family

How to Prepare Your Heirs to Receive, Protect and Grow Their Inheritance

When we think of vast family wealth, most of us know the name Cornelius Vanderbilt, the railroad and shipping scion of one of the richest families in America in the 19th century. When he died in 1877, he left a fortune of $100 million — more than the U.S. Treasury held at the time.

That massive fortune — which would be more than $200 billion in today’s dollars — has been gone for over 40 years. It did not survive past three generations, primarily due to mismanagement of successive generations of heirs.

This Forbes article looked at ways to prepare heirs for an inheritance, with an emphasis on protecting and growing that inheritance. Here are some tips:

Share Your Vision

Conduct a family roundtable where the heads of the family come together with everyone and share their hopes and dreams for the family, as well as how they plan to reach their goals for the future. The idea is to start an open multi-generational dialogue.

Tell Your Story

To help younger generations understand the importance of protecting and growing inherited wealth, it helps if they first understand the values and visions of their predecessors. Sharing family memories, experiences and life lessons from older generations is a  key component to ensuring the family story continues on. 

Record Your Story

Your lasting legacy should be much more than just money; it should also be about those valuable intangibles that make your family unique, told through your insights, values and experience. We do this through our legacy planning process, helping you capture and pass on your own story and your aspirations for your loved ones through a special recording we produce for each of our clients.

Gather Together

Annual family retreats or gatherings around holidays also help solidify family values and nurture common goals. Consider holding an annual retreat where multiple generations can gather to make plans for the future and renew family harmony.

Khan Academy Reinforces Critical Education Skills - for Free!

The quality of the education a child receives through public or private school systems can vary greatly. The end product is a function of many variables, including teachers, administrators, parents, and of course, the children themselves.
 
In a school setting, the teacher-to-student ratio can have an enormous impact on how well any given child progresses in her academic pursuits. Tutoring is often the fallback option for parents with children struggling to keep up in class, but that’s not always affordable for everyone.. So what else can be done?
 
The Khan Academy; that’s what. The Khan Academy is a free, non-profit, online educational resource with the mission to “provide a world-class education for anyone, anywhere.” A lofty goal to be sure, but what it easily does provide is readily available online help to students, parents, and even teachers.
 
The Academy offers video-based tutorials coupled with machine-graded assessments and comment threads. This allows students to select a subject, watch the video, and take a test to see what they learned. The comment thread allows students to make observations or clarifications that are helpful to other users. Subjects mirror the traditional fields of study in the school systems and can even be set up for Spanish-, French-, and Portuguese-speaking students. It also has components which help students prepare for college entrance exams.
 
Parents can use the Academy in several ways depending on their particular situation. If they have a child who is self-motivated, it may be as simple as pointing her in the Academy’s direction. If not, then a parent may approach the Academy as a student - to brush up on a particular subject matter - in order to directly help the child. The Academy also has a feature that allows a parent or others to participate as the coach of an enrolled student. This allows the child to navigate the courses independently, with the coach following along, monitoring progress, and stepping in with additional help as necessary.
 
The Khan Academy is a great resource to meet the remedial or supplementary educational needs of students (and parents). There are far too many able children who get left behind scholastically in today’s world. But that doesn’t have to be the case with your children. There are many resources available for parents, like the Khan Academy, and they are getting easier to access all the time.

Can Family Caregiving Change Your Reputation (and Self-Perception) For the Better?

Are you the unappreciated black sheep in your family? Have you wished you could redeem your reputation and at the same time shift your own perception of yourself?

Consider taking on the role of family caregiver for an elderly parent, a niece or nephew, or even having a baby of your own.
 
One AARP commentator suggests that family caregiving may be a way for a child to recover from a negative image in the eyes of his or her family. In his article “How a Black Sheep Can Become a White Knight,” clinical psychologist Barry J. Jacobs describes how a child on the “outs” with her family made inroads by caregiving for her parent.
 
Jacobs suggests that caregiving may be the perfect time for caregivers to “seek to change their family reputations.” He describes, for example, a workaholic who cares for his disabled wife as well as a one-time rebellious teen who reconnects with her parents through caregiving.
 
Jacobs gives three tips for you, if you want to try to recover your image or reputation within your family:

  • Consistency is the key. Jacobs suggests that building dependability is important because family members will be on guard for errors, if you have not appeared reliable in the past.
     

  • Say you’re sorry and make amends. Even if you previously apologized for wrongs done, when you are taking care of a family member, your words may be better received and making amends, means not just saying you are sorry, but taking full responsibility, stating what you learned and showing how you are making it right.
     

  • Provide genuine loving care. Jacobs says that the primary purpose of taking care of someone you love is to reflect your values and not to gain recognition. You may need support here because caregiving is often a thankless role. Look for caregiver support groups in our area. Or contact us for referrals.

Permission To Love Your Children

This is your letter of permission to go ahead and simply love your children.
 
Put down those expectations that are ingrained in someone else’s idea of what it means to be successful in the world and stare a few moments longer into the precious eyes of the child who stands before you.

Instead of asking how their day was, inquire about what lights their passion, what made them smile today, and what was one place they would like a do over.

Institute a random dance party in the middle of the grocery store in the second before a meltdown threatens to take you all to a place you’d rather not visit. It’s okay if everyone turns and looks at you cause you’re making memories and we could all use more of the happy sort in this lifetime.

Say I love you over and over again not just in words but in the foods you put before them at dinner time or the extra marshmallow on the hot chocolate.

Listen more and talk less with the sort of full attention you pay to the most important conversations you have because they are just that the most important moments of truly getting to know who your child is out there in the world.

Touch more in cuddles and tickles and wrestling matches. Especially the bigger ones who are making their way farther out in the world so they can always remember your arms are a safe haven.

Undo the places where you were done wrong by, so you don’t accidentally pass them along to the most precious person you’ve had the honor to know in this world.

Laugh from the bottom of your belly side by side on the couch watching the movie you swore had no value but your child was dying to see. Hold in the breath that longs to pull it apart and choose instead to see it through the eyes of wonder that are your child’s.

Yes, each day, find one, just one simple way to love more, that being that is your child. It’s life’s most precious work. I promise.

How to Continue Your Family Values for Generations

Most of us want to make a mark in the world. That’s a big part of what gives our lives meaning. And whether or not we have children, our history and stories can be a unique and irreplaceable gift to our families. With just a little effort, we can preserve our family values for generations to come.
 
It can be difficult to pass on our traditions and our values, however, especially when we feel no one is listening. Too often, by the time younger generations care about life lessons and stories, the older generations are gone or their memories have faded.
 
In the “old days,” life’s lessons were passed along orally or by hand. But writing things down takes substantial time and effort, and let’s face it, not all of us have the patience or the penmanship for it.
 
But today, video technology makes preserving our family values easier than ever. Using a camera, computer webcam, or even your cellular phone, you can preserve your values and stories for your family. All you need to do is list what you’d like to talk about, then get the camera (or microphone) rolling. Here are some things you can talk about:

  • Generations that came before you;

  • Your childhood and immediate family;

  • Funny stories about you and other family members;

  • Family traditions;

  • Family values; and

  • Lessons you have learned about yourself and the world.

Work-Life Balance: A Personal Perspective

Pick up the latest copy of just about any business magazine, and you’re likely to find at least one article on work-life balance. Employers all over the country are talking about how to retain employees, particularly millennials, by enhancing work-life balance. But the conversation really can’t stop or start with employers.  It must start with you.
 
For the next two weeks, use a tracking calendar to track all of your waking time. It’s easy to do this using a google calendar that you set up specifically for identifying what you spend each hour of your day doing.
 
Then, at the end of the week, identify how much time you spent on self care, how much time you spent on family, and how much time you spent working. 

You’ll quickly be able to see where you might be out of balance.

While it may be counter-intuitive, investing in your self care first, family second and work third, is the equation that will keep you happier at home and at work, which ultimately translates to a more positive bottom line for you and your employer.

If you are out of balance, first and foremost, take personal responsibility by using a time blocking calendar to block time each week for self care.
 
This may mean putting time on your calendar for exercise, medical and dental appointments, pampering, and play.
 
Block this time and keep it as sacred as you would a meeting with your boss, or one of your co-workers or clients.
 
Then, block time for family activities. And notice what you have left over for work.

If you find that you cannot realistically complete your work in the time you have left over, consider having an honest and direct conversation with your boss (or yourself, if you are the boss), about how you can get more support.
 
Knowing what you want and asking for it are the first steps to taking personal control of your circumstances and creating the life you want, and it gives your employer the opportunity to have you doing your best work and retain you as a team member they want for the long-term.
 
How does this tie into estate planning for your family?
 
Proactively planning for death is one of the best ways we can come into alignment during life. We support you to make the most of your life by guiding you to face the reality of death through our estate planning process.
 
Your real wealth is not just your financial wealth, but includes your most valuable non-renewable resources, time, energy and attention. Through our planning process, we can help you reclaim what really matters.

Writing Your Life Story

How often do you wish you knew more about your family? When we’re young, we don’t necessarily pay attention to the stories our elders tell us. Later in life, we often become interested in knowing who and where we come from.

We want to learn more about what makes us who we are, and we may even become interested in genealogy. Unfortunately, for many people, the resources that were there when we were younger have become faded memories and the people who could fill us in have already passed on.

A new idea by the website FamilySearch makes recording memories easier than ever for younger generations.

A common life lesson is to take large tasks and break them into smaller parts to make them achievable. FamilySearch has taken the task of writing your life story and broken it into 52 discrete parts that you can do once a week for one year. When you’re finished, you’ll have captured the memories your loved ones will value and created a true legacy for your family.

The questions posed on this website will allow you to catalog many things about yourself, such as the following:

  • The basics about you, such as your full name, how you got your name, where you were born, and where you grew up;

  • Information about your immediate and extended family, including memories of your parents and the work they did;

  • Important genetic information that could be helpful to your descendants, such as unusual genetic traits and medical conditions that run in your family;

  • Information about family traditions and how you spend your holidays;

  • Your memories about your schools and your friends;

  • Information that you have learned about yourself and the world, such as your greatest strengths and challenges, as well as your life philosophies; and

  • Funny stories you remember, such as fads while you were growing up and tales about pets.

You can even add pictures. FamilySearch makes it easy to store your life story online, so your family can access it easily.

We believe capturing your values, insights, stories and experiences is so important, in fact, that we incorporate Family Wealth Passages into our estate planning process through a “Family Wealth Legacy Interview” with every plan.

Even Celebrities Like Queen Latifah Act as Caregivers for Their Aging Parents

We may not think about it often, but even celebrities take care of their aging parents. Actress, singer, and songwriter Queen Latifah plays an active role in caring for her mother, Rita Owens, who was diagnosed with heart failure more than 10 years ago.

Owens learned of her condition when she passed out at work one day. She moved from New Jersey to California to recover and be close to her daughter. There, Queen Latifah cared for her mom and acted as a coordinator for a network of healthcare providers, family, and friends.

After her recovery, Owens was able to return to her home in New Jersey. Now, the two are working with the American Heart Association to raise awareness of heart failure.

Queen Latifah’s story is far from unique, and can help you remember that if you are a caregiver of an elderly or sick parent, you are not alone. And there are resources available to support you.

AARP reports of a study that found more discontent in relationships between U.S. elderly parents and their adult caregivers than in five other countries. In the U.S., 20% of the relationships were rated as disharmonious. In the five other countries surveyed—England, Germany, Israel, Norway, and Spain—less than 10% were similarly ranked. Here in the US, it is sadly “normal” for caregivers of elderly or sick parents to feel frustrated, unappreciated, and resentful. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. With advance planning, strong communication, and family coordination, the potential for a disharmonious relationship can be greatly reduced. 

Signing Up for Medicare: The Facts For You or Your Parents Nearing Age 65

People who are nearing the age of 65 should be making plans for the transition from private health care to Medicare. It is not a simple process or one that happens automatically. You have to initiate the enrollment process at a specific time or suffer a monetary penalty.

It is important to understand that applying for Social Security benefits and enrolling in Medicare are two totally different things. Don't confuse your eligible age for Social Security with the eligible age for Medicare. For Medicare, it is 65; there are no variations based on your date of birth.

Can I Sign Up Whenever I Want?

If you are turning 65 and are not covered under a health insurance plan through your employer or your spouse's, you must enroll in Medicare during an initial enrollment period (IEP) that applies just to you. The period runs for a seven-month span beginning and ending on either side of your 65th birthday. The fourth month of the period is the month in which you turn 65. That is how you establish your window of opportunity.
If you passed the age of 65 while covered under a plan through your or your spouse's employment, you have a special enrollment period (SEP). The SEP covers any time before the employment ends, and for eight months thereafter. A word of caution here: employers with less than 20 workers may require employees turning 65 to enroll in Medicare and have the employer plan serve only as a backup insurer.

What If I Missed The Deadline?

If you failed to enroll during your initial or special period, you must enroll in a general enrollment period (GEP) which is in effect from January 1 to March 31 of each year. In such a case, you will be charged a penalty of 10 percent of the premiums for each full 12-month period after the end of your IEP and the beginning of the GEP.
The good news for some who enroll during a GEP is that they may not have to pay any premiums for Medicare Part A coverage, so there is no penalty to be assessed. If you have contributed Medicare tax while employed for 40 quarters (10 years), you have enough credit to get Part A coverage for free. Part A covers hospital and skilled nursing facility charges. Part B, which covers doctor's services, outpatient services and medical equipment, always comes with a premium, and an enrollment penalty will be assessed as long as you are in the plan.
 
While the process can be complicated, these are some of the more important facts people need to know about Medicare enrollment. There are still other factors that may apply to individuals, especially anyone who is disabled and receiving Medicare benefits prior to age 65. As such, contacting the Social Security Administration (or if you need more help, contacting us) well before your 65th birthday is the smart thing to do.

Life Is Multifaceted: Teach a Child to Be Open and Embrace Complexities

When you picture a “normal” family, what do you see? Is it the traditional notion of one male parent and one female parent, two kids, and a family pet? Or do you see something different? Or perhaps you reject the notion of a “normal” family altogether?
 
Recent court and legislative activity have opened the institution of marriage to same-gender couples. Regardless of your political position or whether you think this is a wise move, it is happening. Today 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 are being raised by single mothers without a father in the picture at all. And nearly 30% of all families today are single parent families. 5% of children aren’t living with a “traditional” parent at all, but with grandparents or other family members.
 
Simply put, mainstream society is changing in our country.
 
Sometimes, with affluence comes reinforcement of our personal norms. We often attend institutions – like churches and schools, for example—where most everyone else looks and thinks like we do.
 
While we may feel most comfortable in these arenas, we need to push the boundaries with our kids for their sake. Regardless of our politics, visible American culture is changing. We cannot expect voluntary segregation of our society—by race, socioeconomic status, or any other factor—to continue.
 
So how can we help our kids be open to cultural and familial differences and to embrace the complexities therein?
 
Children are best prepared through modeling and practice. This is the true inheritance we leave behind.

Be cognizant of the cultural norms you promote without saying a word, through your choice of neighborhoods, entertainment, institutions, and even the company you keep. It is critical that American children remain open to differences and complexities, to enable them to work and play with those who may be different from them as our society moves forward to keep in step with the ever evolving nature of our world.
 
Ultimately, estate planning isn’t just about passing on your money. We call it Family Wealth Planning because it’s about passing on your whole family wealth, which includes your values, insights, stories and experience, most of which is passed on without awareness. When you can bring awareness to this planning, beyond just the financial pieces, you are giving your children a true gift that doesn’t just last a lifetime, but many generations.
 
Parents experiencing our Family Wealth Planning process repeatedly tell us that the process itself guides you to see many of the parts of true inheritance that you are likely overlooking, and the process itself has them feel better about themselves as parents as well as adult children of their own parents.

Singer Kelly Clarkson Starts Blended Family: What She Needs to Consider

Starting a new family is always exciting and even a tad scary. This natural apprehension can be enhanced when a couple creates a blended family. Bringing children from different parents together presents challenges - and those challenges are multiplied when the couple have new children of their own.
Former American Idol star Kelly Clarkson recently added a new baby to her family. Kelly and her husband, Brandon Blackstock, have been married a little over three years. Kelly and Brandon already had a little girl together and Brandon brought two children into the marriage. So the new baby, Remy, brings the couple’s children to four.

The big risk of conflict for Kelly, Brandon and their children is that if Brandon dies before Kelly and specific and clear provisions are not made for Brandon’s children from his prior marriage, significant conflict could result between Kelly and her step-children that is totally avoidable with advance planning now.

Merging two families into one presents financial issues which can cause significant disruption later if a couple does not deal with them early on.

Three significant issues include: differing opinions on prenuptial agreements, different financial goals, and different ideas about how assets should be handled after death. While these are not insurmountable problems, dealing with them upfront can prevent grief and hard feelings later.

A well-drafted prenuptial agreement can prevent later misunderstandings. Some people are concerned that asking for a prenuptial agreement shows they lack confidence in the marriage right out of the box. In truth, however, a prenuptial agreement actually protects both parties and the relationship by surfacing hard issues while there is significant love in the field. 

This is particularly important in blended families, where the partners may have different expectations of how assets will be split if the marriage ends or when one of the partners dies. With skilled counsel (who actually knows how to counsel not just lawyer), the prenuptial agreement conversation can actually create more closeness.

Newly married couples may also have differences of opinion about budgets and financial goals. These issues are generally magnified in blended family situations. One or both partners may have accumulated assets or debts before their marriage, so it is critical that both consider and discuss their full financial picture including assets, debts, cash flow, budgets, and goals.

It is especially important that partners in blended families talk about what they want to happen with their assets when they die. Working with a Personal Family Lawyer specifically trained in counseling blended families will help the couple clarify and document their goals so there is not a fight between the survivor’s children and the survivor of the partnership after the death of the first to die.

Solid estate planning is always important, but it is even more so in blended families.  

Parenting: Build Your Child’s Resilience to Support Their Ultimate Success

If you are like most parents, your primary objective is to support your children to be prepared to   handle the pressures of adulthood.  If you have wondered what the most important thing you can do to support your child now, this article has your answers and it may not be what you think.   If there is one human trait which helps to navigate all of life’s stages, it is resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back, move forward, and learn from negativity and setbacks in life. As a parent, the greatest gift you can give your child is the gift of learning how to make mistakes, learn from them, and grow as a result.

How you do this may be surprising. The foundation for developing resilience in your child is threefold: 1) to develop resilience in your own life; 2) to allow your child the freedom to make mistakes, the security to learn from those mistakes and the opportunity to move forward after those mistakes; and 3) to let your children see you make mistakes and role model resilience for them with vulnerable power. 

You want to strike a balance between open communication with your children, sharing your mistakes and lessons, and shielding them from information that may create unnecessary insecurity.

Here’s an example of what I mean: imagine that you face a situation at work that creates adversity for you. You could come home and complain about your coworkers, your boss or your team, or you could take full responsibility for where you might be creating a stressful situation and share with your child what you are going to do to face the challenge head on and make it better.  And, wherever you notice that you could have done better, or made a mistake, tell your child about it and what you learned as a result.

And, when your child makes a mistake, celebrate the opportunity to learn, rather than reinforcing the “wrongness” of the experience. Remember, some of the most successful people on the planet failed first. What made them an ultimate success? They had the resilience and support to recognize that failure was simply part of the journey and to keep going.

So how does estate planning fit into developing resilience in your children? First and foremost, resilience comes when your children know that no matter what happens, you love and accept them and will always be there for them. It is having that deep knowing that creates the security that allows your children to take the risks that others can’t or won’t. That’s the ultimate foundation of true life success.

When you’ve handled your estate planning and talked with your kids about what you’ve set up (when they are old enough, we’ll invite them in for a family meeting to explain your plan and why you have made the decisions you did), they get the clear message that you’ve done everything possible to be there for them, even if you cannot be there physically.

And by including them in the process, when they are old enough, they began to see that you trust them, that you are working with them to design a future that is positive for your whole family and that you trust and respect their input.

If you don’t feel that your kids are trustworthy enough to be included in your estate planning process, let’s have a conversation about where you can get the support to heal the core generational wounds being perpetuated throughout your family line and how we can support you in resolving them now. 

Donate Empty Pill Bottles to Help Others

When we pick up our prescriptions, we take the containers for granted. By contrast, in many countries medical care is very difficult to come by. It is expensive, and not many qualified medical providers work in impoverished communities.

In developing countries, medicines when actually obtainable are often dispensed into hands, pockets, leaves or any other available container.

Charitable organizations have started collection efforts to help those less fortunate than us. One example is the Malawi Project.  The goal of the project was to provide clean, used pill bottles for reuse in Malawi, Africa. The method was simple: Collect your used pill bottles, remove the labels fully, then send them to the project’s headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana. The program ceased operation at the end of 2015, but M25m continues its collection of this typically disposable resource, giving new purpose to something many of us take for granted.

Animal shelters and boarding kennels often also need prescription bottles to facilitate caring for animals. These organizations often lack adequate resources to purchase bottles for medication distribution.
You may also want to check with local governmental organizations for information about how to recycle bottles in your community. For example, Pinellas County, Florida publishes a resource with ideas about how to benefit others through donating pill bottles. Here are a few examples in that community:

  • Stray animal shelters;

  • The local Society for the Protection of Animals;

  • A local grocery store; and

  • A local church.

 While it may seem inconceivable that something as small as a pill bottle is worth much, its value as a basic medical resource can make a significant difference to people and animals in our country and all over the world.

We look at estate planning as more than simply passing on your money to the next generation; instead it’s a whole lifestyle shift to looking at how you can do the most good in the world while you are living and leave the world better off after you are gone.

If you are a parent of young children, getting your little one’s involved in efforts such as these early in life teach them what you value and how even small contributions can have big impact. Passing on your values begins with conscious choices made on a daily basis and estate planning is one of the best ways we know of to consciously plan for a life that truly matters.

Five Valuable Traits a Child Can Learn from Working Parents

Responsibility

Being consistently employed and engaged in our work demonstrates an essential life skill to our children: responsibility. Duty and responsibility are implicated in every aspect of human life, from work and family to spirituality and community. Responsibility’s sister traits include punctuality and perseverance, both of which are transferable to all areas of our children’s future lives.

Loyalty

Living successfully and happily requires loyalty and commitment. Many of our relationships expect loyalty from us: employers, business partners, and even family members. Loyalty is a measure of respect given to those we care about and those with whom we are interdependent.

Work-Life Balance

Have you ever heard the phrase “work hard, play harder”? Our kids watch what we do every day. If we work responsibly but take out time to spend with our families and recharge, we set a good example for our kids.

Money Management

Those of us who work sometimes feel that we are doing our children a disservice. Sure, we bring home a paycheck that benefits our children, but we may miss their activities and other aspects of their daily lives.  This can be especially true in two-earner families. But in addition to greater financial security, our jobs provide opportunities for our children to learn many other life skills that they can use throughout their lives.

Human Nature

When we talk about our jobs and the people we work with, our kids learn a lot about human relationships and coping skills. Many days, there are teachable moments in which we can use our work experiences to model life skills such as successful communication and conflict resolution.

Most of us spend the bulk of our waking hours at work. We can use these experiences to help our children learn valuable skills which can be translated to many areas of their lives. Of course, our children naturally want to emulate us so if we do not deal well with work experiences, our children can learn negative skills from us. That’s why it is critical to recognize the effect our actions and behaviors have on our kids and use these as opportunities to help them build tools for successful futures. 

Reduce the Impact of Caring For Elderly Family Members

How To Proactively Plan To Reduce the Impact of Caring For Elderly Family Members

Much has been written about our nation’s need to help mothers in the workplace. Many benefits, such as maternity leave and nursing stations, are present or well on their way towards implementation in many U.S. states. With employees working later in life, due, in part, to the rise in the regular Social Security retirement age, it is becoming increasingly important that we start to talk about the crisis facing the other end of the spectrum: America’s working daughters, many of whom are also mothers.

According to the Census Bureau, 44 million unpaid eldercare providers work in the U.S. Many of these people are family caregivers: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2013-2014, “[t]here were 6.3 million elder care providers who cared solely for someone with whom they lived.”

The impact on working daughters is significant. In addition to lost wages, Social Security and retirement benefits drop when women earn less due to caregiving responsibilities. And that’s only for the women who are fortunate enough to stay in their current positions. Many must quit their jobs or take less demanding, lower-paying work so that they can care for their elderly family members.

By planning in advance, you can mitigate the risk that caregiving an elderly parent will have on your family.

It begins with getting comfortable talking with your parents (or your children if you are in the senior generation), openly and honestly about late in life care. When families work together there doesn’t need to be a burden, but instead the whole family can create a plan that most effectively uses the family’s resources to create an outcome that supports everyone.

Emergency iPhone Health App Can Save Your Life

Have you given any thought to how emergency medical care providers know who to contact or what to do if you are in an accident? Some people wear wristbands that contain important health information, such as drug allergies. But there’s an even better tool located in something many of us already carry every day—our iPhones.

The Health App

The iPhone, manufactured by Apple Inc., comes with a free Health app which allows users to track details of their health. From the Health Dashboard, a user can track daily steps, weight, and heart rate. Even nutrition and sleep patterns may be managed using the app.

But setting aside all that fancy stuff, Health is a great app for ensuring medical personnel, such as of emergency room staff and paramedics, have critical information for both treatment and contact purposes.
Users can create an “emergency card” that others can access directly from the lock screen. Even if a passcode is required to unlock the phone, the emergency card can be accessed simply by pressing the Emergency button on the lock screen. Users can choose the information that is displayed, and the information input into the emergency card is not shared with other apps.

How to Get Started

Click the icon that looks like a white square containing a red heart. The Medical ID card should open. Click the “Edit” button in the upper right hand of the screen and input the information you want to be available from your “Lock” screen, such as the following:

  • Birth date;

  • Medical conditions;

  • Medical notes;

  • Allergies and reactions;

  • Medications;

  • Blood type;

  • Organ donor information;

  • Height and weight; and

  • Emergency contact information.

With the Health app, you can arm your emergency health care providers with critical information, potentially saving your life and ensuring your loved ones are contacted in the event of an emergency. So why not take a few minutes to take advantage of this valuable, free tool today?

Talking with Your Family About Your Estate Plan

Talking with Your Family About Your Estate Plan

Is it time to have “the talk” with your kids?  We’re not talking about a “birds and bees” talk but one that is equally important, perhaps more so.  Everyone has concerns about what will happen when they die.  Some people worry about their homes, cars, or money.  Others worry about their children.  Rare, however, is the person who actually wants to talk about these things with their families.

Opening these conversations with your family will be difficult, but nowhere near as difficult as it would be on your family in the absence of advance planning. Fortunately, there are steps you can take before the conversation - and during the conversation - to help it go more smoothly.

Preparation Is Key

Before the meeting with your family, consider the questions that may arise.  For example, if you are concerned that one child will be upset because you named another child executor, be ready to answer questions about why you made that decision.  It may be that the person you chose is an accountant and would be well-suited for the job, or it may be that you’re concerned about overburdening the other child.  Whatever the case, be prepared to offer your reasoning.  Your explanation will go a long way toward reducing any hard feelings and potential disputes after you’re gone.

Come Prepared for Business

Once you have your family together, it is important that you not only let them know what your decisions are, but also that it is important to you that they support you and each other.  Have copies of your documents available so your family can ask questions about them.

You should be prepared to answer potential questions.  And remember, this may be an uncomfortable topic of discussion for your family members.  If someone just can’t get onboard, remember that you are dealing with your life and your assets.  The ultimate decisions as to how you handle them are yours, and you can even terminate the meeting if necessary. Also, make sure your family knows that your decisions may change as time goes on.

Finally, remember the goal for this discussion is to provide your family with more than just a set of legal documents outlining your wishes.  By talking to them about your intentions you are helping them gain understanding, comfort, and even buy-in with your plan.

Could This Happen to Your Loved One? Town Demolishes House While Owner Is in Hospital

Imagine this: your elderly uncle with no family near his home travels South to Florida for surgery and has to stay there unexpectedly for a number of months. While he is away, his home is demolished by the city, including all of his possessions. 

This just happened to a 69 year-old veteran and home owner in West Hemstead, New York. Due to medical complications with his surgery, he was unexpectedly gone for a number of months.

When he returned home, he found that his home had been torn down by the city. He had lived in the house since infancy and all of his possessions had become part of the rubble. Neighbors had complained about the condition of the house and claimed they thought that no one lived there.

 Owners of homes or other structures that have become dilapidated need to be aware of laws that permit municipalities to take action against them. Typically, towns and cities have building codes and standards which must be met, and they have inspectors with the authority to declare properties unfit for use.

 These cases start when the city declares an abandoned house or building structurally unsound and orders that it be demolished. The city will first look to the property owner to carry out the demolition, but if that does not happen, the city undertakes the task itself and then demands payment of demolition costs from the owner.

 While avoiding the destruction of someone’s home should be a goal of government officials charged with enforcement of building codes or urban renewal programs, that is obviously not always the case. It is up to each of us to care for our family members, especially those who are elderly and do not have close family nearby. One of the best ways you can do that is to ensure all of your senior family members have a relationship with a trusted advisor, such as a personal lawyer, to ensure that all of their assets are protected in the event of a long-term  incapacity or illness.

Protect Your Senior Relatives, Legal Strategies to Avoid Guardianship

As senior citizens continue to age, the likelihood increases that they will become physically or mentally incapacitated. Hopefully, people in such a situation have family members who step in and help keep their affairs in order. That is not always the case, however. If no one steps in to help, courts may be petitioned to appoint someone–a guardian–to look after that person’s very existence. This often happens  when a person becomes incapacitated by illness and cannot make decisions.

 What Can I Do?

For medical situations, a medical power of attorney - a document that identifies a person of your choosing (your agent) to make decisions for you in the event of your incapacity - should be executed. Your agent can be family member or friend. The key is to make sure it is someone you A power of attorney can also be used to appoint someone to deal with non-medical issues. This document can be set up to either take effect immediately, or only at such time as you are unable to make your own decisions. The former is known as a "durable" power of attorney, while the latter is a "springing" power of attorney. The durable power of attorney is the more effective of the two in that it requires no consideration of whether a person lacks the capacity to make decisions.

 Also, consider setting up a trust to administer your assets as you age. Unlike a power of attorney, with a trust, the trustee has sole control of your assets. And there are further legal steps you can take, such as establishing a limited liability corporation or a family limited partnership to manage your assets.

 All of these processes will prevent the need for a court to appoint a guardian for you if you become incapable of managing your own affairs. Those of us who are in our senior years should recognize the increasing chance of the need for someone else to make decisions. And those of us who have elderly parents or loved ones should help them think about these issues. The time to plan for potential incapacity is now. Once someone becomes incapacitated, it’s simply too late.

Create Family Financial Traditions!

To some degree or another, we are all a function of the social environments in which we were raised. Of course, that encompasses both positives and negatives. When it comes to money, the first exposure we have to its management is in our families. That makes good money management practices a real gift that parents can pass on to their children."

Don’t Buy Your Kid a Car 

The greatest motivator there is for a teenager is freedom and their path to that freedom is a car. When you buy your kid a car, rather than supporting him or her to learn to earn money to buy the car him/herself, you are overlooking one of the greatest opportunities you have to support your child to learn to be self-sufficient.
If you have an extra car available for your child, at least require your child to pay for the gas and insurance, which will support him or her to begin to be prepared for the requirement of life in the future, when you aren’t there to provide for all the needs they have.

Kids Playing the Stock Market?

Introducing children to the stock market is not a far-fetched idea. There is plenty of information available that can be understood by kids. First off, children are very aware of products -- toys and games like the CashFlow Board Game, for example. They can be introduced to the fact that the companies that make these toys are owned by people like their parents, who hold shares of stock. From there, they can be shown the daily stock prices and how they change. As they grow older, your children can begin making small stock purchases and become comfortable with investing.

Family Vacation Saving

Family vacations are usually looked back on fondly and may even be considered family traditions. Saving during the year, by children as well as parents, for an annual vacation can also be part of that tradition and help teach good money management techniques. Whether it be from jobs kids have like grass cutting or babysitting, or just from allowance savings, it will serve children well later in life to have learned the value of setting money aside for a deferred pleasure.

Charitable Giving

If you give to charity regularly, you may want to consider setting up a private foundation that can be used to consolidate your giving plus be used to educate your children about investing (all of the assets of the charitable foundation need to be invested) and giving.

Read the story of Bob and Wendy Graham, of the Namaste Foundation, and how they used charitable giving via a private foundation to educate the kids and create cohesion and connection in their blended family. If you’d love a free copy of this short book, please give us a call and we’ll send you an ebook as a our gift.

Estate Planning

Involve your children in your estate planning as soon as they are old enough to understand. They will feel secure knowing you’ve planned well for what would happen to them, if and when something happens to you. Have them meet the lawyer they will work with, tell them about how they will receive their inheritance and when. And, begin to talk now about how you can increase the overall family wealth you have and how you want to be cared for by them at the end of your life.

If you feel uncertain about how to approach these issues, contact us. Or read the books Die Wise,Being Mortal and Family Wealth: Keeping It in the Family, all books that inform our personal process as your family lawyers.

Early Entrepreneurship

Supporting your children to think like entrepreneurs can be one of the greatest gifts you give them. As the world shifts, we are moving into a new economy in which reliance on traditional jobs no longer provide the security they once did. Technology will replace many of the jobs people relied on in the past and the only real security going forward is resourcefulness, creativity and community, all of which is learned via the path of entrepreneurship.

Consider reading the book The Last Safe Investment by Bryan Franklin and Michael Ellsberg for some more ideas around this topic.