3 Tips for Preserving Your Family History This Thanksgiving

What story from your life or your parents’ life needs to be remembered?

Did your grandmother board a ship at the age of 15 and immigrate to America all by herself? Does your grandfather have great stories about the shenanigans that went on at the family farm? Was your uncle at the liberation of Dachau during World War II? (I have a friend who this is true for, but she was too young to hear about it while he was alive.) Oftentimes families have stories like these, but questions go unasked, answers and conversations about these things aren’t preserved, and adventures are left untold. In our increasingly disjointed society, it’s important for families to share stories.

We want to encourage you to take time this Thanksgiving (and the entire holiday season) — a time when families naturally gather around tables and tell stories — to preserve these stories that make up the unique tapestry of your family. With multiple generations under one roof, it’s a chance to dig into your history and discover what brought you to where you are now.

If you’re among the older generation, don’t be afraid to share your story. If you’re among the younger generation, be sure to actively listen when stories are being told. Turn off the football game for a bit. Put down the smartphones — you have a lifetime to look at screens but a limited time to preserve your past.

The process of telling your story may be uncomfortable at first. Our current culture leaves us ill-equipped for face-to-face interactions and deep conversation, but it’s worth pushing past the discomfort to get to the unique history only your family holds. With the help of the tips below, the discomfort should quickly pass. Here’s how to get the conversation rolling and preserve your parents’ or grandparents’ stories:

  1. Be intentional. Set aside specific time for this. Gather your parents or grandparents around the dining room table and tell them you want to hear their stories.
  2. Start with simple questions. Easy, fun questions break the ice and often lead to great stories. Begin with a few of these:
    • What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
    • Did you have a nickname as a kid?
    • Where did you go on vacations as a child?
    • What did you eat for lunch at school?
    • How did you meet mom or dad (or grandma or grandpa)?
  3. Record the conversation. Your smartphone probably already has a recording app (like Voice Memos on the iPhone), so use technology to your advantage. The digital age is great for easily sharing things like photos and recordings. Put your phone in the middle of the table and just let it record. Soon, everyone will forget it’s there, and you’ll have an invaluable souvenir of that moment in time.

If you wish you knew more about your grandparents’ stories, we encourage you to do something about it and start recording some of your unique life experiences so future generations can draw strength and wisdom from what you (or your parents) endured, accomplished, and valued. Family stories encourage us to move boldly in our own lives, helping us to uniquely understand who we are and how we got to where we are.

If you still have the chance to tell your story or to listen to the stories of your elders this holiday season, we don’t think you’ll regret it!! Watch on Facebook and in our upcoming email newsletters for more ideas on preserving your family legacy this holiday season.

If you’re ready to protect your family through effective estate planning and gain peace of mind knowing things will go as smoothly as possible when the time comes, give us a call at 217-726-9200 to schedule your Initial Meeting. We will be happy to help guide you through the process.

A Quick Planning Tip to Get Organized

Getting organized is a key part of the estate planning process. Estate planning simply means you have a plan to handle your finances, your care, and your family when you can’t do it anymore — whether that’s because of sickness or passing away.

Everyone wants to be organized, and some do a better job than others. Most of us have a “system” to help keep track of important papers. And you understand your system better than anyone else! But if you are seriously ill or dead and gone, will others be able to find what they need?

I have a friend whose mother recently passed away unexpectedly. Sadly, like many people, her mother didn’t have a very good system or plan in place. My friend has had a heck of a time tracking things down. One day, out of frustration, my friend posted this to Facebook:

“Reminder-
No matter how old you are – no matter how healthy you think you are –
Put all of your death documents in at least one file folder.
A firebox would be great, but-
FILE FOLDER.”

Ask yourself — if you were gone today, WHO would be trying to track down all of your financial information, and how would they go about doing it? Have you made it hard for them or easy for them?

Planning tip: make sure you have a complete list of all your accounts, property, and everything else you own. This will make it so much easier on your family later. And obviously, putting all these things in a single file folder could be a big help to your loved ones left behind.

Without a complete list (grab this document off our website to give you an idea of what should be on the list), it will mean extra stress for your family at a time when they are already very stressed. A lack of organization can also create extra court expenses and delays. It could also mean that lost accounts may get turned over to the state.

Laura Peffley, our Senior Asset Coordinator, spends 40 hours a week helping people sort out asset information, doing a complete asset report, and then helping them follow up on planning changes!

If you’d like a guide to help organize things and make sure everything fits with your wishes within an effective plan, then give us a call at 217-726-9200. We’d be happy to make an initial appointment for you. Click here to read about what to expect at that initial appointment.

Who Needs a Life Care Plan?

In a recent blog post, we talked about the challenges that our extended lifespan creates these days. Because people are living into their 80’s and 90’s on a regular basis, this creates financial, physical, medical and emotional struggles. Seeing families struggle with massive amounts of financial and emotional stress on a daily basis as their loved ones age caused us to ask, “What can we do to help? Because there must be a better way!”

As a result, the role of Elder Care Advisors were born and this interdisciplinary team now works to identify existing and potential care needs, locate appropriate care, preserve family wealth to the greatest extent possible, and support the family during this incredibly stressful time. They do this by creating a Life Care Plan. You can read more about all that here.

So, who needs a Life Care Plan?

Oftentimes, a Life Care Plan comes about after a trigger event — a serious incident (or series of events) that leaves family members concerned about their loved one’s future. Trigger events can be any of the following:

  • A diagnosis of cancer, Alzheimer’s or any other chronic condition
  • A catastrophic event such as a fall, medication mishap, fire, accident in the home, or car accident
  • Discovering that your loved one is wandering, malnourished, dehydrated, or unable to care for him/herself due to functional limitations
  • Prolonged or frequent hospital stays or emergency room visits
  • A serious medical event such as a stroke, heart attack or aneurysm
  • Burnout of the loved one’s primary caregiver

While trigger events like these are the most common motivator for seeking the help of an Elder Care Advisor, some people plan ahead and create a Life Care Plan before crisis strikes. (Read about the different life stages of planning here.) Planning beforehand allows you to be more thoughtful and more proactive in developing a plan for aging. Decisions made beforehand tend to be better than decisions made quickly during the stress and chaos of a crisis.

What services does a Life Care Plan include?

Each Life Care Plan is customized to meet the needs of the individual and family. Most Life Care Plans will include one or more of the following services, but are not limited to these, either. Our team truly tries to identify the most pressing need for the family/loved one and does whatever it takes to help. (They’ve even been known to help with estate sales while clients transition to assisted living.)

Care Coordination

Many families who need help protecting an elder loved one’s assets also need help finding and coordinating care. They may also need help with decision-making as the elder’s condition progresses. For example, one of Edwards Group’s Elder Care Advisors is a physical therapist by training, so she assists families in deciding how long their loved ones can safely stay at home, or what can be done to make the home a safer place. No matter the unique issue your family faces, our experienced team will guide you through these stressful transitions and decisions, helping you make the best choices possible.

Identifying Financial Resources for Care

Nursing homes and long-term care are incredibly expensive, and many families struggle to find and pay for good care for their loved ones. One of our top priorities is helping those families who are facing this urgent issue. We want to give families peace of mind by reviewing ways to pay for care, which might include restructuring assets or investments, understanding Medicare, making claims on long-term care insurance, and pursuing public benefits like Medicaid or VA Aid & Attendance. In addition, we can help with intimidating medical bills, EOBs, and insurance forms. Our Elder Care Advisors can help with, and resolve, many important issues related to healthcare and long-term care.

Legal Services

The legal issues created by aging, illness, chronic conditions, or disability can be terrifying. That’s why every Life Care Plan includes a customized mix of legal services designed to protect the loved one’s interests and to provide for dependents and other family members now and in the future. Your Life Care Plan will include elder law, estate planning, and advocacy services that are appropriate for your loved one’s circumstances. You and your family can relax knowing that you are surrounded with legal support from an experienced team who are familiar with every aspect of your situation.

Client Advocacy

Aging loved ones have a legal right to safe, effective, and patient-centered care, whether that’s in the hospital or a long-term care facility. A Life Care Plan protects those rights. Our attorneys and Elder Care Advisors work together to provide advocacy services that empower family caregivers and protect quality of life for seniors.

If you or a loved one are struggling with the challenges or expense of aging, Edwards Group can help! Just give us a call at 217-726-9200 and ask to speak with one of our Elder Care Advisors. You don’t have to struggle on this journey alone. Help and support is available today.

helper; trustee; executor

Elder Care Advisors: Helping People Age Well

These days, our extended life span creates a lot of challenges when it comes to managing the financial, physical, medical, and emotional reality of aging in America. We recently asked those who are facing retirement, or beginning to struggle with the challenges of aging, what their top concerns were. Here is what they said:

  • I want to stay in my home as long as possible.
  • I’m concerned about navigating the long-term care system and finding good care.
  • I’m worried about not being able to drive anymore and being isolated and lonely.
  • How do I maintain my independence for as long as possible?
  • I’m concerned about how to find quality care I can afford.
  • I’m worried about health issues and paying for healthcare.
  • I want to preserve my options as I age — financial, medical and quality of life.
  • I’m worried about finding good assisted living or nursing homes when the time comes.
  • What will I do if my family isn’t nearby and I need them? My kids live in New Jersey and Arizona.

We know there are thousands of families struggling with these issues on a daily basis in Central Illinois, and it’s why we’ve developed a solution. When Attorney David Edwards started his own law firm in 2008, he knew he wanted a firm solely dedicated to effective estate planning and the tremendous peace of mind it can bring to families. What he didn’t know was that his journey would lead to helping families achieve peace of mind through more than just legal planning. As we helped more and more families navigate the challenges of aging, find ways to pay for good nursing care for loved ones, and helped Veterans obtain benefits to pay for in-home care as they aged, it became apparent that nearly every family struggles with this time of life. We think it’s the most stressful time of the lifespan!

What is an Elder Care Advisor?

As a result, we’ve formed an interdisciplinary team that works together to identify current and potential care needs, locate appropriate care, preserve family wealth to the greatest extent possible, and support the family during this stressful time. As a part of that interdisciplinary team, the Elder Care Advisors serve as guide, encourager, counselor, resource gatherer, and advocate during the journey. Our Elder Care Advisors include a nurse, physical therapist, social worker, EMT, etc. Each one has unique experiences that equip them to support families and create personalized plans that confront the challenges those families face.

What is a Life Care Plan?

A Life Care Plan defines, organizes, prioritizes, and mobilizes every aspect of an elder’s care. The goal of Life Care Planning is to promote and maintain the health, safety, well-being, and quality of life for those who are struggling with the challenges of aging. Every Life Care Plan is designed to do three things:

  1. Preserve Quality of Life

    Make sure the elder loved one gets appropriate care (whether at home or in a residential facility) in order to maintain the quality of life that he or she desires.

  2. Pay for Care

    Find solutions to help pay for long-term care and guide families through the issues created by the high cost of care.

  3. Offer Peace of Mind

    Offer peace of mind that results when the right choices are made to ensure loved ones are safe and getting the right care while preserving family resources.

Read more about WHO needs a Life Care Plan here.

If you or a loved one are struggling with the challenges or expense of aging, Edwards Group can help! Give us a call at 217-726-9200 to schedule a meeting or a phone consultation with an Elder Care Advisor. You don’t have to struggle on this journey alone. We walk this path with you. Help and support are available. Give us a call today!

trustee

What Is a Trustee and When Might You Need One?

You’ve probably heard of trusts and trustees before – most likely in the context of a rich kid living off of their trust fund. However, trusts are not just legal tools for the wealthy. We’ve talked about trusts before, and if you want to delve a little deeper into that subject, you can read more about whether a trust is right for you.

Today we’ll focus on what a trustee is and when you may need one.

What is a trustee?

A trustee is the person legally responsible for executing the instructions you and your attorney draft in your trust document. A trustee should always be acting in the best interest of the person benefitting from the document. That person is called the beneficiary.

A trustee only comes into play when you can’t act for yourself due to disability or death. You want to choose someone who can act with integrity and impartiality. We have additional information to help you determine who will be a good helper for your plan here.

The actual function of your trustee will depend on when they are assisting you. You may choose the same person for all scenarios or someone different for each instance.

Disability Trustee

Immediately after death, a death trustee will manage the deceased’s financial obligations. They will need to pay bills, gather or sell assets, file claims, file tax returns, and determine who gets what and when.

Ongoing Trust Trustee

This is the person who would manage the rich kid’s trust or Average Joe’s Trust. If a trust continues for other beneficiaries after the death of the primary person, a trustee may be faced with decisions regarding how much money to distribute and when – like whether to let someone buy a new car. Some other examples may include:

  • If someone dies leaving minor children, then a trustee will decide how to spend the money in the trust that was left for the child/children.
  • If vacation property is left in a trust, then the trustee will manage that property and the financial responsibilities connected to it.

If you’re ready to get started planning, give us a call at 217-726-9200 to RSVP to schedule your Initial Meeting.

asset protection; farmland

Asset Protection — What Is It and Why Do You Need It

Estate planning can seem complicated, but often it’s just because the vocabulary isn’t familiar. Here is what you need to know about asset protection:

  • What is asset protection?
  • What risks should I protect against?
  • What timelines should I consider when it comes to protecting assets?
  • What tools can I use for asset protection?

What is asset protection?

Asset protection is simply taking steps to plan ahead of time to protect what you’ve worked so hard for all your life.

So, what do we mean by “assets”? Assets are really whatever you OWN. This could be your house, your savings accounts, your investments, IRAs, farmland, personal property, your grandpa’s fishing cabin that’s now in your name – it is simply whatever you posses – no matter how much or how little that may be!

And the important thing to know is that you can take important steps to protect those things you or your family have worked so hard for! This is asset protection.

What kind of risks should I protect against?

We all know how unpredictable life can be. Sometimes, it’s full of curve balls you never see coming. So, what are some of the risks that you should protect against? We see six big categories:

  1. Catastrophic medical bills or healthcare costs (including nursing home care, in-home care or assisted living expenses)
  2. Scams or mismanagement
  3. Accidents or mistakes – for example, a car accident
  4. Acts of God – fire, tornado, hail or wind damage
  5. Poor financial decisions (adult children or their spouses with wild spending habits, gambling or addictions)
  6. Risky relationships (adult children where there is likelihood for divorce and/or abusive or controlling relationships)

Now that you know what asset protection is and what types of situations may call for it, let’s look at specific times during the lifespan and what they have to do with asset protection. Read about three real-life examples of asset protection here.

3 Periods of Life Where You Need Asset Protection

So, what are the timelines you need to consider when it comes to protecting assets?

  1. When you are healthy and still in control. During this time, there are things you can plan for now that you will not be able to do later. It’s much better for you and your family to be proactive during this time.
  2. When you are sick and unable to make decisions. Debilitating strokes and dementia are just two common types of illnesses that keep people from making decisions for themselves. When a debilitating illness happens, you need a trusted family member or friend to help make the decisions you would want made.
  3. After your death. Once you are gone someone else will HAVE to deal with your assets. It may be a spouse or an adult child, but either way, there are things that must be done. It’s better if you’ve planned ahead to make this time easier for them. The hardest thing about this time is that they’ll have to deal with a lot of legal things (and paperwork) WHILE dealing with grief. It’s an incredibly difficult time that is made easier by planning ahead.

Tools for Asset Protection – How Do I Protect My Assets?

There are three categories of tools that we talk about in connection with asset protection:

  1. Financial tools such as insurance can help protect assets. This is a broad area that includes health insurance, long-term care insurance, disability insurance, homeowners insurance and auto insurance.
  2. Personal legal tools such as trusts can also help protect assets. Trusts can help protect assets from risks that are unique to you and your situation or risks that your kids may encounter later.
  3. Business legal tools such as LLCs or corporations can help protect assets like small businesses.

I hope this article has helped you see how relatively simple “asset protection” is, along with how important it is to consider during the planning process. Anytime you see a word pertaining to estate planning that you don’t understand, we encourage you to reach out to us. It is very important to us that the vocabulary of estate planning doesn’t keep you from protecting your family. Keep learning about asset protection with our blog post, “3 Real-Life Examples of Important Asset Protection Planning.”

reverse mortgage

Forget About The “Estate” And Just Do Planning

Estate Planning isn’t just for people with estates…

I talk a lot about “estate planning,” whatever that means. It sounds like lawyer talk and often makes people’s eyes glaze over. Well, I want you to forget about the estate and just call it planning, because that’s all it is!

It’s planning…

• for getting older and making choices for your own care.
• on how you will pay for a nursing home, if it comes to that.
• for what will happen to those family heirlooms.
• for what will happen when you’re gone. (Would your family know what to do or who to turn to?)
• for your kids so they’ll be ready to inherit whatever you might leave them.

Everyday we help our clients use legal and financial solutions to plan for the people they care about and the stuff they own. Don’t let the terminology scare you away. We’ve worked hard to make planning as easy as possible.

Give us a call at 217-726-9200 and get started planning today!

The Myth of a “Simple” Will

“I just want a simple will.”

We hear this a lot. The people who say it generally assume they have a “regular” family with straightforward assets. They don’t want to pay a lot for elaborate documents they don’t understand. They just want a last will and testament. We get that!

In reality, “simple” wills often backfire and cost families more money and stress in the long run.

Every family has unique circumstances that can cause challenges and heartaches. And “simple” wills can’t effectively deal with these challenges.

An effective will and estate plan is really for the loved ones you leave behind. It’s your final gift to them — and it can go smoothly via effective planning ahead of time, or it can be a huge mess that tears families apart. We see it all the time.

Bad estate plans destroy good families.

The bottom line — the cost of a “simple” will is more than most people realize. We see it when we help families deal with the aftermath of an ineffective plan their loved one left behind.

Our process for creating an effective plan is thorough. We use your expertise about your own family to help anticipate future problems. We then use our expertise to address those problems using the tools in our legal toolbox.

We get to know your family, if that’s what you’d like, so when the time comes, they will already be familiar with our team and our office. We help our clients plan for the unexpected, so when the unexpected happens, things can still go smoothly for their loved ones.

It’s hard to put a price on that kind of peace of mind.

But that doesn’t mean we charge you exorbitant hourly fees. The pricing structure at our firm is fairly unique. When David Edwards started the firm in 2008, he wanted everything to be designed around helping clients plan better and have more peace of mind. This included how he decided to charge fees. So, clients who work with us can be assured there are no surprises when it comes to that.

We charge flat fees that are agreed upon ahead of time. Read more about that here.

We are passionate about the fact that every family deserves an effective estate plan that can make one of life’s hardest transitions a little easier.

We believe that family legacy is important and that everything you’ve worked so hard for should be protected and passed down to the next generation as you wish.

If the desire for a “simple” will doesn’t quite sit right with you, or the fear of an expensive and complicated plan is keeping you from taking the first step in protecting your family, we encourage you to attend our next workshop. At this 1.5-hour workshop you’ll learn:

  • how effective planning includes death planning (estate planning) and LIFE planning
  • the 5 life stages to plan for
  • 9 easy-to-understand keys to aging with peace of mind
  • clear next steps to guide your planning

If you’ve been putting off planning, we encourage you to take the first step and call 217-726-9200 to RSVP for the workshop. Your path to peace of mind starts here.

 

Dangers of a Do-It-Yourself POA

Completing a Power of Attorney document is one of the most impactful things you can do to lessen the burden of caregiving on your family and loved ones. Power of Attorney documents are not crafted as “one size fits all” but instead are customized to reflect the varying needs of each individual family situation. 

Investing in an attorney to help you draft your POA document can help you better understand the terms of the document and minimize mistakes. Answering one question incorrectly on your POA document can lead to many problems in the future — problems that can be costly and emotionally taxing for you and your loved ones.

There are 3 dangers of doing a POA on your own that we’d like to briefly look at:

1. Too Many Powers – One problem with creating a POA document yourself is the possibility of giving your power of attorney too much power. While the form looks relatively simply, it is easy to answer a question incorrectly without a lawyer’s expertise and guidance. You could give your POA agent too many powers and open the gateway to elder abuse. Whenever you see a newspaper article about an older person being taken advantage of, it’s often the result of abusing a power of attorney.

Powers of attorney can be easily abused because they are not monitored by the legal system. Templates are easily available online and anyone can serve as a witness or notary, even if they don’t have your best interests in mind. Paying for the legal expertise is worth the security that comes from knowing your POA agent has the correct powers. Attorneys are ethically sworn to serve the best interests of their clients and can help you avoid elder abuse by assisting you in selecting a trustworthy power of attorney agent. Nominating a power of attorney (when done correctly) should give you peace of mind, not make you nervous.

2. Too Few Powers – Sometimes a person has a POA agent who is 100% trustworthy, but their powers listed in the document are so limited that they are unable to do the things that would be best. We have seen a number of families who were working on long-term care planning, hoping to seek benefits to pay for nursing home care. However, their power of attorney did not include certain powers that would have been helpful in that situation. For instance, unless we specifically state them, a power of attorney does not include the power to create a trust (which is a valuable tool often used for effective planning), or the power to make gifts to family. Yet, creating trusts and making gifts are often important parts of protecting money from a nursing home towards the end of life.

3. Not The Form You Need – If a power of attorney document is created without a lawyer, there is no guarantee that all banks or institutions will accept it. There have been a couple of law changes in Illinois in the last few years regarding powers of attorney. If you find an online document, is it the correct and most up to date form? If not, the bank may refuse to honor it, and they are within their rights to do so if it is not in the proper format.

As with so many things related to estate planning, every family and every situation create unique circumstances that fill-in-the-blank forms cannot adequately address. It is incredibly valuable to the have the help of an experienced estate planning or elder law attorney to help guide you through the process while anticipating problems your unique situation may bring up. If you have questions about Powers of Attorney or any other estate planning/elder law issues, we urge you to give us a call at 217-726-9200. We’re more than happy to speak with you.