Talk to Your Family over the Holidays about Your Estate Plan

Many of us labor a lifetime to build up our assets and fight for causes that matter to us. Few things are more fulfilling than the thought of sharing wealth and legacy with our family.

Of course, it’s impossible to plan for every eventuality, but careful planning can mitigate against the two primary risks.

  1. a)    Your intentions regarding your estate weren’t made clear, resulting in the potential for costly, time-consuming conflict.
  2. b)    Your family did not understand or share your wealth management vision, resulting in the possibility of asset dissipation.

The good news is both of these issues can be prevented through honest communication with your family now. While it’s not necessarily comfortable to broach this topic, a family gathering at the holidays might be the best time to have a conversation with your children and loved ones about your estate plan. (more…)


How to “UNPLUG” from Caregiving

You’re a long-term caregiver for your parents and you are getting more than a little burned out. A friend tells you that her family is unable to use a five day beach home reservation that they’ve already paid for. They’ve offered you the package, since they don’t want it wasted, but your first instinct is to say no.

While you could ask for time off at your office job, who would care for your parents? Even if you could arrange care, how would you be able to go without being mired in guilt and mentally stuck back home?

Thanks to the caregiver “fix it” mentality, you probably won’t be able to totally avoid some concern about what is happening at home. But it may be possible that you can, with planning, take advantage of a break and come home refreshed.

While each caregiving situation is unique and the idea that you will be worry free during your trip or vacation is a bit optimistic, there are steps you can take to prepare for a good time.

Practical suggestions that you can tailor to your family’s needs:

  1. Recognize that you deserve a break. No matter how much you love your care receiver(s), the daily routine can be exhausting and mind numbing. Sometimes you just need a break from caregiving. As with any job, paid or unpaid, a rest from the daily grind rejuvenates the body, mind and spirit. Realize that your care receiver(s) will, whether or not they realize it ahead of time, reap the benefits of a happier, more rested you.
  2. Plan, plan, plan. The more you feel you’ve done all you can do to ensure a smooth transition, the more relaxed you’ll be while you are away. Call an in-home agency, preferably one recommended by friends, and set up an interview with them. If you are satisfied, make arrangements for a caregiver to go to your parent’s home for whatever time you feel is needed. If a nursing home or assisted living is part of the picture, obviously you will have to coordinate with them.
  3. Make sure they have their medications. One of the toughest parts of planning can be having prescriptions filled because insurance generally makes people wait pretty close to the cutoff time before obtaining refills. However, do everything you can to make sure that the medications needed are up to date and then arrange to have someone to mail or pick up whatever you couldn’t have filled.
  4. Stock up on staples. If you’ve been grocery shopping for your parents, you know what they need. Paper towels, toilet paper and facial tissues don’t spoil. Make sure to leave plenty around and that they know where to find such items. Special soap? Get two. Same with shampoo and other personal items. They’ll feel more secure even if your trip is short.
  5. Prepare meals ahead of time. Stock up on easy to cook food, or make meals ahead of time and freeze them for your parents. Much depends on how independent they are, but if you make everything easy, you’ll feel better about leaving them for awhile. Arrange for Meals-on-Wheels for daily meal delivery if they would like that. Have the hired caregiver keep track of needed groceries and go to the store or have them take your parents if that has been your pattern.
  6. Discuss laundry. If you do their laundry or if there are stairs to a basement laundry room that may not be safe, put laundry on the list for the hired caregiver to do. The same goes for light housekeeping and dishes. Arrange some method, paid help or other family members, to do what you would usually do.
  7. Get them an alarm. I can’t emphasize enough how helpful a personal alarm worn by your parent can be. Even if you have two parents at home, signing them up for personal alarms is a good idea. They are worn on the wrist or as a pendant. If you already have a system and you are the first responder, make sure to change that designation to someone who will be available to respond while you are away. If your parents know a neighbor fairly well, ask the neighbor if he or she can be the contact person for a short time. The first responder just needs to be able to investigate a situation. They can then tell the dispatcher for the service if 9-1-1 is needed, so the first responder doesn’t have to be strong or even able bodied.
  8. Don’t forget the outside. Arrange lawn care or snow clearing ahead of time if that service isn’t already in place.
  9. Have a way to get in touch. These days, Skype can be a good connection for computer savvy elders and traveling adult children to stay in communication. Remember, though, you are doing this to unplug. I’d suggest that, if possible, you ask the paid caregivers and the neighbor or another nearby person to only contact you in a true emergency. Alternately, if you feel you simply must talk daily—perhaps if your elder is isolated—then call or set up Skype for a specified period of time. This is something you have to work out for yourself. Additionally, you can pre-address note cards to send so your parents get mail from you. This is something I did on a rare getaway. I even mailed one card from home so that my parents had a card the day after I left. The notes made them feel like I was in contact, yet it was a small detail for me and didn’t distract from my good time.
  10. Make a list and check it as often as you need to. Does it cover everything you can think of that your loved ones may need? If so, follow the advice of counselors and support groups and mentally detach from the home situation while you are away.

Detaching may be the hardest step, but unless you do so, you aren’t really taking a vacation. Admitting that you need a break is key to helping you recognize, prevent and avoid caregiver burnout. You can’t control what will happen tomorrow. You can’t control how your parents will react to your absence. But you can control (to some degree) your worry, because that stems from your attitude.  Credit: Bursack/AgingCare


The Impact of Caregiving on Women


Women routinely serve as caregivers for spouses, parents, in-laws and friends. In fact, an estimated 66% of all caregivers are female. The value of the informal care women provide has been estimated as high as $188 billion annually. While some men serve as caregivers, women spend approximately 50% more time caregiving than men. (more…)


How you might beat the annuity actuaries…

Life insurance and annuity companies have the big buildings for a reason: They know when you’re going to die. Or do they?


Knowing when you are going to die doesn’t mean that actuaries are evil, but it does mean that they fully understand life expectancy. When you buy an annuity and structure it for a lifetime payment, you are in essence betting with the carrier that you are going to live longer than they project you to live. Regardless of how long you last, the carrier is on the hook to pay.




How We Can Use Our Longer Lives to Do Good

The experience and expertise of older people can make the world a better place

Between 1900 and 2000, the average life expectancy in the United States increased nearly 30 years. That’s one of the most remarkable public health achievements in history, and it creates an extraordinary opportunity — not just to enjoy the extra time but because of what it can mean for Americans of all ages. (more…)


How to Select An Elder Law Attorney

There are many types of attorneys, but an elder law specialist can assist with Medicaid, long-term care planning, estate planning, veterans benefits, and other special needs and government assistance planning. It may seem very easy to open a phone book or search the internet for a name of an elder law attorney. However, finding the RIGHT one that fits your needs will require some research. (more…)


Wills, Trusts & Dying Intestate: How They Differ

Most people understand that having some sort of an estate plan is, as Martha Stewart would say, a “good thing.” However, many of us don’t take the steps to get that estate plan in place because we don’t understand the nuances between wills and trusts – and dying without either.



How to Fix a Trust That Isn’t Getting Better With Age

While many wines get better with age, the same cannot be said for some irrevocable trusts.

Maybe you’re the beneficiary of trust created by your great grandfather over seventy years ago and that trust no longer makes sense. Or, maybe you created an irrevocable trust over twenty years ago and it no longer makes sense. Wine connoisseurs may ask: Is there any way to fix an irrevocable trust that has turned from a fine wine into vinegar? You may be surprised to learn that under certain circumstances the answer is yes, by “decanting” the old broken trust
into a brand new one. (more…)


Hidden Money: Overlooked Funds Could Pay for Long-Term Care

There are countless ways to finance long-term care needs. All too often, though, individuals do not pursue a comprehensive care plan early enough to cover all of their future costs. Either they are not proactive, or they plan to “self-insure” for long-term care through the lifetime accumulation of personal savings and investments. But, unless you have amassed substantial monetary resources, these costs can wipe out a person’s life savings in a relatively short amount of time. (more…)