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The Parent Trap: Part 1, Having “the Talk” 10.01.2013

It’s not uncommon for folks (I’m talking to you, men!) to become a little crankier as they age.

There are few things that make us crankier than loss of control in our lives. However, it’s inevitable that, as we age, we’re going to need more and more help navigating the issues that life brings our way. For most families, this help is going to come from family members – most often our own adult children.

Whether you are the child or the parent, it can be difficult to talk about growing old. Many adult children avoid talking with their parents about key issues because they don’t know how to broach the subject. Many elderly parents resist help from family members because a role reversal in the parent-child relationship is offensive to them.  The fact is, family members must talk about the issues related to aging, and having this important talk in a proactive manner (rather than waiting to react to a tough situation) will almost always provide the most satisfying results.

Here are a few tips that can help you have “the talk” with your family members:

–          Plan to Talk Sooner Rather Than Later: most experts agree that once a parent reaches the age of 65-70 (or a child reaches the age of 40-45), it’s time to aggressively plan for old age. Don’t wait until there’s an emergency! Get together and discuss important issues while everyone is capable and there is limited situational stress. If you’re not sure how to initiate a conversation, listen to each other and take advantage of opportunities for discussion. If a family member talks about a friend’s death, encourage a discussion about planning for your own deaths. If a parent expresses concern about taking care of a big house, be open to communicating about the possibility of down-sizing. Listen to each other, and act on what you hear.

–          Kids, Be Clear About Your Motives: if your motivation to talk with your parents is to protect your inheritance or to ensure that your parents won’t become an inconvenience to you, you’re setting yourself up for failure. However, if you are legitimately concerned about your parents’ well-being and you demonstrate compassion in the way you communicate, the outcome of your talk with your parents is more likely to be positive.

–          Parents, Trust that Your Kids Respect Your Independence: when your kids come to you to discuss your care and well-being, they (hopefully!) aren’t trying to bully you. They are simply interested in working with you to protect you from the legal, personal and financial pitfalls that are waiting to entrap you. Remember when your kids were teenagers? You created boundaries for them because you wanted what was best for them. Your kids are now in a position to do the same for you. Extend them the benefit of the doubt when they sincerely express interest in your future. If you think your kids aren’t sincere and don’t have your best interest in mind, call us at Joner Baker PLLC!

–          Get Others Involved: one way to create a comfortable environment for communication is to involve others. Invite a family friend, your lawyer or financial advisor, or any other trusted folks to your talk. Having multiple perspectives can be helpful. Having the conversation over dinner (or with a glass of wine) can make for a more relaxed atmosphere – one that is conducive to open, frank discussion.

–          Have a Plan: make an agenda for your talk. Assign certain topics to certain family members. Take good notes and develop a plan for following up on tasks that flow from the discussion. You don’t have to follow Robert’s Rules of Order, but be organized. Here are some potential topics for discussion: (1) Legal Affairs, (2) End-of-Life Desires, (3) Current and Future Housing, (4) Asset Protection and Stretching, (5) Location of Important Files, (6) Medical Care and (7) Driving.

    Remember, having “the talk” doesn’t have to be something you dread. Plan for it. Make it a special occasion. Celebrate it! If you do, it might be easier than you think.

    Coming Oct 8: The Parent Trap, Part 2: What About the Car Keys

    New Blog Series: The Parent Trap 09.24.2013

    The 1989 Academy Award-winning film, Driving Miss Daisy, contained a memorable scene in which the elderly Daisy argued with her son Boolie regarding Boolie’s desire to hire a driver for Daisy after she wrecked her car:

    Daisy Werthan: “You should have let me keep my old LaSalle. It never would’ve behaved this way and you know it.”

    Boolie Werthan: “Mama, cars don’t behave. They are behaved upon. Fact is, you demolished that Chrysler all by yourself.”

    Daisy Werthan: “Say what you want, I know the truth.”

    Boolie Werthan: “The truth is, you just cost the insurance company $2,700. You’re a terrible risk. Nobody’s gonna want to issue you a policy after this.”

    Daisy Werthan: “You’re just saying that to be hateful!”

    Boolie Werthan: “OK. I am. I’m makin’ it all up. Look out there in the driveway! Every insurance company in America is out there, waving their fountain pen, trying to get you to sign up!”

    Statistics show that Americans are living longer than ever. The average life expectancy of a male born in the United States in 1900 was 47.9 years. A male born in 2000 is expected to live to age 74.0. By 2050 that number will increase to 79.7 years. The numbers for women are similar with a life expectancy for women born in 2050 of 85.6 years!

    As our population ages, complex issues result, issues relating to among other things: investment decisions, legal authority, living arrangements, spousal loss, end-of-life decisions, protection from scams, elder abuse and, as described in Driving Miss Daisy, retaining independence.

    Are you prepared to assist your parents or loved ones as they deal with these issues? Is your elderly mom or dad prepared to have you assume a parental role in their lives as they get older? Do you have proper legal authority to act on their behalf? Like Boolie Werthan, are you ready to “take away the keys” from them?

    On October 1, Joner Baker PLLC will begin a three-month web series called The Parent Trap. Join us for this important twelve-part series and learn how you can prepare to help your parents navigate the legal, financial and emotional hurdles of growing old.

    Coming Oct 1: The Parent Trap, Part 1: Having “the Talk”

    Death and Credit Cards 01.24.2013

    An important part of settling a family member’s estate is dealing with debt – specifically credit card debt. While the family member’s estate is required to deal with such debt, sometimes a living spouse or family member can take action that could cause the living person to assume unwanted credit card debt from a deceased loved one. Here are a few things to remember when dealing with death and credit cards:

    1. Make sure you understand the consequences of being a joint cardholder – whether you are in a spousal relationship or a parent-child relationship. If you co-signed for the credit card as a joint cardholder, you will be liable for the debt associated with the card whether you accrued the debt or not.
    2. Understand the consequences of assigning credit card debt during a divorce settlement. If your ex-spouse agrees to assume responsibility for a card you shared during marriage, ensure that your name is completely off the account.
    3. Don’t act fraudulently. If someone you love dies, don’t use their credit card after their death, even if you had a Power of Attorney that allowed you to do so during their life.

    Finally, not all credit card debt has to be paid upon the death of someone you love. During the probate process, creditors of a deceased person have an obligation to validate debt and make appropriate claims against an estate if given proper notice under state probate law. Consult with an attorney if you have questions about probate law in your state.

    Don’t Put Up With It 01.17.2013

    If you work with any professional or service provider that doesn’t answer your calls, charges you too much, makes simple issues complicated, performs shoddy work or mistreats you in any way . . . STOP WORKING WITH THEM. There are plenty of exceptional professionals and service providers in your area that will treat you well, do great work and provide you the value you are seeking. Don’t just complain. Make a change. You’ll be thankful you did.

    Common Sense Reminder for 2013 01.14.2013

    Bloomberg.com contributor, Tony Schwartz, recently published an article, “Take Back Your Life in Ten Steps.” The article isn’t earth-shattering but is a good reminder to keep in mind some simple practices that could reduce your stress and increase your quality of life. Here are ten things to consider:

    1. Get sufficient sleep every night: 7 – 7.5 hours per night is better than 6 – 6.5 hours.
    2. Move more: raise your heart rate for 30 minutes at least 4x per week.
    3. Eat less, more often: focus on lean proteins.
    4. Renew more: take a break every 90 minutes or so.
    5. Invest in those you love: be fully present with someone for an hour a day.
    6. Give thanks: once a week, hand write a note of thanks.
    7. Do the most important thing first: take care of the most challening task while you have the most energy.
    8. Practice reflection: set aside 15 minutes a day to reflect on what you’ve learned.
    9. Keep learning: read!
    10. Give back: dedicate some time every week to devote yourself to a cause other than yourself.

    Resolutions are HARD to keep! 01.10.2013

    Here’s a quote from an excellent book, “Strategy and the Fat Smoker.”

    “We often (or even usually) know what we should be doing in both personal and professional life. We also know why we should be doing it and (often) how to do it. Figuring all that out is not too difficult. What is very hard is actually doing what you know to be good for you in the long-run, in spite of short-run temptation.”

    Don’t let this be another year in which your resolutions/goals fall by the wayside! Invest your energy in doing what’s good for you. Maybe Nike says it best . . . Just Do It. If you can’t do it on your own, find someone who will keep you accountable to get it done. Make this year different. Make it better.

    No more fiscal cliff . . . 01.07.2013

    We can finally stop talking about the fiscal cliff. Congress has taken action to, for the most part, make permanent the tax system that has been in effect since the end of 2010 – a tax system that actually has its roots in the Bush tax cuts of the early 2000s. Here are a couple pieces of information regarding the new system:

    Estate Tax
    The new system makes the 2012 $5.12 million exemption permanent. This means that each U.S. citizen can “give” away up to this amount tax-free during life or at death (we call this “the basic exclusion amount”). The exclusion amount is adjusted for inflation, and will likely be in the $5.25 million range for 2013. Note that there is still an unlimited exemption for transfers between spouses.

    Additionally, the new system permanently allows any widow or widower the ability to use any unused portion of their deceased spouse’s basic exclusion amount (we call this “portability”) so that a couple can give away over $10 million without any tax hit.

    Annual Gifting
    Under the new rules, each U.S. citizen can give another person $14,000 per year without it counting against the basic exclusion amount. Spouses can effectively double this annual exclusion by each making a gift of $14,000 per year.

    Those of you who were worried that we were going to fall back to a $1 million exclusion amount, rest easy. We now have some stability in our tax code and can plan accordingly.

    Bacon is good . . . 04.17.2012

    “Last night I lay in bed looking up at the stars in the sky and I thought to myself . . . where the heck is the ceiling.”
    Do you ever get so caught up in dreaming about the nature of life that you forget to focus on the mundane things that are right in front of you? It’s ok if you do . . . just don’t spend too much time dreaming. A wise woman once told me that even though variety is the spice of life, it’s monotony that brings home the bacon.

    Cars in the Park 09.30.2011

    On Saturday, August 27th, Loren Joner participated in an event called “Cars in the Park” Located on the streets in front of the Portland Art Museum. The event was put together in order to advertise the once in a lifetime “Allure of the Automobiles” theme that the museum hosted to show off 16 Old, Stylish, and Rare cars from 1930 to 1961. The cars in the park event was a way for people who lived in the Portland area to come by and park their nice cars on the streets for show in order to encourage people to come out to the museum to see not only the special show in the museum but the nice cars parked out side as well. The event was held on the Saturday of every week that the show was in the museum and each week had a theme, usually a different brand of car every week. The week that Loren helped out on was the Mopar themed week which consisted of mainly Dodge Cars ranging from the 30’s until now. The following picture are of cars brought by Portland residents and all 16 cars show cased in the museum.

    Here are the ‘Street Cars’:

    Here are the show case cars:

    9/11 Tribute 09.09.2011

    In honor of the terrible tragedy that occurred ten years ago, please check out the new memorial located at Ground Zero.

    God Bless America.