Comprehensive Planning. Lifelong Solutions.

Home Upgrades to Help Aging in Place

By Hook Law Center

Many individuals want to stay in their home through old age. Frequently, our clients are concerned that their home is a poor place to age in place because it is two-story, split-level, or simply old. Also, many are unwilling to move to a new home in order to accommodate decreased mobility due to their connection with their home or the lack of affordable options for relocation. Finally, our clients worry that any remodeling to accommodate disability would hurt their home value and result in their home appearing “clinical” like the nursing homes they are trying to avoid. Fortunately, the concept of “Universal Design” has been adopted by many contractors, architects, and designers, to create more accessible homes while maintaining stylish and appealing homes. Often such a remodel can create a better home environment for our clients and enable them to age in place.

What is Universal Design?

Universal Design incorporates subtle, but important, features that benefit disabled individuals of all ages who live in the home. Simple changes such as widened doorways and levered door handles instead of knobs create a more accessible home without detracting from the home’s aesthetics. Additionally, the positioning of cabinetry, switches, and outlets significantly affects a home’s accessibility. The goal of Universal Design is to provide a livable home for individuals in all stages of life and mobility. In addition to older individuals seeking to age in place, these design concepts benefit children and younger disabled individuals.

By using Universal Design principles, a remodeling project will provide more utility while the owner keeps the home, and, because the design is meant to be aesthetically pleasing, the marketability of the home will not be affected. In fact, the home will be marketable to buyers with young children or disabled family members who may not have considered it previously. If accessibility is created without using Universal Design or aesthetically pleasing methods, many prospective purchasers will want to reverse the renovations. Accordingly, the home will likely be less marketable when it is eventually sold.

If you are building a new home or considering remodeling your home to be more accessible, you should consider using professionals familiar with Universal Design concepts. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (“NARI”) certifies remodelers as  Universal Design Certified Professionals (“UDCP”). This certification means that the individual has at least taken a course and passed a test on Universal Design principals. Avoid using remodelers who are not familiar with Universal Design concepts, because they may not think beyond widening hallways and limiting stairs and incorporate aesthetic concerns that many remodels for accessibility simply do not address.  Universal Design is mostly felt in the details of the home such as the location of towel hooks, the types of faucets used, and choices in flooring.  While any remodeler or contractor can create a wider hallway, if they are unfamiliar with the subtle changes required to make a home truly accessible and aesthetically appealing, the result will be a slightly more functional home that may be less marketable.

If you are considering the significant step of remodeling your home for accessibility concerns, it is likely a good time to review your plan for long-term care and incapacity. Meeting with the estate planning and elder law attorneys at the Hook Law Center can help walk you through what the financial and medical changes you are experiencing mean for your retirement and estate plans.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – Bear 399

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, what can you tell us about Bear 399?

Kit Kat:  Well, this is another interesting story about a female grizzly bear in Grand Teton National Park. Bear 399, as she is known because of the number on her tracking device, is approximately 20 years old. She makes her home in the national park, and has been quite fertile during her lifetime. She has given birth to 3 sets of triplets It is thought that she has had 16 offspring, about half of which are dead due to accidents or straying off park property, and being killed by hunters. This past spring, 399 gave birth to one cub . In June, “Snowy” as the cub was known was killed by a hit-and-run- driver in the park. 399 dragged her to the side of the road, and took her into the brush.

Although one may think that 399 should choose more secluded areas to raise her cubs, there is a reason she has not done so. Given the choice of roadside areas or more hidden areas of the backcountry where male bears could prey on them, she has chosen roadside  meadows. Now even 399 may be at risk as she sometimes roans outside of park land. The Wyoming Fish and Wildlife Service in conjunction with the US Fish and Wildlife Service gave only a 30-day comment period this spring when they tried to delist grizzlies from the Endangered Species List. The Humane Society of the US (HSUS) is now suing Wyoming to re-open the comment period. No decision to date has been made. Hearings have also taken place in neighboring Idaho and Montana.

Naturalists want to keep the grizzly listed as endangered, or at a minimum, threatened. Or the bears could be delisted, if the states in the region ban trophy hunting. People advocating for protection say that, in recent years, the grizzly population has plateaued, due to the grizzly’s increasingly difficult search for food. Cutthroat trout and whitebark pine nuts, their favorite foods, are not as plentiful, and they are forced to search further and further away. It is estimated  that there are currently 700 grizzlies in the Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks, known as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. A population of 600 is desirable, so that would only allow for a reduction of 100 bears. In the early 70s, when the grizzlies were not protected, there were as few as 136. Stay tuned as naturalists face off with hunters who are advocating for the change. (Karen E. Lange, “Protect Wonderland,” All Animals, July/August 2016, p. 23-29 and All Animals, September/October 2016, p. 14)

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Distribution of This Newsletter

Hook Law Center encourages you to share this newsletter with anyone who is interested in issues pertaining to the elderly, the disabled and their advocates. The information in this newsletter may be copied and distributed, without charge and without permission, but with appropriate citation to Hook Law Center, P.C. If you are interested in a free subscription to the Hook Law Center News, then please telephone us at 757-399-7506, e-mail us at or fax us at 757-397-1267.

Posted on Friday, August 26th, 2016. Filed under Senior Law News.

Address these essential elements of retirement planning

By Hook Law Center

During your retirement years, you may expect to receive Social Security payments. A few people may also receive payments from public or private pension plans. However, it is best not to rely on such sources to provide a sufficient amount of income to ensure that you retire comfortably. Although you may receive income from both sources, it would be beneficial to have retirement income that is diversified.

Rather than depending on pension or Social Security benefits, you should be responsible for your own retirement planning. Here are some measures that you can implement so that you can have more control over your retirement:

  • If you are employed by a company that offers matching through a retirement savings plan, then it is to your advantage to participate in such a plan. Many employers currently offer retirement plans consisting of matching contributions in lieu of a pension.
  • By starting to save early, you can realize the benefits of compound interest. However, even if you begin saving late in your career, you may still be able to retire comfortably. You may have to compensate for the late start by increasing the rate at which you save, reducing your expenses, or working a few more years than you had anticipated.
  • In addition, you may need to change your lifestyle by living below your means, and establishing a budget that permits you to accumulate a savings that is intended for your investment in retirement. Every month, you will have to spend a lesser amount than that which you earn, and invest the difference.

By living below your means, you will realize your objective of applying more funds toward your retirement and choosing a lifestyle that encourages you to live on a reduced budget. This will allow you to realize your retirement goals more quickly.

  • Furthermore, it would be advantageous for you to make full use of your tax deferral options for retirement, including IRAs and retirement plans through your employers, such as 401(k)s, 457s, 403(b)s or the Thrift Savings Plan. In some instances, you can use a health savings account to help fund your retirement.

Tax-deferred accounts help you increase your retirement income more rapidly because no taxes are owed on the funds or the growth until such time as when you make withdrawals during your retirement. Moreover, delaying payment of taxes on the dividends, interest and capital gains every year permits your retirement account to grow at a faster rate. While you will likely be able to benefit from Social Security or a public pension plan, it is recommended that you not rely on either choice, but rather, take control of your retirement planning.

It would be helpful for you to consult a financial advisor who can develop a plan that will enable you to meet your retirement objectives. Some fundamental questions that you should consider are:

  • the age at which you would like to retire;
  • the number of years you wish your retirement income to last;
  • the amount of income you anticipate receiving from Social Security, pension, dividends, rental properties, and other sources.

One rule to keep in mind is that people require 70 percent to 100 percent of their income prior to retirement in order to keep the same lifestyle on a yearly basis. However, this is subject to change, depending on such factors as whether you wish to travel and whether your mortgage is paid off. You should also consider the cost of living and unforeseen expenses, such as health care. A financial advisor can assist you in confronting these issues, and establishing a workable retirement plan.

Posted on Wednesday, August 24th, 2016. Filed under Estate Planning.

Department of Defense Rolls Out a New Retirement Plan

By Shannon Laymon-Pecoraro, CELA

The Department of Defense has unveiled a new retirement plan that will go into effect on January 1, 2018. The new “blended” plan will not impact a majority of the currently enlisted members, but will present a complex financial decision for mid-career service members with less than 12 years of service.

The new plan is specifically limited to service members who “opt-in” to the new plan before January 1, 2019 provided they have less than 12 years of service prior to January 1, 2018, and any individual who enters the military once the new plan goes live. For those service members who have more than 12 years of service or do not opt-in, the traditional retirement plan will remain in effect.

Unlike the traditional retirement plan that provides a fixed pension payout for retirees who serve at least 20 years, the new plan will promote contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). Specifically, under the new plan, contributions equivalent to 1% of the annual base pay will automatically be contributed to the service member’s TSP account, and provide additional matched contributions of up to 5% of the service member’s annual base pay. In exchange, the pension payments will be reduced by 20% of the current value. Currently, the Department of Defense does not make any contribution to a service member’s TSP account.

Additional perks to the new plan include lump sum payments. Not only does the plan provide a service member with a mid-career continuity bonus, but upon retirement, a service member will receive a lump sum payment that is equal 25% or 50% of a promised pension benefit. This will then cause a reduction in the monthly pension checks until the retiree reaches age 67.

For service members who do not intend on retiring, the new plan, unlike the old “all or nothing” plan, provides an increased retirement benefit. On the other hand, it is clear that service members who are impacted by the new plan should consult with an experienced financial planner. The failure to develop a proper financial plan at the beginning of a military career could have a detrimental impact on the financial status of the service member upon retirement.

Hook Law Center works with a team of financial planners who have developed plans to maximize benefits under the new plan. Should you need any assistance in determining whether to opt-in, how to allocate your TSP portfolio, or how much you should contribute to the TSP, please contact us and we will help make a connection.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – Dog Coming to Scotland

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, what can you tell us about the little dog, Gobi, who will be coming to live in Scotland?

Kit Kat:  Well, this story you’re going to love! Dion Leonard is a distance runner from Scotland who has participated in some unique events. While he was running in the June 2016 Gobi (Desert) March, which is part of the 4 Deserts Race Series, a small dog approached him. There are 6 stages in the race adding up to a 155-mile trek. During the first day, Gobi just followed the group of runners, but on the 2nd day, she seemed to favor Leonard and stuck close to him. He is not sure of the breed, but she’s copper colored and has pointy ears, and was just a puppy at the time. To me, she looks like she’s part Akita, but that’s just my observation. Anyway, by Day 2, it was clear that Gobi had adopted Leonard. She followed him all that day through 23 miles of varying terrain, making it up to 20,000 feet to cross the Tian Shan mountain range, and finally cross into the Gobi Desert. Leonard shared some of his provisions with her, letting her feast on beef jerky and water. He says he’s not sure why she chose him out of the 101 participants in the race. ‘I didn’t do anything in particular to gain her attention. She chose me. I was the one that she was going to stick to.’

Day 3 arrived and she was still with him. At some points, he carried her, like when they crossed chest-high rivers. In all, she completed stages 2,3, and 6 with him, amounting to 105 miles. During stages 4 and 5, race staff drove her to the finish lines for that day, because of extreme heat when temperatures hovered around 125 degrees.

Leonard finished the race in 2nd place, and both he and Gobi received a medal. By that point he was hooked, and he knew he had to get her back to his home in Scotland. What he found out was that it was possible, but she would have to be quarantined and get various shots and clearances. The cost would be more than $6,500. No problem—he and his wife started an online campaign, and the money was raised. Now, they are just waiting for her to arrive, which they anticipate will be around Christmas! (…)

Upcoming Seminars

Distribution of This Newsletter

Hook Law Center encourages you to share this newsletter with anyone who is interested in issues pertaining to the elderly, the disabled and their advocates. The information in this newsletter may be copied and distributed, without charge and without permission, but with appropriate citation to Hook Law Center, P.C. If you are interested in a free subscription to the Hook Law Center News, then please telephone us at 757-399-7506, e-mail us at or fax us at 757-397-1267.

Posted on Monday, August 22nd, 2016. Filed under Estate Planning.

The Effect of Divorce on Your Estate Plan

By Hook Law Center

An unfortunate, but common, scenario: You and your spouse get divorced.  You remarry, but die shortly thereafter.  Your loved ones discover that amidst all the excitement of your divorce and remarriage, you forgot to update your estate plan.  Your will and beneficiary designations all leave everything you own to your first spouse.  What happens now?

You may be surprised to learn that in Virginia, unless otherwise provided in the divorce decree or your separation agreement, a divorce automatically revokes some provisions of your estate plan, while having no effect on others.  Here is a summary on the effect a divorce may have on each of aspect of your estate plan.


Va. Code § 64.2-412(A) provides that upon divorce or annulment, any provision in a client’s existing will in favor of a former spouse is revoked.  This includes not only provisions leaving assets to the former spouse, but also provisions conferring a general or special power of appointment or nominating the former spouse as an executor, trustee, conservator, or guardian.  If there is a remarriage between the parties, though, the provisions made for the former spouse in the will are revived.

Relying on this Code section rather than updating your will would be a mistake, however.  Why give your former spouse something else to argue about in the event of your death?  Go the extra mile and update your will following a divorce.


The Uniform Trust Code (Va. Code §§ 64.2-700 through 64.2-808) does not provide for the revocation of a trust or its provisions (including the naming of a former spouse as trustee) either upon the filing of a divorce action or upon entry or a final decree of divorce or annulment.  In other words, if your revocable trust left everything you own to your wife Mary upon your death, but you and Mary are divorced, Mary is nonetheless entitled to receive everything.

Because divorce has no effect on a trust, you must amend or revoke your trust agreement to avoid your assets passing through it to a former spouse and your former spouse serving as trustee.

Power of Attorney

Va. Code § 64.2-1608(B)(3) provides that the authority of an agent under a power of attorney terminates (1) when an action for divorce or annulment is filed, (2) upon the parties’ legal separation, or (3) by either the agent or the principal when an action for separate maintenance from the other is filed, or when the action for custody or visitation of a child in common is filed.

Due to the contentious nature of divorce, you should revoke any existing power of attorney upon your separation rather than waiting for the entry of a final divorce decree, regardless of whether the power of attorney is effective immediately or only on your incapacity, to prevent your soon-to-be former spouse from handling your affairs without your permission.  Give a copy of the document revoking the power of attorney (or your new power of attorney) to any financial institutions and third parties who are in possession of the prior power of attorney, to put them on notice that if the soon-to-be former spouse attempts to use the prior power of attorney, it is no longer valid.  A third party cannot be held liable for accepting a revoked power of attorney, if it has no knowledge that the power of attorney is no longer valid.

Advance Medical Directives

The Virginia Health Care Decisions Act (Va. Code §§ 54.1-2981 through 54.1-2993) does not provide for the automatic revocation of an advance medical directive (sometimes referred to as a “living will” or “medical power of attorney”) upon separation or divorce.  Therefore, if you become separated or divorced, you should revoke any existing advance medical directive which names your former spouse as an agent.

split heartDesignation of Individual to Make Arrangements for Disposition of Remains

Va. Code § 54.1-2825(A) gives individuals the authority to name someone who will be responsible for the “arrangements and be otherwise responsible for his funeral and the disposition of his remains, including cremation, interment, entombment, or memorialization, or some combination thereof, upon his death,” in a signed, notarized writing.  Divorce has no effect on the naming of a former spouse as the agent under this document; therefore, if you have signed a designation naming your spouse to handle these arrangements, be sure to revoke it.

Beneficiary Designations

Under current Virginia law, upon entry of a divorce decree, “any revocable beneficiary designation . . . that provides for the payment of any death benefit to the other party is revoked.  A death benefit prevented from passing to a former spouse by this section shall be as if the former spouse had predeceased the decedent” (Va. Code § 20-111.1(A)).  This includes payments from life insurance policies, annuities, retirement accounts, compensation agreements, and any other contracts which provide for the payment of benefits to a spouse at death.  This does not apply, however, if the divorce decree provides otherwise, or if the law is preempted by federal law.  For example, federal employees’ group life insurance (FEGLI) that names a former spouse as beneficiary will be paid to the former spouse regardless of whether a divorce decree has been entered.  Don’t rely on the Virginia statute providing for the revocation of a beneficiary designation upon divorce; provide for your loved ones by updating beneficiary designations to name the individual(s) you wish to inherit your assets at your death.

As you can see, divorce affects different aspects of your estate plan in different ways.  Don’t rely on Virginia’s default rules about which portions of your estate plan will be revoked automatically upon your divorce; take matters into your own hands by meeting with an estate planning attorney to make all changes necessary in the event of your separation or divorce.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – Bear in a Bucket

Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, what can you tell us about the bear who got its head stuck in a plastic cheese puff bucket?

Kit Kat: This was one lucky bear! It happened in Glenwood Springs, CO during the week of July 18. It was a 2-year old bear, and somehow he got his head stuck in a cheese puff bucket. Those tasty snacks were just too much to resist. When anyone tried to help, he would scamper off. A local Good Samaritan, Jim Hawkins, age, 66, decided to take things in his own hands. He got some heavy duty gloves and some rope and waited for the bear to show up again. Hawkins owns a bed and breakfast, and the bear walked right into the B & B’s backyard. Hawkins lassoed the bear around its middle, and a tussle ensued. The bear then ran up a tree, and Hawkins tied the rope, so the bear couldn’t move. Hawkins suffered minor scrapes on his forearms. Next, Hawkins called Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Personnel from the agency came, tranquilized the bear, and removed the bucket. They also relocated the bear to a less populated area 12 miles away.

Hawkins, a retired firefighter, was quite brave! He himself doesn’t think his gallantry was so unusual. He definitely made a calculated decision. He weighs 200 pounds, and he estimates the bear weighed about 100 pounds. He laughs off his actions with this quote, “This was a little bear with a big problem.” (…)

Upcoming Seminars

Distribution of This Newsletter

Hook Law Center encourages you to share this newsletter with anyone who is interested in issues pertaining to the elderly, the disabled and their advocates. The information in this newsletter may be copied and distributed, without charge and without permission, but with appropriate citation to Hook Law Center, P.C. If you are interested in a free subscription to the Hook Law Center News, then please telephone us at 757-399-7506, e-mail us at or fax us at 757-397-1267.

Posted on Tuesday, August 16th, 2016. Filed under Estate Planning.

How net investment income can affect tax planning

By Hook Law Center

There are two ways in which the 3.8 percent net investment income tax (NIIT) can have an impact on your estate plan. It can raise your tax on capital gains, taxable interest and other investment income, thereby lowering the amount of wealth that is accessible to your family. The tax is also especially severe toward specific trusts used in estate planning.

The NIIT is applicable to net investment income that high income people earn. It is also applicable to trusts and estates to the degree to which their adjusted gross income (AGI) is greater than the low threshold amount of $12,300 in 2015.

Investment income includes the following:

  • taxable interest;
  • dividends, both qualified and non-qualified;
  • capital gains, both short and long-term, with the exception of those used in an active trade or business;
  • rental income;
  • royalty income;
  • non-qualified annuity income;
  • income derived from passive business activities;
  • income derived from trading financial instruments or commodities.

Investment income does not include the following:

  • wages, self-employment income, or income earned from non-passive business activities;
  • tax-exempt interest, an example of which is interest on municipal bonds;
  • distributions from IRAs or specific qualified retirement plans;
  • proceeds from life insurance;
  • alimony;
  • Social Security benefits;
  • Veterans’ benefits;
  • gain on the sale of an active interest in a partnership or S corp.;
  • nontaxable gain on the sale of a principal residence.

You can lower or remove NIIT by decreasing your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) below the threshold or by reducing your NII. Here are some of the strategies you can use:

  • contributing the maximum amount to IRAs and qualified retirement plans;
  • deferring income with the use of an employer’s nonqualified deferred compensation plan;
  • transferring investments into tax-exempt municipal bonds;
  • transferring investments into growth stocks that pay few dividends or none at all;
  • “harvesting” losses through the sale of securities at a loss and the use of them to counterbalance gains;
  • Making investments in life insurance (there is an exemption from NIIT for an accumulation of cash, and proceeds are subject to an exclusion from both MAGI and NII

Be mindful of the fact that mutual funds usually make distributions of capital gains on a yearly basis, close to the end of the calendar year or, in some instances, more frequently than once a year. In order to reduce the effect of the NIIT, it is recommended that you avoid buying fund shares a short time before a fund distributes capital gains.

Upon reviewing your estate plan, it is advisable for you to speak with your attorney about how you can lower or remove your NIIT. This will require a consideration of tax, estate and financial matters.

Posted on Wednesday, August 10th, 2016. Filed under Estate Planning.

Asset Protection in Virginia: What can I do that won’t break the bank?

By Hook Law Center

umbrellasAbout a year ago (May 22, 2015), I wrote a newsletter article highlighting the possibilities of protecting your assets using a relatively new (to Virginia) device called a self-settled asset protection trust. In case you missed the article, a self-settled asset protection trust is a trust that you create well in advance of having creditor issues or sustaining potential liability for some event – be it professional malpractice, a car accident, or an accident in your home. If you are reasonable and transfer only so much of your assets to a self-settled asset protection trust that leaves you with sufficient assets in your name to satisfy your current and foreseeable creditors, you can be a beneficiary of the trust and still obtain creditor protection for the assets transferred into the trust. Creditors cannot sue to set aside the transfer to the self-settled asset protection trust after 5 years in Virginia. The advent of this new planning tool can be a boon to a family who would like to set aside a safety net or nest egg. Unfortunately, for many folks out there, the criteria that we would use to be sure that the protection would be available may be a little out of reach. Either they already have creditor issues or the cost of setting up and maintaining the asset protection trust is too high given the amount they have available to protect. What other solutions do we have to help?

For a married couple, one of the easiest forms of asset protection is to hold title to property as tenants by the entirety. Married couples can hold real and personal property (e.g., homes, and investment and bank accounts) as tenants by the entirety. When assets are held in this fashion, the creditors of one spouse cannot force the sale or partition of the asset held as tenants by the entirety. If the debtor spouse dies first, the surviving spouse takes title to the asset free of the deceased spouse’s creditors’ claims. Of course, if the surviving spouse is the debtor, then upon the death of the first spouse, the asset is available to the creditors. This protection is only available to married couples, and it does not protect the assets from the debts incurred by the spouses jointly (like a mortgage, typically).

Another option and probably one of the most overlooked ways to protect your assets is personal liability umbrella insurance. Approximately 20% of people with considerable wealth do not own one of these policies. An umbrella policy pays after your car and homeowners’ insurance has reached the limits of its coverage. In many cases, that amount may be below $500,000. In the event that a liability award is made against you in excess of the policy limits, your personal assets would be at risk. By purchasing an umbrella policy, you can protect your personal assets to a greater extent. Of course, you need to make some effort to match the amount of coverage in the umbrella policy to your assets with a little cushion to spare in the event of a verdict or settlement slightly in excess of your net worth. For instance, if your net worth is in the $1 million range, it makes sense to obtain an umbrella in the $2 million range. The truly remarkable thing about the umbrella policy is how affordable it is. Insurance for one home, two cars, and two drivers may be well under $500/year for $1 million in umbrella liability.

The attorneys at the Hook Law Center are well versed in asset protection in all its forms and are happy to talk with you about all your options.


(Substituting for Kit Kat this week)

lucie dog

Howdy- Bark again! Phew!  It’s been HOT!  My owner won’t let me play as hard outside these days– something about getting overheated.  I didn’t like what she was telling me, so I played a good old game of ‘nose soccer’ by myself and, boy oh boy, did it do me in!

If it’s too hot for your owner, it’s too hot for us pets!  And YOWSER BOWSER that hot sidewalk!  If it’s too hot for your owner to walk barefoot, imagine 4 bare (or bear??) feet!  Same goes for cars– would your owner sit in a car with the windows barely cracked in a fur coat for very long before using their opposable thumbs to hold the cell phone and dial 9-1-1??? Nope…  Pets, lets keep our owners on their toes!!!

Let’s talk hurricane preparedness for pets– Did you now that most shelters do NOT accept pets?  I know right???  How insulting!  So, if the humans in your family have to leave home and have to seek shelter someplace that we’re not welcome, here are some tips:


  • Leave a day ‘s worth of food and PLENTY of water accessible for your pet.
  • Write your cell phone (land lines may not be working) number on your pet’s collar in waterproof marker. Include area code!!
  • Got a tiny pet/tiny collar? Wrap duct tape around a portion to make a larger writing surface– who cares if it’s fashionable– it will get you found!
  • If your pet has a micro-chip, make sure it’s activated and the information on file is up-to-date. Hmm. As she was helping me write this, my human muttered something naughty!
  • Make sure the tags on your pet’s collar are current.
  • If you’re going to be traveling with your pet, do some research and find out if there are pet friendly shelters in the area, just in case.


This reminds me of a true story.  Several years ago, during one of the hurricanes, my owner looked out on the front porch and was surprised by a Great Dane cowering in the corner.  She had a current Rabies Tag, so the next morning my owner called the animal hospital on the tag, and they located the dog’s owner!  Their fence had blown down, they didn’t realize it, and the dog got out.  We may not get a lot of devastating storm damage, but something as simple as a blown-down fence can be just as bad for us pets!

Take care– take your heartworm, flea and tick treats!

BAYL (Bark At You Later)


Upcoming Seminars

Distribution of This Newsletter

Hook Law Center encourages you to share this newsletter with anyone who is interested in issues pertaining to the elderly, the disabled and their advocates. The information in this newsletter may be copied and distributed, without charge and without permission, but with appropriate citation to Hook Law Center, P.C. If you are interested in a free subscription to the Hook Law Center News, then please telephone us at 757-399-7506, e-mail us at or fax us at 757-397-1267.

Posted on Friday, August 5th, 2016. Filed under Newsletter.

Recent Court Ruling Creates Difficulty Obtaining Documents from Nursing Facilities

By Hook Law Center

Frequently, disputes with nursing homes related to resident care arise. When they do, the contracts, policies, and documents of the nursing facility become critically important. A recent Supreme Court of Virginia decision found an executor’s attempt to obtain those documents via court action to be inappropriate. This ruling affects the ability to bring an action on behalf of a loved one (or their estate), and it is important to understand for anyone who has loved ones in a nursing facility.

On July 14 in Cherrie v. Virginia Health Services, Inc., the Supreme Court of Virginia precluded an Executor’s action under the Declaratory Judgment Act compelling the production of policies and documents by a healthcare facility. The Executor’s action used rights found in Virginia administrative regulations as premise for the action. The Supreme Court of Virginia avoided construing the application of the term “residents and their designated representatives” found in the regulation and instead limited the holding to the availability of the Declaratory Judgment Act in enforcing duties of regulated parties. The method used to seek the documents was found to be improper, because administrative remedies were more appropriate than a court proceeding. Furthermore, the administrative regulations were held not to create a right to bring an action.

This decision clearly eliminates an avenue for obtaining documents from nursing facilities, but does not resolve the issue of how to obtain such documents when necessary. If the individual is in the nursing home is still alive, the nursing home resident or the resident’s designated representative can request copies of the documents. In the case of a deceased resident, it is unclear whether the nursing home has to provide those documents to the personal representative of the administrator’s estate. Given the confusion generated by this case, it is critical to obtain copies of these documents before a problem occurs at the nursing home.

In the event an incident occurs at a nursing home, it is critical to consult an attorney. The nursing facility may refuse to provide requested documents unless a party has certain documented authority. An attorney can assist in obtaining necessary documents and taking necessary action.  If no designated representative has been appointed, an attorney can assist in working around that limitation. Furthermore, an attorney can help take necessary actions against the nursing home in a timely manner. If out-of-court disputes with a nursing home drag on, then a subsequent action against the nursing home may be barred due to statutory time limitations. Seeking the counsel of an attorney can help prevent this from happening. The attorneys at Hook Law Center are available to counsel you in how best to manage you or your loved one’s relationship with their nursing home and assist in any disputes that may arise.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – Drones with Peanut Butter

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, are there really such things as drones armed with peanut butter?

Kit Kat:  I know it sounds wild, but yes, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is considering using drones to drop peanut-butter pellets in northeast Montana. The reason—the peanut-butter pellets would be food for prairie dogs who frequently are infected with plague contracted from fleas. The pellets have a vaccine against the flea-based plague. However, the ultimate goal is to help black-footed ferrets, who are currently listed as endangered. In 1987, only 18 black-footed ferrets still existed.

The favorite food source for ferrets? You guessed it—prairie dogs! Prairie dogs make up 90% of this particular type of ferret’s diet. So in a roundabout way, the drones would be actually helping ferrets! The importance of the black-footed ferret is that is also the only one native to the United States. Its food source—prairie dogs—have significantly declined in number as the West has become developed either through farming or increased human population. The pellets have been used in lab trials, but now the government wants to expand their use to 1,000 acre tracts. The only alternative to drones appear to be sending in humans on an ATV. That would be more costly and disruptive to both animals, so the drone is being developed as we speak.

The concept of using drones may be new, but airdrops from planes or helicopters have been used in the past. For example, in 2013, helicopters were used in Guam to get rid of brown tree snakes. 2,000 dead mice, injected with Acetaminophen, a common painkiller for humans, were dropped in the forests there. Acetaminophen, while helpful to humans, is poisonous to snakes. In the 1970s and 1980s, vaccine-stuffed chicken heads were dropped in Switzerland to keep foxes free of rabies. The state of Texas fights rabies to this very day by airdrops of millions of fishmeal-coated anti-rabies packets. Consumers of this bait are coyotes, foxes, and even skunks.

So, once again, technology is being used to help man solve complex problems more efficiently and quickly. Stay tuned as we await more information about this interesting and creative project! (…)

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Posted on Monday, August 1st, 2016. Filed under Senior Law News.
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Ask Kit Kat: Pet advice and wisdom as Kit Kat sees it.