aging alone

Aging and Alone: 7 Steps to Protect Yourself

In a previous post, we talked about a growing segment of people who are aging alone without the help of their adult children (either because they don’t have children or their children live very far away). These seniors face unique challenges in their 70’s and 80’s. To read about those four challenges, click here. With proper planning, guided by an experienced elder law attorney who has faced these issues many times before, you can achieve peace of mind and have a plan in place if you do not have close family nearby.

7 Steps Every Senior Should Take if Aging Alone

1. Make a plan while you are still sharp (physically and mentally).

A study by the National Institutes of Health found decreased cognition and decision-making impairment begin around the age of 60. Research has also shown that the ability to make sound investment decisions sharply declines at 70. Because of this, it’s important to plan ahead.

2. Make sure your plan is a comprehensive plan and not just a will.

An effective Life Care Plan should include documents like Powers of Attorney (for health and finances), advanced directives for end of life medical issues, etc. It should also address questions such as how will you pay for long-term care, how do you want care decisions to be made, and do you want to stay at home if at all possible?

3. Set up structures to protect yourself.

With the help of an experienced elder law attorney, you should anticipate future issues and how you want them handled. (For instance, if you don’t have kids, consider a professional helper such as an attorney, CPA or bank to handle your finances.)

4. Be open to changing your living arrangements.

If you’re willing to alter your living arrangements earlier on, then you’ll be able to make changes on your own terms, deciding what’s most important to you. If you wait until crisis strikes, others may have to dictate where you go, or your medical issues may dictate where you have to live.

If you start to become isolated in your house, having difficulty taking medicine or eating properly, there needs to be a fail-safe in place so that you don’t suffer and linger too long in the house on your own.

5. Create a plan with ongoing maintenance.

In the last few decades of life things can change rapidly. That’s why a plan with ongoing maintenance is especially helpful. Crafting a flexible plan, through an attorney you trust, insures that adjustments can be made as circumstances change.

6. Gather a list of contacts who can help you.

Identify what tasks you need help with (cooking, cleaning, yard work, etc.) and then match the tasks with people (friends, neighbors, nieces, nephews, church members) who might be able to help you with those specific jobs.

7. Find local resources to help.

There are several good resources that can help seniors, or their distant children, get the help they need.

Aging is not something any of us wants to think about, but by thinking and planning ahead, you can save yourself a lot of grief, stress, dignity and money.

If you are facing the prospect of aging alone and are concerned that you don’t have an adequate plan in place, don’t hesitate to give our Elder Care Advisors a call at 217-726-9200. We are always happy to help in anyway that we can!

Estate Planning is Like… Dave’s Favorite Sweatshirt

I have a piece of clothing we simply call “my favorite sweatshirt.” I think it’s about 20 years old. I may have had it when I graduated from law school in 1995. If not, I got it shortly after that. (The picture to the left is from 1998.) We have a family friend who swears I was wearing it when she first met me in 1997.

It’s gotten a lot of use over the years. Especially on Christmas! What else does a guy grab to wear when relaxing over the holidays? His favorite sweatshirt, of course.

Looking back at Christmas pictures this past year, you could see the sweatshirt showing up year after year… after year.Dave sweatshirt 2006 small

It’s still my favorite sweatshirt. But I fear its days are numbered. The “Illinois Law” is getting more and more faded. The ends of the sleeves are unraveling and ripped. But it’s so soft and comfortable!


About 10 years ago, I got a “replacement favorite sweatshirt.” Same design, same color. I still have it, but it’s somewhere in the back of the closet. It looks the same (a little brighter) but it definitely doesn’t feel the same. So it doesn’t end up getting worn.

20 years ago my favorite sweatshirt was new. I bought it at the bookstore at the U of I College of Law. Now it’s ragged and my wife has grounded me from wearing it outside the house.

A lot has changed in 20 years — for my sweatshirt, for me, for our family.


How about you? What has changed in your life in the past 20 years? Has your estate plan kept up with the changes?

Life is constantly changing. And that means your plan needs to be regularly updated. With our Dynasty Program, things like that happen automatically. When you’re on your own, it’s very important to regularly assess what updates might be needed.

Most changes any estate plan faces can be summed up by the 3 L’s: life, law and learning. Read more about that and whether your plan is out of date here.

What’s Your Next Step in Planning?

Bailey has noticed that I talk to other cars a lot when I’m driving. When someone’s being slow I might say, “Come on out there, buddy, pull right out there.” Or “come on, you can do it,” when they hesitate just a little too long before pulling out so I can go.

As with just about everything in life, this reminds me of planning. No matter how much I talk to the other drivers in those cars, it doesn’t really do a whole lot of good. And that’s just like planning. Talking about planning doesn’t actually do any good, unless you do something about it. Whether that’s nursing home planning, estate planning, death planning, life care planning or special needs planning, talking about it or even coming to workshops and learning more doesn’t do any good unless you move ahead.

So what’s your next step in planning?

1. Attend a workshop – If you already know a little bit about planning, and want to know what it would be like to work with Edwards Group, we encourage you to check out a workshop. In addition to getting valuable information about the process, you’ll get to meet David and have the opportunity to ask him questions.

To attend a workshop, just give us a call at 217-726-9200 to reserve yourself a spot. (Our workshops tend to fill up, so we want to make sure everyone has a seat.)

2. Call to schedule your Initial Meeting – At your initial meeting, which usually lasts about 45 minutes, we will review your concerns and goals. An attorney will also help you understand the unique risks facing your family. Clients find this meeting to be very valuable in helping them understand their options. By the end of the meeting, you should understand your planning options, what they will cost and whether Edwards Group is the right firm for you. There will be no hard sale. We want all of our clients to feel comfortable before starting to work with us. It’s one of the keys to drafting a successful plan.

Did you know that Tarina was a client before she started working at Edwards Group? And one of her favorite parts of the job is talking to people who have questions or might be a little nervous about starting the process of planning. If you have any questions at all, she’d be happy to chat with you. Just give her a call at 217-726-9200.

3. Help your friends and family learn more – If you’ve already worked with us and had a positive experience, we encourage you to share all you’ve learned along the way with friends and loved ones who might need to know what you now know.

The most important part of creating an effective plan and achieving peace of mind is actually taking a step forward. Many people think about planning for years… and then all of a sudden it can be too late. Effective planning is much easier achieved before a crisis hits.
Which next action step do you need to take today?

Estate Planning is Like… Working a Puzzle

Bailey and I bought some puzzles at our neighborhood garage sale a while back. We started work on a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle of Mickey Mouse and Goofy, but something was wrong. Pieces were missing — a lot of pieces! In fact, we counted and there were only 57 of the 100 pieces there. We did what we could, but the puzzle was useless and ended up in the trash.

This reminded me that estate planning is just like a puzzle. And you know how much I like to compare everything in life to estate planning! (Read how estate planning is like your favorite board game here.) If you’re missing pieces in your plan (or you got a “bargain” on your plan) then your life can be thrown into chaos when someone dies, faces a stroke or struggles with dementia and needs to go into long-term care. Our process is so thorough that we make sure there are no missing pieces to the puzzle. When the time comes to use your plan, all the pieces will be there in working order. No surprises.

The best way to find out if your plan has all its pieces, and to see if Edwards Group is right for you, is to attend a workshop where you can learn about effective planning at every stage of life. Check out the upcoming dates here and be sure to call us at 217-726-9200 to save yourself a seat.

If you have nagging doubts about your plan, or huge worries that you don’t even have a plan, give us a call today and take your first step towards peace of mind.

3 Estate Planning Questions to Start the New Year

Fresh starts are really nice sometimes. “Out with the old, in with the new” can be energizing. Many people procrastinate when it comes to their estate plan, thinking, “Oh, I’ll never really need it.” But the truth is, everyone will need one at some point.

Why not start off the New Year with some peace of mind and take a minute to reflect on the state of your plan? Here are 3 things to consider heading into this New Year:

  1. Should your plan be changed to reflect changes in your life? Like a change in marital status or the birth of a child or grandchild.
  2. Did you acquire any new assets last year that might impact your plan?
  3. Are your executors and trustees still the right people for the job?

There are many other considerations, but these three are a good start. As always, if you have any questions at all, feel free to call our office. We’d love to speak with you. And be sure to check out our upcoming workshops.

What kind of attorney are you?

“There are 2 other attorneys here at the career fair. Do you know what the difference is between me and them? They’re wearing suits!”

A few months ago I went to Grant Middle School’s Career Fair. I talked to 5 different groups of students about how I am the “other” kind of attorney.

Most people think of the lawyers they see on TV, who are in court, always suing people or defending criminals. I told the kids those are what we call litigation attorneys. But I’m not that kind.

I asked the students, “What other kind of attorney is there?” And all I got were blank looks.

Yes, there is another kind! Some call them “transactional” attorneys. These are the ones who deal with Wills, Trusts, estates, nursing home planning, contracts, real estate and business. This is what we do here at Edwards Group.

And you know what? Good work by us “other” attorneys means that a family will be less likely to need the court-going attorney later.

The best way to find out how we help families achieve peace of mind through planning is by attending one of our free workshops.

  • At our Intro to Edwards Group: Wills and Trusts Orientation you’ll learn the 4 main reasons most estate plans “just don’t work” and how our unique process avoids these problems.
  • At our Life Care Planning workshop, 13 Costly Misconceptions About Healthcare for Your Aging Parents, you’ll discover the 6 stages of Life Care Planning – and which stage you’re in right now, 7 essential questions to ask so your parents have an effective plan for the last decade of life, 3 smart ways to increase your parents’ monthly income and bring peace of mind, 12 reasons your parents should not give their property away right now, and much more.
  • Look for our upcoming workshop dates here and be sure to call 217-726-9200 to save your spot.

Ask the Attorneys: Life Insurance (pt. 2)

“Is it possible to purchase life insurance for a disabled person? I tried to purchase life insurance for my disabled son and he was turned down.”
— Jan L.

Yes, it is possible to get life insurance for a disabled person. However, as with all life insurance, the insured must go through the underwriting process and be approved for the insurance policy. Depending on the level of disability and the underlying health factors, a person can be declined for life insurance. I would recommend talking with an insurance agent that has the ability to apply to several different insurance companies for coverage.

As estate planning attorneys, Dave and I do not sell life insurance nor are we licensed to do so. However, we do maintain relationships with insurance agents that we trust and respect. We encourage all of our clients to call us for recommendations on insurance agents, financial planners, and CPAs/accountants.

For more information about life insurance and estate planning, check out these articles that discuss the topic HERE. For more general information about estate planning basics, check out one of our free workshops.

Consumer’s Guide to Medicaid 2011

There haven’t been many changes since last year, but our Consumer’s Guide to Medicaid for 2011 is now out. Last year’s edition was one of our most popular downloads of 2010. If you, or anyone you know may be facing a nursing home, then this guide can help you better understand the basic issues at stake. Four basic issues are addressed in our guide:

  1. Assets. What are they, how much can you have and how does it impact your eligibility for Medicaid benefits?
  2. Transfer of Assets. When should you do it, why might you need it, and other important information about how this issue affects Medicaid eligibility.
  3. Income. How much will go towards a nursing home if using Medicaid and what about the spouse who may still be at home?
  4. Spousal Protection. Medicaid law provides special protection for spouses of nursing home residents. What does that mean for the income, assets and other needs of the spouse still living at home?

Download it now:

Consumer’s Guide to Medicaid 2011

The guide is really an introduction to the topic of Medicaid Planning. If you want to know more about this important and popular topic, feel free to check out our very popular Long-term Care Essentials Workshops or contact our client coordinator at 217-726-9200 to set up your free initial consultation where we can discuss your unique situation.