What is an Estate and How Do You Protect It?

By Roz Jones

An estate typically refers to your personal property which may include but isn’t limited to: your real estate, business assets, investments, bank accounts, and personal property such as art, antiques, and jewelry. These are important assets that you worked to acquire and are part of your legacy for your family. 

Every estate is unique because people are different. Your estate will look nothing like your neighbor’s because you have different assets. Regardless, it is important to protect your estate and make certain it is safe in the event of your death. 

Protecting your estate isn’t hard, it just takes some time and effort. Once you’ve secured your assets you can rest easier knowing you are protected in the event you are incapable of managing your assets or you die. Additionally, being organized and taking the time to legally protect your assets makes it easier for your estate to be managed during probate. 

Here are some ways to protect your estate:

Get an appraisal- Assets have value but the value must be validated and proven. Appraisals are a great way to make sure your assets are valued at their maximum potential. Real estate, antiques, and other personal property can be assigned a value by an appraiser. You can include the appraisals with your will or trust information.  

Provide proof of ownership- A clean record of ownership is important. Being able to prove you are the legal owner of an asset can reduce disputes and streamline your estate. Provide bills of sale, pink slips, deeds, and other proofs of ownership with your will and trust information.   

Get a will or living trust- The ultimate way to protect your estate is through a living trust or a will. This document will include a legal record of your assets in your estate and directives for disbursement and distribution in the event of your death. 

You’ve worked hard to create a life filled with the things you love and have invested in. It’s important to protect your estate and make sure it isn’t lost to taxes or worse after you die. Take the time to organize your estate and legally protect it for your beneficiaries. An attorney will have even more ideas on how to protect your estate and can help you organize and strengthen it to serve you while you are alive and after you are gone. 

You’re Never Too Young or Too Old to Make End-of-Life Plans

By Roz Jones

“The idea is to die young as late as possible”- Ashley Montagu

Most people do not think about end-of-life planning unless they are forced to. It seems so far away when you’re young and vital and unless there is a grim reminder, it feels unnecessary. It sort of feels like something you do when you are older but each day you grow older you just don’t seem to feel old… yet.

You are never too young or too old to make end of life plans. Your planning may vary or change in depth over time, but it’s never too early or too late to talk about such things. Generally, something triggers a chat about end of life. 

  • An accident in your community
  • A loved one dies suddenly
  • Someone you know has a terminal diagnosis 

Things like this spark conversations because they are close to home. It’s a reminder – gentle or shocking – that we are not immortal. 

Here are some pro-tips for talking about end of life planning no matter what your age. 

Pro-tip: Talking with children- Children pass away. It’s an undeniable yet grim fact. Your child may have been touched directly by the passing of a friend or classmate or your child may have been given a diagnosis that could result in their death. Under the right circumstances, having a conversation about end of life plans may be right for your child. 

Ask open-ended questions that get your child thinking. You can ask about mature-themed issues in a way that is child-friendly and age-appropriate. It’s alright to ask about how your child would want to be buried or remembered during a memorial. Use this time to educate your child about the realities that everyone dies and that it is a natural part of living. 

Pro-tip: Talking with teens- Chances are greater your teen will know someone who has passed unexpectedly. Teens can be emotional about death, especially of friends their age. The developmental stage of tween and teen life can elevate emotions and intensify reactions to death. This shouldn’t diminish the importance of tackling the issue head-on. 

Be open and honest with your teen about your feelings about dying, death, and what your perspectives are. Ask for their thoughts and compare and contrast your beliefs. Seek to understand and come to conclusions about what your teen wants and how they feel about important issues like organ donation, life support, and what quality of life means to them. 

Pro-tip: Talking with adults- From your spouse or siblings to your aging parents, there is a wide range of ages in adulthood. Talking about end-of-life plans will vary based on who you are engaging and what role they play. Everyone is different and some people are more resistant to talking about end of life plans. Regardless, there are decisions that need to be made. 

Don’t blindside anyone with a talk about tough issues. Prep and plan to have a discussion. Do your best to decide what medical consents your family member agrees to and who will make decisions if they can’t. Make decisions about the types of burial or cremation they consent to and talk frankly about costs and how they will be met. 

Part of what makes talking about death scary is your attitude about it. The easier you approach the subject, the easier it is to talk about it. You are never too young to begin thinking about how you want to be supported medically and cared for when you die.   

Important Questions to Ask Before You Get Sick or Hurt

By Roz Jones

If you’re a fan of any sort of prime-time television, you’ve probably seen a drama based in a hospital. Each day people are flown or driven into emergency rooms with life-threatening issues that leave them unconscious and sometimes near death. Doctors and their support staff are making a lot of life-saving decisions with very little information. Life-saving because that’s what doctors do. Save lives no matter what it takes. 

That’s noble and thank goodness they have the skill sets to do what most people can’t – save and prolong life – thanks to their wisdom and modern technology. Watching your favorite television drama, the fictional characters draw you in with the chaos and extreme measures that surround saving lives. 

Well, many of the storylines that make up your favorite show are based, in part, on some reality. A writer sometime somewhere knew someone or read about a situation that is similar to the story being played out on the television screen. Accidents and illnesses occur every day in hospitals everywhere. People find themselves in extreme situations needing their lives saved by people they can’t communicate with. 

What would happen if you or someone you loved were injured and couldn’t communicate? Mostly, every measure to save or prolong life would be taken. This may or may not include measures that violate religious standards or might be so extreme it would freak you out. What’s more, if you are unable to speak, your family may be put in a position to make decisions for you and not every family is equipped to handle the responsibility. 

There are some important questions you should ask yourself before you get sick or hurt. It can help providers serve you better and make things easier for your family. Check these out:

Question: Who do you want to make healthcare decisions on your behalf? 

Question: Do you understand the types of treatments used to keep people alive? 

Question: What does quality of life mean to you?

Thinking about these questions can help you make important decisions about your health and your health care. There are things you can do to make sure your wishes are known in case you are in an accident or have a chronic or terminal illness.

  • Get an advance directive
  • Designate a medical decision-maker
  • Share your beliefs and intentions

These important steps will make all the difference if or when you need services from emergency or hospital staff. Take the time to decide what your stand is on your medical care and do something to protect yourself and your family.  

Protecting Yourself Legally, Financially, and Medically for the Future

By Roz Jones

Thinking about end-of-life matters generally brings to mind thoughts about funerals and final resting places. That’s certainly part of the equation but outside of sudden death, there’s probably going to be more to face before you die. Preparing for your end-of-life needs happens long before you are sick or have an accident. 

In the same way that you value having medical insurance and retirement plans, you should also value things like: 

A will or trust

Life insurance

An advance directive 

A designated medical decision-maker

Additional income sources outside of retirement

Successor guardians for dependents 

These are simply a few of the important safeguards that should be in place to protect you and your loved ones if something happens to you and you can’t care for them.

Protecting yourself legally, financially, and medically is an important step towards making sure things are in order and you benefit from your pre-planning. How? 

  • By avoiding burdening your family with making difficult decisions for you
  • By preventing your estate from going into probate
  • By securing care and comfort for an illness, accident, or hospice
  • By ensuring your children or dependents are protected and provided for if you die
  • By providing income to your family for their wellbeing
  • By making sure someone you trust manages your health care if you are injured or sick

This is not an exhaustive list of benefits that planning provides but it does give a healthy snapshot of how many things you can protect and provide by taking time to do some planning.  

You don’t have to make these decisions alone 

While these are personal and important decisions that you must ultimately make, you don’t have to make them alone. There are professionals whose job it is to help you make and solidify your decisions as well as legally bind them so you are sure to be protected if/when you need them. 

Here’s an idea of who can help: 

Generally, you can make a lot of decisions on your own but you may want some advice from a professional before making a final decision. 

Legal help: 

Will and probate attorneys

Trust attorneys

Financial help:

Retirement planners

Investment planners

Insurance agents

Medical help: 

Primary care physician 

Funeral/Burial planning professionals

These providers can help you sort through the choices available to you for your legal, financial, and medical needs. From preparing for retirement and earning and saving money to cover care and end-of-life expenses to making sure your wishes are carried out and your estate and your healthcare are managed in the way you desire. Each of these issues can be managed and coordinated with the help of a professional.

Get Comfortable Talking About Uncomfortable Things

By Roz Jones

There are things you generally don’t talk about in polite company- politics and religion top the list. Being considerate about tricky topics is a good thing. Avoiding uncomfortable things helps people feel at ease but sometimes you have to get comfortable talking about uncomfortable things. 

Talking about death, dying, and making plans might feel morbid but it is a necessary part of living. Being able to share your thoughts about things like: 

  • What sort of care you consent to in the event of an accident or injury
  • If you want to be revived or kept on life support
  • Where you want to live in the event you can’t live at home
  • Who should make medical or other decisions on your behalf if you are unable
  • Your thoughts on funeral planning and burial options
  • And more 

One of the reasons it’s so hard to talk about uncomfortable things is the feeling there is little control. The truth is, if you do not have plans in place, you’ll have very little control but if you do have plans in place, much of your care and aftercare is well within your control. All the more reason to have tough talks!  

Here are some tips for getting comfortable talking about uncomfortable things

Tip #1. Do your homework- The more you know about a subject, the less uncomfortable it is. There’s nothing you can’t learn about any subject connected to the legal, financial, and medical aspects of end-of-life care. Educate yourself and you will be well equipped to have intelligent and easier talks about the subjects. 

Tip #2. Prepare your audience- If you are going to have an uncomfortable discussion, prepare your family or friends beforehand. Don’t blindside someone with a tough talk they may not be emotionally ready for. Instead, give them time to get ready and be mentally prepared to absorb what you need to share. 

Tip #3. Practice- The more often you talk about uncomfortable things, the easier it will be. Start with professionals like clergy, medical staff, or attorneys before chatting with family or friends. Practicing your conversation will help you find the best words to use as well as become more comfortable speaking them. 

Some conversations are going to be tough no matter what. Being able to speak about uncomfortable things more comfortably helps those who depend on you feel safer and more prepared to help when the time comes. Get comfortable by doing your homework, prepping your audience, and practicing your conversation beforehand. 

End-of-Life Planning – Why Does It Matter?

By Roz Jones

Thinking of end-of-life matters can feel uncomfortable and cause some anxiety. It isn’t common to think about the end of life when it seems so far off. Planning for retirement might feel more comfortable because the thought of spending time doing the things you love – rather than working towards retiring – is exciting and rewarding after a long career; however, it’s just as important to think about and plan for the inevitable winding down of life. 

There’s no easy way to think about death or even an illness or accident. It’s much easier to think about being vital and healthy. Focusing on health is important. Doing the things you can to stay healthy – like eating right, exercising, and keeping a healthy mindset – is sure to help keep you fit and focused on a great life. Not thinking about end-of-life matters won’t make the inevitable any easier or make it go away. One thing we all have in common is we are going to pass away – we just don’t know when or how. It’s life’s biggest personal mystery. 

End-of-life planning matters because there are many things you can do to make things easier for yourself and your family. There are steps you can take to be ready if/when you face an accident, an illness, or your life ends. Many people are afraid to “tempt fate” or “bring about what you think about.” These are immature ways of looking at a very mature subject. 

End-of-life planning isn’t just about your funeral. It’s about important aspects of living such as: 

  • Protecting your assets
  • Having important medical documents if you are unable to communicate
  • Having income for retirement, illness, or long-term care
  • Communicating your wishes with others

And

  • Pre-need funeral planning 

It might feel strange thinking about or taking action regarding end-of-life matters but, like anything else, the more you engage in the tasks, the easier and more natural they will feel. Before you know it, speaking to professionals about your needs and sharing the information with your family will feel a lot less odd and a lot more responsible – something to be proud of. 

Don’t let the fear of the unknown and the morbid aspects of end of life planning scare you. Be brave and do what it takes to plan ahead so you and your family are prepared and ready when your start to face end-of-life issues. 

Caregiving Tips for Baby Boomers

5 Tips for Decreasing the Cost of Caring for Elderly Parents

Roz Jones

Over 30 million Baby Boomers provide countless hours of assistance to elderly parents at no charge. It is estimated that, using average hourly wages, the total amount of this uncompensated care is comparable to the entire Medicare budget. For the estimated 7 million Boomers who provide long distance care, actual out of pocket expenses amount to almost $5,000 per month. For caregivers who have, or are considering leaving the workforce to care for an ailing parent, the costs are even greater over $650,000 in forfeited salaries, benefits and pensions.

This stark economic reality shows only one dimension of the price caregivers pay for this act of love.

Caregivers pay with losses that extend well beyond their bank accounts. They often forego the activities that bring joy and richness to their lives, like meeting friends for dinner, or going out to the movies or taking family vacations. They pay with their time, the loss of professional opportunities and the erosion of personal relationships that result in isolation.

Sometimes, otherwise healthy loved ones need a short dose of care as they recover from an acute medical episode like a broken leg. Usually loved ones are on a path of steady decline with cascading assistance needs. Some caregivers sacrifice large chunks of their own lives as they help their parents and other family members and friends peacefully make their transitions. Caregivers can pay with their own health and well-being. In fact, we have evidence that some caregivers pay for their acts of care with their very lives.

You can decrease the personal and economic costs of caregiving. This means proactive planning rather than reactive responding. Planning saves money. You know this as you reflect upon your experiences of going to the grocery store with and without a shopping list. Planning also minimizes personal wear and tear and decreases stress. You will feel much better when you know your options and develop back-up plans before you jump into a challenging project.

5 Tips to Decrease the Cost of Caregiving:

1. Begin the conversation today. We have tremendous cultural resistance to the recognition of aging, disability and death. Just as the first few steps uphill are the hardest, so, too, you may meet the greatest resistance simply starting the conversation about their possible need for care. Say today, Mom and Dad, it would be great if you lived forever, but the discovery for the fountain of youth is nowhere on the horizon. What thoughts and plans do you have about enjoying your golden years?

2. Create a plan. Talk with your parents about their ideal plan if they are no longer able to care for themselves. Then, start to work toward that proactively. Investigate long-term care insurance. Draw up the appropriate legal documents. Find out who would make medical choices if they were not able to make them on their own, along with some guiding principles for the choices. You can anticipate and limit parental resistance by saying, Mom and Dad, I just got back from the lawyers office signing my will and durable medical power of attorney. I’ve asked Mitch to make my medical choices if I cannot make them myself. Just so you know, if I were in vegetative state, I wouldn’t want to be maintained on a machine. You probably already planned ahead too, right?

3. Use personal and community resources. Make caregiving a family job to which each member contributes. Even children can make grandmas life special with drawings and phone calls. Identify services that make your job as a caregiver easier. If you and your parents live in the same community, check with friends and neighbors and local organizations to learn about services and resources that will make your job easier. You say, Mom has just moved in with us, and she wants to find a card game with the girls. Do you know of any senior centers that have social events? How about transportation?

Were a mobile society and millions of caregivers live more than an hour away from their parents? Executive William Gillis learned from his own personal experience how challenging it is to identify community resources from afar. As he was carving the path that ultimately led his on-line portfolio management service, he became the caregiver for his father. Talk about mixed emotions! Professionally, he was introducing a service that let millions manage their investments with one click of a computer mouse. Personally, he was investing untold hours just to find one bit of information to help his dad.

As with so many innovators, he used his personal and professional experience to launch Parent Care, a service that he wished would have made his life as a caregiver-at-a-distance easier.

4. Gather cost-savings tips. This might mean something as simple as ordering generic medication or regularly inquiring about senior discounts. But, most cost savings opportunities aren’t as obvious. Mr. Gillis found, for example, that some states will pay for phones for hearing, visually or mobility limited seniors or fund home safety improvements. He said, we’ve invested heavily to locate time and money saving resources that most would have difficulty finding. I made it a personal mission to help other caregivers avoid some of the costs and frustration I encountered. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Tap into the resources others have collected.

5. Take care of yourself. You will be able to provide the best care as a caregiver when you’re at your best. Get good nutrition, enough sleep and regular exercise. Manage your stress and do a little something every day to nurture your soul. Understand that you are at increased risk for anxiety, depression, and weakening your immune system. Talk to your doctor if you see worrisome signs such as problems sleeping, changes in appetite or loss of interest in activities you enjoy.

Despite the costs, most caregivers say that they received much more than they gave. Most say they would do it again, and many do.

Sometimes the question is not the personal cost of caregiving; it’s the value that you bring to the lives of others that matter at the end. What personal cost are you willing to pay for the privilege of helping those who welcomed you into the world to enjoy their golden years and travel the road of illness with love and dignity?