Not Your Grandmother’s Long-Term Care

I always love to see major media outlets shine a light on elder care. Not long ago, “The Today Show” aired a wonderful segment about long-term care, encouraging young people to take it seriously and start learning about it now.

Carol Levine, author of Planning for Long-Term Care for Dummies, joined the hosts to talk about the changing face of long-term care in the United States.

“The newer approach to long-term care is really not your grandmother’s long-term care,” Levine explained. Today’s approach differs from the previous generations in a few key respects. Generally speaking, she says, these include:

  • A wider range of options
  • Longer time periods, as people live longer
  • Care plans that are based on what people need, not on institutions’ needs.

But some things don’t change. Long-term care is still confusing and still very expensive. “Today” cited costs that span from $40,000 to $75,000 a year —sometimes higher. Often, it’s the families that end up paying for most or all of that.

Levine’s basic advice is golden. Do your homework, she says, and begin now.

She suggested starting small. Make your parents’ homes safer, more accessible, and more fall-proof. Falls often trigger an early need for elder care.

From there, you can start to put together a financial plan that might include savings accounts, trusts, long-term care insurance, retirement funds, health insurance, and more.

Like most things in life, long-term care is a mountain best scaled one stone at a time. Starting early is the key. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or have any questions whatsoever, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and ask. I’m more than happy to help.

Posted in Caregivers, Elder Care, Long Term Care | Leave a comment

A Real-Life Neverland for the Elderly

Loma Linda, CA: Where Older People Stay Young

We’ve all read stories about places where people never grow up. They stay young, strong, healthy, and always alive. Just last month, NBC raked in millions of viewers with its new take on the venerable Peter Pan.

Neverland is as good an example as any of the enduring fantasy of living like a young person for a very long time.

But what if it were real?

“The Today Show” recently featured a little town called Loma Linda, CA on its TODAY Health website. They say the place might have found the elusive “secrets of longevity.”

Less than an hour outside of Los Angeles, Loma Linda is home to a thriving population of elderly people who seem almost unaware that they are of old age. Many of them maintain social lives and daily routines that would make a twenty-something’s head spin.

Take 90-year-old Thelma Johnson, for instance. When she’s not cruising around the world with her friends, she and her husband hit the jogging trail or the gym every single day.

She isn’t alone. Indeed, that kind of schedule is par for the course in Loma Linda.

“Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do,” Johnson said in the “Today” interview. What a way to approach old age!

Of course, Loma Linda isn’t the only bustling blip on the map for older people. National Geographic recently released its list of the five places in the world where people live the longest. Japan, Italy, Greece, and Costa Rica what is the 5th? each have one of these so-called “Blue Zones,” all of them home to incredible vitality in an ever-aging population. But Loma Linda remains the only “Blue Zone” in the U.S.

That said, there are smaller elderly communities scattered all throughout America where people are finding that old age isn’t the limitation it once was.

Loma Linda is a perfect illustration of how rapidly we’re all evolving in our understanding of what it means to “grow old” in the 21st Century.

As Peter Pan might say someday, even in older age, life is still an awfully big adventure.

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Estate Planning for People Without Children

In talking about estate plans, much of the discussion tends to focus on children. How much should they inherit and when, what kinds of trusts do they need, who should serve as guardian in the event of tragedy, etc.

What about childless couples, though? That’s a question The Wall Street Journal recently asked, and I think it’s an important point for discussion. Even for people who don’t have kids now and may never have them in the future, estate planning is too imperative to simply shrug off.

The Journal breaks it down like this. People without kids have a primary checklist with just two boxes on it:

  • Set up a distribution plan to determine who gets your property when you die.
  • Assign someone to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf should you ever become incapacitated.

That’s a rather barebones approach to nonparent estate planning, but even those two items can be trickier — and more critical — than they seem.

As an estate planning attorney, I could accomplish those two tasks for my clients by drafting a will and a healthcare directive for each spouse according to their needs, but that could still leave the door open for unintended consequences.

Without a trust, for example, assets may be subject to costly and time-consuming probate when they pass to relatives.

Whatever your approach, it’s important for childless couples to remember that even though they don’t have kids, they do have relatives, friends, and other people they care about. When they die, their assets are going to go somewhere.

Without a strategic estate plan in place, it’s possible for one whole side of the family to be shut out altogether. Often, the default statutory procedures render rather undesirable distributions. But with some careful forethought, spouses can avoid those outcomes and rest easy, knowing that their best intentions are protected.

Posted in Advance Directives, Asset Distribution, Estate Planning, Married Couples, Trusts | Leave a comment

Art Is In The Trust Of Fhe Beholder… Or Is It?

The Wall Street Journal is shining the light on a different kind of estate planner: the diehard collector.

Whether it’s comic books, baseball cards, home video libraries, music memorabilia, Disneyana, or what have you, collections can grow enormous over a lifetime. And with enormity comes value.

But as the Journal points out, the same aficionados who work so diligently to amass a dazzling collection during life often fail to make provisions for their allocation after death.

In deciding which beneficiaries to leave a collection to, and under which terms, there are a lot of things to consider: personal interest, the cost of storing and maintaining the items, the higher rates at which those gifts may be taxed, etc.

One option, of course, is to set up a trust to hold the collectibles during life or after death. Another is to gift part of the collection annually in order to reduce the total size of the taxable estate while staying within the tax-free gift-giving threshold each year.

Charitable donations are an option too, as are good old-fashioned sales. The collection can even be split up, with different portions distributed differently.

Whichever approach works best for you, you’ll need to be thorough in your paperwork and making sure you understand the tax liabilities for each decision. You’ll also likely need to have the collection itself professionally appraised so that you have an actual dollar amount to work with when making those decisions.

If you’d like to chat about the interesting things you collect and how you can best protect them for the future, feel free to give me a call. I’m happy to help.

 

Posted in Asset Distribution, Charitable Giving, Collectables, Estate Planning, Gifting | Leave a comment

How to Talk About Finances and the Future During the Holidays

Turkey, tinsel, and… taxes?

Believe it or not, holiday gatherings are widely recommended as ideal times to talk about important, future-focused concerns with your loved ones.

Sound too awkward? You’re not alone. Anxieties run high this time of year as it is, and no one wants to drag spirits down or flare tempers up by flirting with potentially sensitive subject matter.

For those of you who share these concerns, allow me to recommend an article I came across in The Wall Street Journal. “Yes, Virginia,” they write, “it’s possible to talk about family finances over the holidays and not ruin dinner.”

These are, after all, discussions you have to have eventually. Given that inevitability, it really is best to do it with everyone under one roof. And it doesn’t even have to feel like pulling teeth. On the contrary, “the talk” might leave you all feeling like a million bucks.

The Journal provides some great tips on broaching the subject, easing into it, including kids, and keeping the overall tone uplifting and light.

Consider making this holiday one to remember by having an empowering conversation that could benefit your family for decades to come.

Have the happiest of holidays, everyone!

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Wreaths Across America Looking to Honor More Veterans

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Hundreds of volunteers gathered at Arlington to place more than five thousand donated Christmas wreaths on headstones in the cemetery. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every year, Wreaths Across America (WAA) places a wreath on the grave of veterans throughout all fifty states. The organization, based in Maine, spends the whole year raising funds and rallying volunteers, culminating in a weeklong commemoration each December.

The effort first began 22 years ago, originally focused solely within Arlington National Cemetery. Now it stretches nationwide. But this year, the folks at WAA are hoping to do what they’ve never done before: place a wreath on every single veteran gravestone in Arlington.

It’s an ambitious undertaking. According to The Washington Times, the whole project would add up to nearly a quarter-million wreaths, coinciding with the 150th Anniversary of Arlington National Cemetery.

Unfortunately, their chances of success are uncertain. Currently, according to the Times, they’re projecting to fall just short of their goal unless last-minute donations spike.

Efforts are underway all around the country to push WAA over their finish lines, both in Arlington and at memorial sites around the nation, including right here in Massachusetts.

Whether the group ultimately covers every grave or even just manages to get close, the sincerity and gratitude in their efforts is incredibly touching.

It’s wonderful to see veterans honored during a time of year when their families may be hurting the most — and when many of these veterans made enormous sacrifices in spending time away from their families during the holidays.

Those interested in supporting Wreaths Across America this year can learn more or make a donation at http://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org.

Posted in Activities, News, and Updates, Veterans Benefits | Leave a comment

Preparing to Die: Why the Will Is Just the Beginning

“Prepare to die” sounds like something a super-villain says to a caped hero in a Hollywood blockbuster. Certainly, it’s not a phrase any of us want to hear today.

But all of us will pass away someday, and when we do, we’ll leave people we love behind. They’ll have a lot to take care of when that happens. Attending to an estate is a difficult thing to ask of a family when they’re grieving, but it’s something that must be done.

“Preparing for death” in the legal sense, then, isn’t nearly as sinister as it sounds. In fact — contrary to the inflection with which The Joker might say it to Batman, for example — it really is an act of compassion and care for those who’ll inherit a substantial burden after we leave.

The New York Times recently ran an article about the surprising number of tasks that must be dealt with in today’s estate plans. It’s so much more than just a will these days. Trusts, health care directives, burial instructions, powers of attorney, lists of online account passwords… the list goes on and on.

As a Winchester estate planning attorney, I think one of the ways I can be most helpful to my clients is staying up to date on all the changes and trends in end-of-life preparations.

The law in this area changes all the time, and as technology and society evolve, our estate documents must also change to reflect those developments. Otherwise, we risk ineffective or unintended results.

“Preparing to die” is an understandably uncomfortable thing. I’m here to take care of those things for my clients so they can focus on living their lives instead. If you need help or advice with your will or any other estate documents, please feel free to call my office today. We can talk about what you might need to bring your future plans up to date.

Posted in Activities, News, and Updates, Estate Administration, Estate Planning, Inheritances, Wills | Leave a comment

Picking Up Where Mom and Dad Leave Off

Forbes recently asked its readers whether they could pick up where their parents leave off. It’s an odd question, and one that a lot of children won’t have asked themselves yet.

The point Forbes is making is that parents don’t simply leave an estate behind when they die. They leave a whole life behind, too. And someone has to tend to that.

The article described a baby boomer who was vacationing overseas when she found out her elderly mother had suffered serious brain damage after a fall. Fortunately, the mother survived and recovered, but the daughter suddenly realized that she was totally unprepared to handle her mother’s affairs had something gone horribly wrong.

But Forbes isn’t talking about just an estate plan. The mother in this story already had all that — the will, the trusts, the healthcare proxy, and so on.

But what about the deed to her house? The list of bills that would need to be paid? Automatic drafts from her bank account? Keys to her property? Newspaper subscriptions? Credit cards? Community responsibilities? Documents related to a small business that a parent might own?

Your parents will leave whole lives behind when they pass. The little details can add up to a lot, and it can be a challenge to keep track of them all during the final years of a loved one’s life.

Communication is really the key when caring for an aging parent. Remember that no detail is too minor to bother with addressing now. You’ll likely be grateful that you did.

Each of my clients receives an Estate Planning Binder at the conclusion of our planning. This binder has sections that can be completed so that all the personal information someone might need is collected in one location.

Posted in Baby Boomers, Caregivers, Elder Care, Estate Planning, Seniors | Leave a comment

Accepting Extra Care Isn’t Always Easy for Seniors

“It’s a hand, not a shark.” That’s what the matronly Nora says as she extends her arm to the scared little boy Pete in Disney’s classic fantasy film, Pete’s Dragon. He really did need her help, but he was scared to take it. Support can be scary like that.

Seniors who are no longer able to completely care for themselves can have a hard time accepting outside help. I’ve known many aging parents who balk at their children’s offer to hire in-home health care or other forms of assisted living. Hands sometimes look a lot like sharks.

I recently came across an article in Forbes in which one woman explained how her ultra-stubborn mom finally acquiesced and accepted in-home senior care.

The elderly mother didn’t want the help in her own home, but she agreed that for a weeklong vacation away from family, it might not be a bad idea. As it turns out, the mother and the caregiver got along swimmingly. Maybe having someone around more frequently wasn’t such a bad thing after all, she decided.

The truth is that everybody needs a helping hand now and then, but our instincts may lead us to resist. Only you can decide what is best for your family, but I think it’s important to approach these decisions with patience and respect.

It takes a little time sometimes, but kindness and composure can produce the best resolutions.

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Veterans Affairs Looking for Many Thousands of New Hires

The past year has been a tough one for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as for the people it serves. The organization was rocked by scandal after the revelation that many veterans languished in poor health on incredibly lengthy waiting lists.

Now, the V.A. is responding.

The New York Times reports that new Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert A. McDonald wants to hire “tens of thousands of new doctors, new nurses, [and] new clinicians.” Many have blamed the waitlist scandal on the agency’s short-staffed employment numbers.

But is McDonald’s proposal practical? He himself admitted that he’s concerned about whether the V.A. can actually recruit and hire that many talented people.

Of course, a larger employee roster will not by itself solve all of the Department’s problems. Accordingly, as the Times reports, McDonald also proposed the following:

  • Flattening the V.A.’s hierarchical structure
  • Eliminating potential incentives for misrepresenting wait-time data
  • Fostering a new departmental culture in order to encourage constructive criticism and dissent
  • Taking additional steps to make it easier for veterans to access care (the details for which are reportedly forthcoming)

It is encouraging to see Veterans Affairs acting aggressively to address some very concerning problems. But as is often the case with the government, what is proposed may not translate to what is achieved. Only time will tell.

In the meantime, however, the Department’s existing policies and procedures are having a very real impact on real people — right now, today. They need our help.

If you or a loved one is concerned about veterans benefits or other V.A.-related legal issues, please feel free to contact my office today.

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