debit.

Thanks for reading! If you have questions or comments, please send them to me at You can also follow me on Twitter, @cyberseccorner.

Show Your Android Some Love


Welcome to February! No doubt many of you are making big plans for your significant other for Valentine’s Day on the 14th. Some of you may have plans to give that special person in your life a new Android smartphone or tablet for the big day. If you do—or if you’re on the receiving end—be sure to take some steps to keep that device secure and tell that person LOVEU:

• Lost phones can contain personal information that is useful to criminals, so consider encryption. The Android operating system allows you to fully encrypt your device so that even if it is stolen or lost, the information inside is protected.

• Only install apps from Google Play or an approved app source. A favorite tactic of mobile device hackers is to set up bogus apps that masquerade as legitimate ones. One way you can prevent your device from getting affected by these is to install a security application. These applications can scan apps that you download and check them for malicious code. They can also help you retrieve your device if it’s lost and notify you of its location. Some of the security apps will lock out your phone after too many failed attempts to guess the access password, and even send you a picture of the person making the attempts!

• Verify any emails or text messages you receive before clicking on links. Criminals frequently send these spam messages to mobile users, which if clicked install malware to the phone that can allow your device to send spam messages for their profit.

• Eavesdroppers can use open Bluetooth connections to listen to your calls, so if you’re not using it, turn it off.

• Use a password, PIN or pattern to keep the device locked when not in use. If the device is lost, it will be harder for someone who finds it to get to any personal information you keep on it. Thanks for reading! If you have questions or comments, please send them to me at You can also follow me on Twitter, @cyberseccorner.

Creating a Caregiver Team

By Evan H. Farr, Certified Elder Law Attorney

Taking a team approach to caregiving can be essential to preserving the well-being of caregivers, who often juggle working, caring for their loved one, and caring for themselves and their families. Below are some steps to help caregivers lighten their load by creating a caregiving team:

• Identify tasks you need help with: Start by identifying the tasks you need help with. Is it paying bills or preparing meals? Or, do you need help with assisting your mother with activities of daily living, such as bathing and hygiene? After you know what needs to be done, it will be easier to identify the right people for the job.

• Turn to siblings: Though you may be the lead caregiver, it’s critical to let other family members, such as siblings, know that they need to play a role, too.

• Look to friends and neighbors: Depending on the relationships you have, friends and neighbors can be another viable source of help. You may not want a neighbor to help pay bills, but you might feel comfortable asking her to watch your kids while you run your mom to the doctor’s. Be sure you are clear about what the person will be doing and the time commitment, as people are more likely to lend a hand if the expectations are clearly defined.

• Know which resources are available: The ElderCare Locator (, sponsored by the U.S. Administration on Aging, is one place to start. You can also get information from local churches, synagogues, senior centers, and government agencies. Once you start looking, you may find a whole network of services available to help.

• Hire help: If you have the resources, you may consider hiring people to be part of your caregiving team. Hired help might include a geriatric care manager, who can help you plan and orchestrate your relative’s care. You may also consider hiring a home health aide, house cleaning service, a handyman, lawn care or transportation services.

• Find a support group: A support group can serve as a place for you to meet others in similar situations, ask questions about specific challenges, and get information about community resources. Be sure to check and your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter for a list of support groups in your area.

• Get some respite: Most caregivers eventually need a break from the rigors of caregiving. That’s when you should find someone to provide respite care. Whether it’s a couple of hours a week at an adult day care or a weekend break provided by your sister, the goal is to give you time away from your duties to recharge. At the Law Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C., we recognize that caring for a loved one strains even the most resilient people. If you’re a caregiver, take steps to find a team of people that you trust to help, to preserve your own health and well-being. Part of taking care of yourself is planning for your future and for your loved ones.

Please call us to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation. We wish you and your loved ones a happy and healthy New Year!

2015 Security Resolutions


Happy New Year! It’s January, which means it’s time for the annual list of security resolutions. The first of the year is always a good time to take stock of your current security posture and see what you can do to improve your online safety while using that new tablet or laptop you got for Christmas:

• Resolution #1: Check your financial information. This past year’s series of high profile data breaches is a good reminder to get your free annual credit report and make sure no one has been opening accounts in your name. Home Depot, Target, and Michaels were among the retailers which had credit card data stolen this year. Check your bank statements frequently and use cash if possible when paying at retail outlets. Credit cards are best when paying, as opposed to debit; credit cards have limited liability if used in fraudulent activity.

• Resolution #2: Update, update, update. If you aren’t keeping up with the latest computer vulnerabilities, rest assured the bad guys are. Bad actors are constantly looking to exploit security holes in Windows, Mac systems, and mobile devices. Keeping the operating system on your computer or mobile device is a good way to make sure your system is as protected as possible from these threats.

• Resolution #3: Make backups. The good news is that most devices on the market come with an option to make backups of your data to various cloud services, such as iCloud and Dropbox. Even if you aren’t too keen on using the cloud to store your data, storage is very cheap right now—backup hard drives can be had now for under $100. A little investment now may go a long way in saving your valuable data later.

• Resolution #4: Use antivirus and a firewall, and keep them updated. There are a number of free antivirus solutions out there, for laptops and desktops and mobile devices. Make sure that your antivirus is configured to install updates so that it can detect the latest threats.

• Resolution #5: Stay aware. If you receive a suspicious email, don’t open any links or attachments! The bad guys still use the tried and true tactic of sending phishing email, because it works. Make sure you are familiar with the sender—and then double check, since the bad guys like to use emails that look like they are coming from familiar senders.

Thanks for reading! If you have questions or comments, please send them to me at . You can also follow me on Twitter, @cyberseccorner. Have a Happy New Year!

To Emergency or Not to Emergency

Opinion by Floyd Harrison, Publisher

The American College of Emergency Physicians’ poll finds that ER physicians treat patients every day who end up in ERS after first seeking care in urgent care centers that were not equipped to care for them. Doctors are also concerned that urgent care centers market themselves as ERs. Emergency room physicians are concerned that too many patients are confused about where to seek care: urgent care centers or ERs. People may feel they are saving time or money by going first to urgent care, but in instances of serious illness, that loss of time can be dangerous. Urgent care centers are great options for common medical problems, but they are not substitutes for emergency care. Most urgent care centers accept health insurance, but require payment at the time of service. Urgent care centers also do not have a federal mandate to treat patients, regardless of their ability to pay, unlike emergency departments which fall under the Emergency Medicine Treatment and Labor Act. I would expect to find that this “confusion” as they call it is due to people who can afford the instant accessibility preferring “first aid” now as opposed to hours in an emergency room. We know that people without a primary care physician, use emergency rooms for non-emergencies. It doesn’t make sense that emergency care should be a long wait in a line of non-emergencies and yet that non-emergency care is more accessible to the affluent but that’s the way it is. It’s not a surprise, you don’t need a survey and It’s not quite funny. So, the useful revelation would be how to redirect the flows of real emergencies and non-emergencies. If you have any ideas on that, we’d love to hear it.

Emergency Care or Urgent Care?

Seek urgent care for minor medical conditions or for a medical condition that could be treated in your family physician’s office, but the office is closed. Seek emergency care if you think you may be having a medical emergency. The following are examples of warning signs of a medical emergency:

• Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath • Chest pain or upper abdominal pain or pressure lasting two minutes or more • Fainting, sudden dizziness, weakness • Change in vision • Difficulty speaking • Confusion or changes in mental status, unusual behavior, difficulty walking, • Any sudden and severe pain • Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea • Coughing or vomiting blood • Unusual abdominal pain • Severe headache or vomiting after a head injury, unconsciousness, uncontrolled bleeding


Safe for the Holidays


It’s the time of year again when thoughts turn to holiday shopping and the thoughts of cyber criminals turn to getting your money. With nearly half of this year’s holiday shopping being done online this season, it’s always a good time to review some safety tips to keep the criminals out of your pockets.

Last year’s Target breach reminds us that the bad guys are not only targeting us online, but in the stores as well. No matter where you are shopping, using a credit card will limit your liability in the event of a data breach. Use of a debit card in most cases will not only not provide the same protections, but will also allow criminals to clean out your bank account in the event of a data breach. As always, check your statements and credit reports on a regular basis to check for unauthorized usage.

When shopping online, make sure you are buying on legitimate sites. A favorite tactic of cyber criminals is to set up fake websites with similar names as real ones, hoping you will make a typo and accidentally land on their fraudulent site.

Before shopping online, make sure your system has antivirus installed, and be sure your operating system is updated and has the latest patches and updates installed.

When using public wi-fi in places such as airports, make sure you are connecting to a legitimate hotspot. Bad actors will sometimes set up rogue wi-fi hotspots in order to hijack communications from computers connecting to them. Avoid shopping or conducting banking transactions over public wi-fi connections.

Thanks for reading! If you have questions or comments, please send them to me at . You can also follow me on Twitter, @cyberseccorner. Stay safe and have a happy holiday season!

Amazing Pets – Saving Senior’s Lives

By Evan H. Farr, Certified Elder Law Attorney

People over the age of 65 who live alone are particularly vulnerable to loneliness and stress-related diseases, and can reap enormous benefits from having a pet. Pets have been proven to reduce high blood pressure, relieve anxiety, and promote longer lives. They have also been known to provide comfort, safety, and security, and “save lives,” especially when it comes to the ailments described below:

• Diabetes: People who live with diabetes are vulnerable to collapse from low blood sugar, which can lead to a diabetic coma. According to, between 2 and 6% of type 1 diabetics will die from low blood sugar. Diabetes service dogs, also known as diabetes alert dogs, are trained to retrieve phones, fetch, and carry objects such as bottles of juice, test breath for glucose, and even act as an arm rail for someone who’s fallen down.

• Veterans: According to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Association (, more than 200,000 U.S. service members have been diagnosed with a brain injury in the last 10 years, and tens of thousands more suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Service dogs are finding a new purpose as companions to veterans sidelined by disabilities, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

• Cancer: Specially-trained dogs have been found to know by smell when someone has lung, colon, or even skin cancer. Cats have also been known to alert their owners to breast cancer and lung cancer. In one case reported by the CBC news in Winnipeg, Canada, a newly-arrived stray cat jumped repeatedly against a woman’s chest until she had her doctor check her for breast cancer, at which point it turned out she had a tiny tumor in the exact spot the cat had indicated.

• Alzheimer’s: Therapy dogs can provide important comfort, companionship, and a sense of connection for those isolated by Alzheimer’s and dementia. Mara Baun has been documenting the therapeutic effects of dogs on dementia patients at the University of Houston School of Nursing for more than a decade. According to Baun, people with dementia had fewer episodes of disorientation, wandering, and aggression when a dog was present. Also, at the University of Nebraska, researchers found that dogs can provide relief from sundown syndrome, in which those with Alzheimer’s become confused and agitated as the light changes at the end of the day.

• Seizures: Seizure response dogs alert others to their owners’ seizures, while seizure alert or seizure predicting dogs are more specially trained to be on the alert for signs of an impending seizure. Also, having a devoted dog by their side helps those with seizure disorders feel safer and more secure.

• Stroke, Choking, or Fire: Owners of parrots, cockatiels, and other birds have credited their beloved pets with sounding the alarm when their owners had a stroke, choked, or were in danger from fire or thieves. In Essex, England, a 17-year-old cockatiel named Budgie saved his owner by alerting the owner’s wife when he suffered a stroke, according to the Daily Telegraph (

• Terminal Illness: Cats may be able to alert nursing home staff when a patient is terminally ill. One cat, Oscar, accurately predicted more than 50 deaths. Adopted as a kitten by a nursing home to be a service companion for those with advanced dementia, Oscar was only about six months old when the staff started finding him curled up next to particular patients who then died within a few hours or days. Scientists concluded that cats like Oscar are likely responding to a pheromone that the human sense of smell can’t detect. You can read more about Oscar in the book, “Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat,” by David Dosa.

The SPCA reported recently that in a study of 100 Medicare patients, even the most highly-stressed dog owner had 21% fewer physicians visits than any non-dog-owner. In addition, seniors who own pets are more likely to keep up with daily activities, have better overall physical health due to exercising with their pets, and have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels than those living without pets. So, although pets may require a lot of work and vet visits are often expensive, they provide seniors with countless benefits. Since pets are like family to many people, if you have a pet, be sure to meet with a Certified Elder Law Attorney to set up a pet trust, or a legally sanctioned agreement for the care and maintenance of your pet(s) in the event of their your disability or death. We wish you and your loved ones (including your pets) a happy and healthy holiday!

Check Out Your Credit Cards Before (and after) You Checkout


Holiday shopping season seems to come earlier and earlier each year. I was greeted at a recent pre-Halloween visit to the supermarket by Christmas decorations, which totally threw me off because I have yet to plan my Thanksgiving menu. Regardless, a lot of us will be headed to the malls, shopping centers, and department stores to make our holiday purchases in the coming weeks, and criminals will inevitably be out to separate you from your money and personal information. The past year has given us the unwelcome gift of high profile retail data breaches where cyber thieves have exploited the point of sale systems—cash registers—in order to steal millions of credit card numbers. Last December millions of Target shoppers were informed that their credit card data was compromised by malware that infected the machines at the register. Over the following months, UPS Stores, Supervalu grocery stores—the parent chain of Shopper’s—and Home Depot all were among the companies that disclosed they had been the victims of malware designed to steal the data from the magnetic stripes on the back of credit cards after they had been swiped to make a purchase. Unfortunately this type of data theft is becoming more and more common. Some ways you can protect yourself from potential identity theft or fraud this holiday season:

• Avoid using a debit card at the register if possible. If a criminal actor compromises your debit card, they can use it to clean out your bank account and potentially access any other bank accounts you may have as well. Using a credit card limits your loss liability to $50 and protects you from further fraud when you report the card as lost or stolen.

• Check your credit card statements frequently and report any fraudulent activity to your credit card issuer immediately.
 • Check your credit report—you are entitled to one free report from the three credit bureaus every year. You can request them online from

Thanks for reading! If you have questions or comments, please send them to me at . You can also follow me on Twitter, @cyberseccorner.

Filial Responsibility:

Will You Be Responsible for Your Loved Ones Medical Debt?

By Evan H. Farr, Certified Elder Law Attorney

Filial responsibility laws obligate adult children to pay for their indigent parents’ food, clothing, shelter and medical needs. When the children fail to do so, nursing homes, hospitals, and other creditors can file lawsuits against the adult children to recover the cost of caring for the parents. Not only can they sue the children for the money, but in some states adult children can go to jail if they fail to provide filial support. In some states, this type of legal liability may go both ways – requiring parents to pay the debts of adult children as well as the other way around. For example, Peg and Bob Mohn’s son, Earl, died at age 47, leaving behind unpaid medical bills. Now, debt collectors are trying to collect the debt from his elderly parents. In the case of the Mohns, their son Earl wasn’t married and had been ill off and on for most of his adult life. He had no assets when he died that creditors could have filed claims against. As you can imagine, the Mohns, who are in their 70s with a granddaughter who is about to go to college, did not budget to cover their adult son’s medical expenses. Currently 30 states, including Virginia and Maryland, have filial responsibility laws. Some states repealed their filial support laws after Medicaid took a greater role in providing relief to elderly patients without means. Other states, including Virginia and Maryland, did not, and a large number of filial support laws remain on the books. Filial responsibility laws have recently been increasingly getting enforced to recover medical expenses, including Medicaid payments. For instance, in May 2012, John Pittas received a nursing-home bill of $93,000 for his mother, and was held liable. In another instance in North Dakota, Four Seasons Healthcare sued Elden and Rita Linderkamp for $50,000 of unpaid nursing home care provided to his parents, and they were also held liable. Filial responsibility laws don’t always make parents and their children responsible for each other’s debts. The debtor must be indigent, and the person targeted for payment must have the ability to pay. In the case of the Mohns and for adult children with elderly parents, the only way to make sure you do not fall victim to any filial (or parental) support action is by planning ahead. Children with elderly parents need to be proactive regarding how their parents are financing their long-term care. Some families of modest means may assume Medicaid will cover a parent’s care once the parent has depleted savings and other resources. But it’s a huge mistake to assume that Medicaid will be easy to obtain. Medicaid laws are the most complex laws in existence, with 8 separate bodies of law (4 at the Federal level and 4 at the state level) dealing with Medicaid and Medicaid eligibility. To do proper Medicaid asset protection planning, families need the help of an experienced elder law attorney.

See: Print issue Ad for seminar dates.

About the Author: Evan Farr is a Certified Elder Law Attorney in Fairfax, Fredericksburg, and Washington, DC, and can be reached by phone at 703-691-1888 in Fairfax, 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg, or 202-587-2797 in Washington, DC. If you have Elder Law questions you’d like to have answered in future columns, please send them to Mr. Farr at Virginia has no procedure for approving certifying organizations.

Thanksgiving Food Basket Drive

Thanksgiving will be here before you know it! One of LCAC’s oldest seasonal outreaches is our Thanksgiving Food Basket Drive. By providing a Thanksgiving food basket to a family or senior, not only are you ensuring they have a special holiday meal, you are helping them stretch their food budget when kids are home from school or relatives are visiting. This year, LCAC will provide food baskets to more than 450 families! You can help by providing a Thanksgiving Food Basket or volunteering your time. If you have any questions about the Thanksgiving outreach, please contact Kathy Noone at 703-339-5161, ext. 170 or

LCAC receives many requests to exhibit at local fairs, schools and events but we don’t have enough help to take advantage of all of the opportunities. You don’t have to give a speech or know everything about LCAC--you just need to be friendly, smile and share your enthusiasm for LCAC. Training will be provided! If this sounds like something you could do, please contact Kathy Noone, LCAC’s Director of Volunteers. She can be reached at or 703-339-5161, ext. 170.

Stop. Think. Connect.


It’s October, and if you read this column on a regular basis you know that means more than just falling leaves and Halloween. This is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, an annual effort spearheaded by government, private industry, and educational institutions to increase people’s awareness about staying safe online. Of course, for the Corner, this is a year-round effort; as a reminder in addition to the monthly column you can also follow me on Twitter at @cyberseccorner for the latest developments. One of the themes this month is in the title of this column: Stop. Think. Connect. This slogan is a reminder that the first step in staying safe online is to take a moment to consider what activities you’re going to do on the internet, and how you can keep yourself and your information secure.

Let’s break it down:

STOP: Just logging on to the internet makes you a target. Bad actors are out to steal your information and will throw an ever-expanding arsenal of tricks at you to get it. Just as you would when taking a walk in an unfamiliar city, take time to familiarize yourself with the risks and potential threats that are out there. Take measures to protect yourself, such as running and maintaining current antivirus software and making sure your operating system is up to date.

THINK: Consider why you’re logging on and what you’re going to do once you’re there. Doing some online banking? Make sure you know the correct website for the bank—there are imposters that will try to gather information by impersonating the real site. Checking email? Even if it looks to be from a familiar source, check it out before opening any links or attachments. Connecting to a WiFi hotspot in an airport? Make sure it’s legitimate by consulting the information desk.

CONNECT: All of the precautions and warnings are of course not meant to discourage you from going online; the internet has become so intertwined with our daily lives that it is almost impossible to avoid it. Taking the basic steps to protect yourself and your family will keep you safe from a vast majority of the threats out there. Knowing and following those steps will allow you to do so with confidence.

Thanks for reading! If you have questions or comments, please send them to me at You can also follow me on Twitter, @cyberseccorner. And to read more about National Cyber Security Month, visit

Don’t Wait to Make Critical Decisions

By Evan H. Farr, Certified Elder Law Attorney

Many people over the age of 60 experience what are known as “senior moments,” or temporary memory lapses. For many, these forgetful moments can be the result of growing older and/or chronic stress, sleeplessness, depression, and other ailments. Luckily, minor memory lapses that often occur with age are not always signs of a serious neurological disorder, such as dementia, but rather the result of normal changes in the brain as we age. Memory lapses, whether they are the result of dementia, old age, or something else, can still be worrisome for many reasons. A recent study at NIH demonstrates how non-dementia memory loss can adversely affect one’s capacity to make sound decisions about important things, including finances. The study tested 80 neurologically and psychiatrically healthy individuals split into two groups, one aged 26-55 and another aged 56-85. The groups were given a simulated real-world decision-making task, involving gambling. The results showed that the older group demonstrated decision-making impairment, in spite of otherwise normal cognitive functioning. According to the NIH researchers, “Our finding has important societal and public policy implications (e.g., choosing medical care, allocating personal wealth), and may also help explain why many older individuals are targeted by and susceptible to fraudulent advertising.” In addition to the NIH findings, a recent MarketWatch article by Howard Gold states that “People who live into their 80s — and there are more and more of them all the time — will suffer some form of cognitive impairment. I know this is something most of us don’t want to think about. But there are steps you can take earlier — probably in your 60s — to protect yourself, your wealth and your family.” So, what does this mean for you when it comes to making important decisions involving your health, your well-being, your family, and your finances? Many people delay incapacity planning, estate planning, and long-term care planning partly because it’s unpleasant to contemplate our own mortality, and partly because younger adults believe such paperwork isn’t necessary until they reach old age. However, failing to plan or waiting too long or until you cannot make sound decisions can have catastrophic consequences:

• Incapacity planning: A common belief is that if we become unable to make decisions for ourselves, our family will decide what is best for us. This can lead to difficult and emotionally charged situations or your wishes not being met if you or a loved one becomes incapacitated and having to go through lifetime probate, which could easily be avoided with proper Incapacity Planning. • Estate planning: Estate-planning mistakes can be costly, even among those who are fiscally prudent. Any number of oversights can leave you vulnerable in the event of an untimely death. Others can seriously compromise the amount your heirs will inherit when you die. • Long-Term Care Planning: Nursing homes in Fairfax, Virginia and the rest of Northern Virginia can cost as much as $198,000 per year, while Fredericksburg, Virginia nursing homes and nursing homes in the rest of Virginia can cost as much as $105,000 per year. It is important to protect yourself and your loved ones from having to go broke to pay for nursing home care, while also helping ensure that you or your loved ones 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.   As you cans see, to ensure your wishes are met, it is important to start your planning while your mind is still sharp and your judgment is sound, so you are prepared in advance if a crisis occurs.


New Technology to Age-in-Place

By Evan H. Farr, Certified Elder Law Attorney

Currently, there are 75 million baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), and according to AARP research, more than 80% of them want to age-in-place as they get older. But how can they do so if they need family members—who most often don’t live with them—to monitor their medication and vital signs, and ensure that they’re eating, dressing, and using the bathroom? A major new wave of technological innovation is aimed at helping seniors stay in their homes as they grow older and require care. The technologies make life easier and healthcare more efficient, and research shows that baby boomers and caregivers are embracing them in a big way. A recent Pew survey indicates that 80% of baby boomers use the Internet, and up to 84% of those are using the Internet to search for information on healthcare. The survey also indicates that 46% of seniors use a smartphone and are familiar with downloading apps. Some technologies that have found their way into baby boomer and caregiver toolboxes include:

• E-visits provide patients with an opportunity to get answers to common questions, guidance on whether a problem is serious enough for an in-person visit, and even a diagnosis of simple issues.

• iWatchLife provides a way to check on the well-being of your elderly parents during the day and night, when you can’t be there yourself, using cameras mounted strategically throughout the house. Of course, it is important to check with your parents first, due to privacy concerns.

• MissNoMeds is a wireless automatic pill dispenser that has a built-in cellular chip, making it easy for users to transport and use wherever they need to. If the user misses their medication, the device will send text and email messages to loved ones.

• The Health-e-Care System Chair is a comfortable armchair that can perform an ECG, measure blood pressure, weight, temperature, blood glucose level, gait and balance, heart and lung sounds, blood oxygen saturation, motion analysis, reflex response time, and more. The software transmits the data automatically to nurses who are available 24/7.

• The Guardian Angel turns a phone into an emergency alert device. For example, if your mom is ever in an accident or medical emergency, and she requires immediate help, she can push a button that alerts a list of predetermined contacts where she is and that she needs help. If she needs an emergency response, those contacts can know exactly what the issue is and what kind of help is needed.

• SafeinHome is a mobile solution that provides oversight of seniors when they’re home alone.  SafeinHome’s mobile device-enabled services use wireless sensors to track the elderly person’s activities while they’re home, their length of stay in a room, when they leave and return to the house, if they’ve left the stove on or touched their medications, and more. The system sends information directly to family members’ smartphones or tablets, and alerts them about unusual events that could mean there is a problem. Since it uses sensors instead of cameras, it does not invade privacy as much as the iWatchLife technology described above.

More details on the technology and smart device apps described above can be found by searching for them via Google or your preferred search engine. As baby boomers age and face more health issues, including the treatment of chronic diseases, technology is projected to grow and change faster than ever to keep pace.  Now that you know about these technologies, it’s time to do legal planning for your future and for your loved ones’ future. To do so, it is important to make an appointment with an experienced elder law attorney or sign up to attend one of our upcoming educational seminars in Fairfax (on September 20) or Fredericksburg (on September 10 or 23). ___

Source: Evan Farr is a Certified Elder Law Attorney in Fredericksburg and Fairfax, and can be reached by phone at 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg or 703-691-1888 in Fairfax. If you have Elder Law questions you’d like to have answered in future columns, please send them to Mr. Farr at Virginia has no procedure for approving certifying organizations.

The Fake Support Scam


You’re having a quiet evening at home when your phone rings. A voice on the other end calls you by name, tells you they are a technician from Microsoft (or Dell, HP, or another computer hardware or software manufacturer) and tells you they have noticed a serious problem such as a virus with your computer and that they can assist you with removing it. What do you do? The smart thing to do is to hang up. These calls have been circulating for some time, perpetrated by scammers who are after your personal and financial information. The scammers often use software to spoof their caller ID information to make the calls seem to be coming from Microsoft or another legitimate company. Like many scammers, they tend to prey on the elderly, banking that they may not be as tech-savvy; earlier this year a Canadian newspaper reported that an 84 year old Alberta resident lost over $174,000 to one of these scam artists. These criminals may try to trick you into installing malicious software from a link that they email you, or ask you for credit card information to pay for an “upgrade” or “virus removal services.” Whatever their claims, they are false. Legitimate companies will never call you to tell you there is a problem with your computer, nor will they do so to ask for money to repair it. Never allow one of these criminals to remotely connect to your computer, or give them any personal or financial details such as credit card numbers. If you receive one of these calls, notify your local law enforcement agency, or contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at Thanks for reading! If you have questions or comments, please send them to me at . You can also follow me on Twitter, @cyberseccorner. Stay safe!

Are You Prepared For Incapacity?

By Evan H. Farr, Certified Elder Law Attorney

What would happen if you were in an accident, or had a stroke, or for another reason you suddenly became incapacitated or comatose, and were unable to make decisions for yourself? It is difficult to think about, but if this happens, some people want to be kept alive at all costs; while others would prefer to end all measures for resuscitation. However, less than a third of the population has completed Incapacity Planning documents, so for nearly 70% of Americans, family members have to make this important decision on their behalf. This often leads to wishes not being met, and significant stress and grief for loved ones. Why don’t people plan for incapacity? Reasons are many: a natural tendency to procrastinate; the preconception that it is a costly and complex process; and sometimes even the superstitious feeling that if you talk about something it will happen. Another common belief is that if we become unable to make decisions for ourselves, our family will be able to decide what is best for us. All of these reasons can lead to difficult and emotionally charged situations if you or a loved one becomes incapacitated, which is easily be avoided with proper Incapacity Planning. To begin the Incapacity Planning process, seniors should sit down with their loved ones to openly discuss their needs and the roles of loved ones in assuring those needs are met. Important topics of discussion for families should include transitioning to long-term care, caregiver roles, financial considerations, and incapacity wishes. Once these important conversations occur, and important decisions are discussed, it is important to work with a qualified elder law attorney (preferably a Certified Elder Law Attorney such as myself) to ensure that the Incapacity Planning, including an Advance Medical Directive (including a Long-Term Care Directive), Financial Power of Attorney, and Lifestyle Care Plan are in place. Doing so is the best way to ensure that your wishes are met should you become unable to make important decisions for yourself.

About the Author: Evan Farr is a Certified Elder Law Attorney in Fairfax and Fredericksburg, and can be reached by phone at 703-691-1888 in Fairfax or 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg. If you have Elder Law questions you’d like to have answered in future columns, please send them to Mr. Farr at Virginia has no procedure for approving certifying organizations.

Exterminated Neighbor

By The Old Grouse, gag

Hey Angie, here’s a note for you. One of your approved exterminators polluted me and my home. I am trying to live an organic lifestyle free of health threatening toxic chemicals. I didn’t order an extermination. Without warning I found myself sprayed with bug spray. I didn’t know what was being performed, I wondered why I heard a blower being used and why it smoked so much. Then I got a whiff but too late I already got my lungs full and it was otherwise a nice day out. The service man was wearing covering clothes and a gas mask. I was in sun attire so I couldn’t just take clothes off to get rid of the scent. I was exposed. And the windows were open for the purpose of getting fresh air. Instead, What I got was fumigated, wife, pets and all because I was down wind and the breeze was brisk. What he was blowing drifted immediately toward me and my house. We didn’t have gas masks and protective clothing. With the consideration of a warning, we could have come in and closed the windows for twenty minutes. Better yet, half a brain would have prevented him from fogging on a windy day. I asked the guy before he left if he didn’t warn neighbors. No, like why should I. Curse the exterminator. They should warn neighbors that they are about to spray poison into their air and on them. What chemical did they spray on me? Neighbors, if you see this happening again, get the name of the company and let Lorton Valley Star know and look it up, Angie’s List may come up and you can complain to the also eventually making careless operating a criteria for approval. Complain to the company and I also complained to the County Health Department. I’d tell you the company name but I’m after the principle here. I’m already heavily exposed but perhaps we can protect other people.

ATM Skimmers Hit Northern Virginia


In recent weeks, Fairfax County Police have received reports of skimmer devices being placed on bank machines in the region. ATMs on Richmond Highway, Rolling Road, and Burke Commons Road have been targeted by criminals using these devices. What is a skimmer? It’s a device that is placed on an ATM, usually on or near the keypad or card reader, which is used to steal information. The devices come in many forms, such as pinhole cameras that sit above the keypad and secretly record the numbers you type in to access your account. Other skimmers are attached to the slot where you slide or insert your card, and can read the information off the card as you swipe it. Criminals design these devices to be difficult to spot; in some cases they look exactly like pieces of the ATM. The US Secret Service reports that criminals using ATM skimmers are responsible for causing $1 billion in losses per year. To put this in perspective, this is roughly the same amount that Fairfax County schools budgets for its payroll, so you can see this has become an incredibly lucrative and attractive method for criminals to steal money. It also holds less risk for them than conventional bank robbery; in some cases the criminals will wait for months before stealing money from a compromised account so that the crime can’t be traced back to a particular machine. This is particularly effective during the summer months, when people frequently travel and use machines in locations away from home. How can you protect yourself? When you enter your PIN on a bank machine, always cover the keypad with your hand or a piece of paper. Use machines inside the bank or in a continuously occupied area whenever possible; criminals are more likely to tamper with a machine outside or in a less-traveled area. Inspect the machine before you use it; check for unusual wires, tape, or loose parts on the machine and report them to the bank. Finally, check your account frequently for signs of fraud, and if you discover any unauthorized transactions, report them to your bank immediately. As of this writing, Fairfax County Police are still looking for the individuals who are suspected of placing skimmers on machines in the local area. They are described as white men in their thirties, with one of them carrying a pizza box. You can find pictures of the suspects at the Fairfax County Police website, If you see these individuals, call Fairfax County Police at 703-691-2131. Thanks for reading! If you have questions or comments, please send them to me at You can also follow me on Twitter, @cyberseccorner.


Evan Farr is a Certified Elder Law Attorney in Fredericksburg and Fairfax, and can be reached by phone at 540-479-1435 in Fredericksburg or 703-691-1888 in Fairfax. If you have Elder Law questions you’d like to have answered in future columns, please send them to Mr. Farr at Virginia has no procedure for approving certifying organizations. See: Print issue Ad for seminar dates.

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