Monday, October 30, 2017


Jodi B., Paralegal
Today, I savored my cat's purr because it's magical and he smelled like autumn.
Today, I remembered to say I love you before my kids boarded the bus.
Today, I went to my daughter's award ceremony for her perfect 600 SOL score.
Today, I bought my kids a predinner snack of Cheetos Bag o' Bones. For giggles.
Today, I paused to enjoy the laughter of kids at the playground without pulling out my phone. 
Today, I hugged my kids and husband.
Today, I ate dessert first. Chocolate. Of course. 
Today, I took an extra-long hot shower because it felt good and it's been a long week. It's Tuesday. 
Today, I breathed in the breathtaking sunset before the world spun to delight another.

Today, I savored today.

And if Tomorrow becomes Today, I plan on a repeat.

Monday, October 23, 2017

National Estate Planning Awareness Week

Helena S. Mock, Esq.
In 2008, Congress designated the third week in October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week.  Over 55% of Americans do not have a proper estate plan in place, and this number increases for minorities.  Estate planning is important for adults of all ages, no matter your income level or how much you have to leave behind.  An estate plan is necessary to protect both yourself and your family in the event of illness, accident, incapacity, and death.  So, what is an “estate plan?”

An estate plan is a collection of legal documents which are created now, while you are healthy and competent, to ensure that people of your choosing are in place to make decisions and take action for you if you become incapacitated and, ultimately, at the time of your death.  A comprehensive estate plan will include the following documents:  A revocable trust and/or a will, a medical directive (also called a health care power of attorney), a durable power of attorney (sometimes referred to as a property power of attorney), a living will (optional), and a HIPAA declaration.  These documents work together to protect you during lifetime and then ensure your assets pass to whom you want, when you want, and in the way you want after your death.

Estate planning is for EVERYONE.  Not just the “older” client and not just the “wealthy” client. Young couples with children need to plan for what happens if both parents die before the children are adults.  Spouses with children from prior marriages need to plan for the protection of assets and division between the spouse and children.  Individuals with children or other beneficiaries who are disabled or who have other “special needs” must plan for protection of the assets if the beneficiary is receiving government assistance such as Medicaid or SSI. Children and grandchildren going off to college need to have at least a power of attorney, medical directive and HIPAA declaration so that if something happens, parents can step in without the need for a court guardianship.  Everyone needs some sort of estate plan in place, but that’s not the end of the story; once the plan is done, it should be regularly reviewed.

As important as establishing your estate plan is keeping your plan current.  Periodic reviews are a must to ensure your plan will work as intended when needed.  Family situations change, health situations change, assets change, and laws change.  As a result, we recommend a review every 5 years up to age 70, and thereafter every 3 years to ensure that the documents are always up to date.

One of the biggest reasons people either don’t establish an estate plan or don’t keep it current has to do with cost. The overwhelming consensus is that lawyers charge too much. No one says this about doctors because health insurance covers most of the cost of the services provided by the doctor. Without insurance, though, many people would, and in fact do, go without needed examinations, treatments, and medications because they just cost too much. But what are the consequences of these decisions?

Obviously, your health is of paramount importance, which is why most people can see the value in paying for medical services. But what value is found in paying for legal services, specifically paying for an estate plan? The value is found in the intangibles such as peace of mind, security in knowing your family will be protected, comfort in knowing that you will be taken care of by people of your own choosing, minimization of future expenses, taxes, and court costs, and relief in knowing that you have made things easier for your spouse or children to take care of things when you can’t.  As the commercials say, the value of these intangibles is “priceless.”

So, don’t be one of the over 55% of Americans going without an estate plan. If you don’t create a plan of your own, the Commonwealth of Virginia has a default plan for you, but it may not be what you want, or what your family needs.  Make it your goal to complete, or update your plan before the end of the year. You will be glad you did.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Why Mental Health Is Just as Important as Physical Health

Elizabeth D. Johnson
Administrative Assistant
As far back as I can remember, I have always been worried. Worried about where my mom was if she was late coming home, worried about what happens after we die, worried about my health, my pets, my friends – the list goes on and on. In my second year of high school, things started to change and I constantly felt that I was in a dream and that things weren’t real. I wasn’t able to go to school because, while on the way there, something about the way the clouds looked made my chest tighten and I wasn’t able to breathe. I couldn’t shower for longer than five minutes because being alone with my own thoughts was too terrifying, and I was afraid to look in the mirror because I no longer felt like myself. My mom took me to our family doctor, who couldn’t figure out why I felt this way and guessed it was vertigo or something in my ears. After some trial and error, it was suggested I see a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. At the time, I was terrified and didn’t know who else had this, if I was normal, or if I was going crazy.

Throughout my young adult life, I have learned to cope with my anxiety and panic attacks, but I still go through bad episodes. Through medication and therapy, I have started to feel less trapped inside of my own mind. What I wish I knew back then was how common this is and that one in five adults suffer from mental illness and one in five children aged 13-18 have or will have a serious mental illness. (1). Despite the fact that these illnesses can decrease a person’s quality of life, individuals living with a serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions. These conditions can be hard to treat for someone who is already struggling with a mental illness, not to mention costly. Nineteen million Americans suffer from clinical depression and anxiety disorders, so you would think that these numbers would equate to a large support base and a general understanding of mental illnesses. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, and many people don’t believe that mental illnesses are a physical disease despite the brain being a vital part of your body. People still shame others who come forward with their illness by calling them lazy or unmotivated, and say that they just need to get over it. It is important that when speaking to someone with a mental illness, you ask yourself “Would I say this if it were the flu?” (2). If someone were to wake up one day and have a panic attack, they wouldn’t be able to call out of work or get a doctor’s note, even though driving with one is dangerous and almost impossible. But if someone woke up and started to vomit or had a fever, they wouldn’t have an issue calling out or getting an easy prescription from the doctor for whatever is ailing them.

Because such a large portion of citizens suffer from depression and/or anxiety disorders, seeking treatment should be easier and less frowned upon. Some still view treatment as being personally weak; my favorite example of this is Tony Soprano, who was almost killed by his own uncle because it was discovered that he was on Prozac and seeing a therapist. Getting help for anything that hurts your body, whether physical or mental, is important. Being vocal about your illness and seeking help is brave. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-24, the third leading cause in youth, and each day an average of twenty veterans die by suicide. For those who haven’t experienced a mental illness, it is vital that you try and think of it as any other disease and not something that can be slept off or ignored. And for those who do experience it, remember that you aren’t alone and that help is out there.

Crisis Text Line:
Text “Home” to 741741
Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information via the medium people already use and trust: text
Sources Cited:

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Teenage Perspective on Aging

Jack Clemons
Son of Teresa Clemons, TPC Office Manager
As a fifteen-year-old in today’s society, I have adapted to technology more than those who are older. Things that take hours for my grandparents to figure out are second-nature to me. I am so grateful that I have four living grandparents who range from the ages of eighty-three to ninety-three. Even though this brings me happiness to know that I have my grandparents still alive, this also gives me some responsibility, knowing that I have to assist them with learning the technology of today’s world. It takes patience, but when they do get the hang of it, it makes me happy to see them succeed. For example, my grandfather is always asking me for help at his house. From the computer to the printer to the television, there are lots of things that are harder for him that come easily to me. My patience needs to kick in when I’m showing him where the HDMI cable goes and that somehow leads to a fifteen-minute story about the Vietnam War. A lot of these stories are really interesting, but others make me wonder, “Did he forget the task at hand?”

Another big task for me was when my grandmother switched from a basic flip phone to an iPhone. At first, it was like trying to teach a baby to walk. Every time she almost got the hang of it, something went wrong. From hitting the power button instead of the volume to clicking the phone app instead of email, there were so many things that made me almost tell her that she should just get a flip phone again. This stressed me out, but it also made me think: the reason that modern technology comes so easily to us teens is because it’s all we’ve been around growing up. When my grandmother was a teen, it was just as easy for her to turn the page on a book or use a typewriter. Opening a book and operating a phone may seem like completely different things, but when you associate them with their uses in the respected time periods, they both have had the same impact on the world.

Although my grandparents might not be savvy with the internet, they have had to learn lots of skills over their lifetimes which modern technology has allowed me take for granted. Instead of using a card catalog, I can quickly type whatever I’m looking for into the computer. Instead of figuring out how to get somewhere with a big, hard-to-fold map (and hoping you don’t take a wrong turn!), I can just use the maps app on my phone. Rather than get frustrated by their unawareness of the technological way to do things, I should be thankful that people of my grandparents’ and my parents’ generations were innovative enough to inspire and work toward creating the technology that I enjoy using today.