Halloween 2016

At Edwards Group we expect our clients to share some pretty personal information with us in order to prepare the best plan possible for their families. That’s part of the reason it’s so important for us to share our families with you.

Everything we do centers around taking care of families and making life a little easier for families dealing with the stresses of aging or grieving.

Here are our annual Halloween pics of the Edwards Group children!

(Video) What is an elder law attorney?

As people live longer and longer, it is more and more important to have an experienced elder law attorney on your side. If you have a loved one who is aging, or are concerned about the issues of aging for yourself or a spouse, please read on to find out what elder law attorneys do and how to choose a good one…

Elder law attorneys work with families to solve problems related to aging. They meet with, and help, clients reach goals related to finances and healthcare. They often collaborate with other professionals such as financial advisors, life insurance professionals and tax professionals to ensure an effective comprehensive plan for clients.

In addition to general estate planning, elder law attorneys should have expertise in helping plan for incapacity (due to things like a stroke) or long-term care needs. When it comes to long-term care planning, elder law attorneys coordinate private and public resources to ensure the client’s right to quality care.

Founding attorney, David Edwards, explains a little about elder law attorneys in the short video above.

How do you choose a good elder law attorney?

Because elder law is a specialized field, it is important to ask some specific questions of any elder law attorney you are considering working with. It is important that you feel you can trust the attorney and his/her staff, otherwise you may not end up with effective solutions for your goals.

5 Questions to Ask an Elder Law Attorney

  1. How many Medicaid applications have you processed? Was the firm able to protect assets in most of these cases? Have you ever been turned down for an application?
  2. Are you accredited with the VA? As with many government programs, there are fairly strict standards that protect citizens from those looking to take advantage of seniors or Veterans. In order to be involved with a VA application, an attorney must be accredited by the VA. Read more about aging VA benefits here.
  3. Have you done VA apps for in-home care, assisted living and nursing home care? Each one is slightly different. Experience matters when it comes to the type of app your family might need.
  4. Do you have staff solely focused on helping families with long-term care issues? Helping families apply for public programs to offset the skyrocketing costs of long-term care is a very involved process. It’s probably no surprise that the bureaucracy of the process can be overwhelming (and tricky) for those who are not experienced with it. Mistakes during the process are very costly – emotionally and financially.
  5. Does the firm have free information to help families get started? This is a big decision.  Like we said above, you must be sure you can trust the attorney you choose to work with. Taking advantage of free educational materials is a great way to get to know the attorney. It’s also important to get to know his staff along with the general feel and philosophy of the firm. Not every family is a good fit for every attorney. It is a very personal decision.

You can read more about choosing an elder law attorney at the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys’ website. Or, be sure to take a look at these additional articles on our website:

7 Ways Elder Law Attorneys Can Help if Your Loved One is Already in a Nursing Facility

9 Ways Elder Law Attorneys Can Help With In-home Care

I just ate a cheeseburger.

At this point in the year, many of us are abandoning our New Year’s resolutions, but there’s still hope…

by Chris Flynn, Attorney

Well, we’re a few months into 2016, which means we’re also past the point where many people have abandoned their New Year’s resolutions. (I’ve started eating cheeseburgers again despite the 15 or 25 pounds I’d planned to lose this year.)

Estate Plan Organization

A common resolution in the beginning of the year is to “get organized.” I have file cabinets at home that I’ve been mindlessly throwing documents into for years. I keep meaning to clean them out. I know they hold important papers, but can’t imagine trying to actually locate any one of them. With no immediate need to know where specific paperwork is, it’s always easy to put it off for another day instead of taking a couple hours to make sure the big things are in place.

And sadly, if I never do take care of those file cabinets? My family will be left to dig through the piles of junk I’ve gathered over the years trying to figure out what’s important and what’s been left for them.

Would it help your children to know where stuff it? To easily know what bank accounts, investment accounts and insurance policies you own? To get things handled quickly and privately and as automatically as possible when you die?

We can help with this! In just a few meetings, you can know what you have, where your accounts are, where your assets are going when you die, and have it all in one place so that you or your loved ones can access it whenever it’s neededBig Red Binder web version

When you set up a trust with Edwards Group LLC, you’ll leave with The Red Binder. In it, we’ll have all the documents needed to ensure easy administration of your accounts and assets during your disability or after your death.

The Red Binder

Some of the contents of The Red Binder include:

• A Trust, stating what happens with all of your assets upon your disability or death.

• A Will, ensuring that any “straggling” assets get handled in accordance with your trust.

• Powers of Attorney, ensuring that the right people (of your choosing) have the ability to help you when you need it.

• End-of-life and burial wishes, so your family knows what you want and can avoid disputing it later.

• A summary of your plan and a summary of your assets.

In our office, Senior Asset Coordinator Laura Peffley (pictured above with clients), is constantly helping clients get their assets consolidated into one trust. If you simply have an account statement or can print one, she can usually work with that. If you can’t find a deed to your house, she can help you track it down. And ultimately, we can map out a plan together to ensure all of your assets go where you want, when you want.

Procrastination is the Enemy of Estate Plans

Even if you’ve already abandoned some of your resolutions at this point in the year, we can still help you tackle this one today. Procrastination is the single greatest threat to an effective estate plan. Don’t put it off any longer. Planning protects those things most important to you, and we make it easy to take the first step with the following options:

  1. Attend a free workshop. Our monthly workshop, Aging With Confidence: 9 Keys to Wise Planning & Peace of Mind, is a great way to get started with effective planning.
  2. Give us a call at 217-726-9200. Tarina, our Client Coordinator, loves helping people and answering their questions. In fact, she was a client before she ever started working at Edwards Group, so she has a unique perspective that many find helpful.
  3. Schedule an Initial Meeting. If you know you’re ready to get started and want to stop putting it off any longer, just give us a call to schedule a 45-minute meeting where an attorney will review your concerns and goals. The attorney will also help you understand the unique risks that your family faces. By the end of the meeting, you should understand your planning options, what they will cost and if Edwards Group is the right firm for you. Clients find this meeting to be very valuable in helping them understand their options.

Get back on board with getting organized by calling us at 217-726-9200 to RSVP for a workshop, ask questions or schedule an Initial Meeting.

Dave Opens for Doc Severinsen

Taylorville is my hometown (read more about Attorney David Edwards here), and I’m in a Facebook group where people share memories of Taylorville. A while back, the topic came up:

“What celebrities do you remember coming to Taylorville?”

There were all kinds of interesting comments:

  • Sandy Duncan came to town to dedicate “Sandy Duncan Drive.” Duncan was born and raised in Texas, but her character in Funny Face and The Sandy Duncan Show was from Taylorville!
  • A lot of country singers visited Nashville North, a concert hall who hosted many acts as they traveled between St. Louis and Chicago. The long list includes Bon Jovi (in their early days), the Oak Ridge Boys and Loretta Lynn, just to name a few.
  • Ted Nugent (at the roller rink!)
  • Elvis at the KFC (I think this one was a joke…)

Anyway, I posted a comment, too. Back in about 1986, Doc Severinsen came to town. (Do you remember him? The trumpet player and band leader for Johnny Carson?) He was playing two shows at Nashville North like so many others. And guess who was his opening act? The Taylorville High School Jazz Band, complete with me in the trumpet section! Check out the photo below. (Can you tell which one is me?)

Doc Severinsen - Taylorville

So, what does this have to do with estate planning?

We ask our clients to share A LOT of personal information with us. It’s necessary so we can help them develop the most effective plan possible. In addition to all the financial information, it’s important for us to get to know the families we work with, where they come from and what’s important to them.

Because that high level of trust is so important, it can’t be a one-way street. It’s important that our clients get to know our attorneys and our staff as well. So, we periodically share personal stories so you can get to know us better.

I bet you didn’t know an estate planning attorney from Taylorville, Illinois, played trumpet with Doc Severinsen did you?

If you know you need to do estate planning or even update an existing plan, attending our FREE workshop, Aging With Confidence: 9 Keys to Wise Planning & Peace of Mind, is a great way to get to know our unique approach and if we’re a good match for working together. Give us a call at 217-726-9200 to RSVP for an upcoming workshop (click here for dates).

Estate Planning & Potty Breaks (An Honest to Goodness True Story)

Many people think they know what an estate plan is and what it does. And while you are already an “expert” in estate planning because you know the details of your life better than anyone else, it helps to have a guide who can walk you through the complicated legal aspects of an effective plan.

“Sure. You’re going to the ‘library’.” (wink, wink)

It was the secretary’s second week at the big law firm downtown. Here and there she filled in at the front desk when the receptionist was on break. The law firm took up an entire floor, and one of the young new attorneys (who had been told to make sure the receptionist knew where he was), would frequently stick his head in the reception area and say, “I’ll be in the library if you need me.” After this happened quite a few times, the secretary thought, “The library, huh? Well, I guess you could call it that.”

It was a few more weeks before the secretary found out that the law firm did indeed have a library on the next floor of the building! (This was back in the days when lawyers used books instead of computers for research.) The attorney was truly going to the library, while all the while the secretary thought he was making an awful lot of trips to the ‘library’. You know, the kind many of us have 2.5 of in our houses!

That young attorney was David Edwards when he started at his first big firm in downtown Springfield. Dave and the secretary had a good chuckle about it after they finally realized what she had been thinking. You see, sometimes we don’t even know what we don’t know.

The secretary had never been to the library and no one had ever told her about it. So, of course, she was a little suspicious when that young new attorney kept telling her he was headed to the library.

We find the same goes for estate planning. People have a lot of misinformation about estate planning – what Wills can and can’t do. Who needs a Trust and who doesn’t. There are also a lot of misconceptions that lead to wrong assumptions.

Unfortunately, in estate planning, these wrong assumptions can cost families thousands of dollars. They can also destroy families, and add a lot of extra stress at an already difficult time of grieving.

The stakes are very high in estate planning. That’s why it’s so important to get it right.

Education is foundational to what we do at Edwards Group. One of the things people love most about our staff is they can take the complex topic of estate planning and put it into everyday plain language. And this is exactly what David Edwards does at our current workshop, Aging With Confidence: 9 Keys to Wise Planning & Peace of Mind. At this FREE 1.5-hour workshop you’ll learn why effective planning is critical during every stage of life. You’ll also get a good idea of if our unique approach is a good fit for you and your family.

So, what do you need to do?

Give us a call at 217-726-9200 to save your spot at our upcoming workshop. They tend to fill up fast, so it is best if you RSVP ahead of time.

hospice

5 Misconceptions About Hospice

Many people are afraid of hospice. This fear comes from a misunderstanding of the services hospice can provide. Last week we talked about the basics of hospice and why it is one the most positive ways to approach the end of life. This week we tackle some of the big misconceptions about hospice.

5 Misconceptions About Hospice

1) Doesn’t saying “yes” to hospice mean you’re “giving up”? No, hospice does not require that you give up hope. Yet, many people see it that way. Hospice is a way to deal with the transition of death on your own terms, generally in your own home. Most people arrive at hospice too late, making the process harder, not easier, on their family.
2) Won’t my doctor know when it’s time and recommend hospice? Not necessarily. Doctors are trained to heal. They don’t want to “give up” either. Because of that, it’s important to understand what hospice is, and how it can help, if you or a loved one has a terminal illness or advanced disease. Again, most people get hospice care too late, which robs them and their family of quality time together in their last days/months.
3) Will hospice provide 24/7 continuous care? No, you need to have a dedicated caregiver. In the beginning, you will receive more visits from hospice staff, then it will drop off a bit. Towards the end, the visits will pick up again, but hospice is not around-the-clock nursing care. If you or your loved one needs that, and your family cannot arrange for a dedicated caregiver, then you need to consider other options.
4) Do I have to use my hospital’s hospice program? No, you have a choice about what hospice to use.​ You do not have to use the hospital’s service. Again, it’s important to plan ahead if at all possible. Some hospices are better than others. This is not a decision you should make without doing some research.
5) Aren’t all hospices non-profit organizations derived from a religious affiliation? 75% of hospices in the US are now for-profit organizations, according to a Washington Post article from 2014This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean consumers have to be careful when choosing which agency to use. The hospice industry has much less oversight than nursing homes or other healthcare providers, which places the burden of oversight on families who are already in a very stressful situation.

All in All, Hospice Is a Very Good Thing

Most people, if given the choice, would rather die peacefully at home instead of experiencing a series of acute hospital stays or ER visits for the last few months of their life. Yet that’s what many people inadvertently do because they don’t understand hospice.

Hospice gives patients and families great comfort in a time of great stress. It shouldn’t be done at the last minute when it is too late to provide meaningful moments between the patient and family. Good hospice care can help facilitate the tension of such a big transition while making more meaningful moments possible. Because of the spiritual care and social workers, hospice is an amazing support system for those dealing with the hardest, and ultimate, transition in life.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about estate planning, elder law, Medicaid planning, long-term care planning, Veterans benefits or end-of-life documents, please give us a call at 217-726-9200. We are more than happy to speak with you!

 

What You Need to Know About Hospice

At Edwards Group we believe that education is foundational to navigating the issues of aging with as little stress as possible. And with all the misinformation out there about hospice, we thought it would be good to do an article on the topic.

Elisa Cottrell, a former hospital chaplain who handles our marketing and communications, sat down with Kathleen Sgro, founder of Alterna-Care Home Health (and former oncology nurse), and Joseph Sgro, Chief Development Officer for Alterna-Care, to talk about hospice. What is it? Who needs it? And why is it such a powerfully positive experience when done well?

What is hospice?

Hospice is a type of comprehensive and compassionate care for someone facing an advanced or terminal illness. Hospice care addresses the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of the patient, while also helping the family with their emotional and spiritual needs. Hospices employ nurses, social workers and chaplains to meet these needs. Primarily, hospice is a home health benefit. This means that patients get to stay in the comfort and familiarity of their own home while they receive hospice services. The nurses, chaplains and social workers come to you and your family.

Who needs hospice?

In addition, if your disease is causing great pain, hospice nurses are experts in managing pain. They also have a much better outcome than nurses who have not been trained in hospice care.

Generally, if you have been given a prognosis of 6 months to live, then you will qualify for hospice. This DOES NOT mean that you are giving up or that you will get “kicked out” after 6 months. You can receive hospice services for as long as you are declining. It is a coordinated effort between all of your medical team to determine if you still need hospice. Sometimes people get better and get discharged. While you receive hospice though, you may not go to the ER. Hospice is about quality of life and making life as good as it can be while you have an advanced disease.

Why should you use hospice?

In addition to effective pain management, there are other very good reasons why hospice needs to be viewed as a good thing and not something negative.

Going in and out of the hospital trying to get acute care, which is only going to cause more stress and pain in the short run, is not a good way to spend the end of life. Most people, if given the choice, would rather die peacefully at home instead of experiencing a series of acute hospital stays or ER visits for the last few months of their life. Yet, that’s what many people inadvertently do because they don’t understand hospice.

Hospice gives patients and families great comfort in a time of great stress. It shouldn’t be done at the last minute when it is too late to provide meaningful moments between the patient and family. During our conversation, Joe Sgro said he “routinely argues that oftentimes hospice is more for the family than the patient.” It gives everybody the time and space to do what needs to be done relationally at the end of life, and that is so very powerful. Frequently, the patient will be ready to stop “fighting” via active treatments of their disease, but the family isn’t ready for that. Hospice can help facilitate that tension and make more meaningful moments possible. Because of the spiritual care and the social workers, hospice is an amazing support system for those dealing with the hardest, and ultimate, transition in life.

Should I wait until my doctor recommends hospice?

Doctors are trained to save lives, and because of that they have a hard time telling patients that it’s time for hospice. According to Joe Sgro, “Doctors are trained to heal. They don’t want to ‘give up’ either,” which is why it is so important to fight the misconception that hospice is “giving up.” Hospice gives people a sense of dignity, and it gives families meaningful time with their loved ones – time that can make the end of the life transition easier and less traumatic.

“Even as someone who has training in end-of-life spiritual care and knows how deeply effective and positive hospice can be, I had trouble getting a real conversation started with doctors and family when my father-in-law was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer,” says Elisa Cottrell. “I knew the important work we all had to do in saying goodbye. In making sure all those things you want to say to your loved ones get said, but it was a hard sell. In the end, we thought we had a few months left with my father-in-law, but we only had five weeks. He never made it to hospice. I still feel very strongly that my father-in-law’s oncologist robbed us from having meaningful time that could have made the transition easier. There are many long-term complications of grieving that will linger with the family because they didn’t have the chance to properly face the situation. Nobody was able to be at peace with what was happening. They were all fighting it. It made for a lot of extra stress then and now.”

And that’s one of the most important things hospice can do. In addition to walking families through the stages of grief and helping them to understand the process better, Kathy Sgro feels that the most important thing Alterna-Care can do is to get the family and patient to the peace stage. This is the truly revolutionary part of hospice that most can’t understand unless they’ve been through it before.

For more on end of life issues, read our article, Approaching End of Life Issues With Forethought here. And check back next week for our upcoming post, 5 Misconceptions About Hospice.

The Night Before Christmas – Edwards Group Edition

Part of the thing our clients love about Edwards Group is that we strive to treat everyone like family. Sometimes that means sharing some personal things (just like we expect our clients to share personal things with us). The staff wrote a great rendition of The Night Before Christmas for Dave one year. It’s too good not to share!

‘Twas the day of the workshop when all through the firm,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a worm.
Drafts were piled up on Dave‘s desk with care,
Tarina needed them reviewed but said, “Don’t despair.”

Our clients were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of trust documents danced in their heads.
And Dave in his khakis and white oxford shirt,
Had just settled an estate dispute out of court.
When down the long hall there arose such a clatter,
Dave sprang from his desk to see what was the matter.
Away to the copier he flew like a flash,
Tore open the doors and said, “This copier’s trash!”

The fluorescent bulbs gave off such a glow,
Dave couldn’t see that the toner was low.
When what to his wondering eyes did appear?
But a conference room full of members were here.
With a shout to Tarina, “Come get this fixed!
I need those trust documents printed and quick!”

More rapid than eagles, his staff quickly came,
And whistled and shouted and called them by name.
“Now Tarina! Now Laura! Now Sandy! Now Liis!
On Amanda and Melissa and Chris, help me please.”

The phones started ringing, computers went down.
Doors started dinging but Dave didn’t frown.
Tarina answered phones, while Sandy called Jeff.
Laura greeted clients. Dave took a deep breath.

He filled up his water and walked into the meeting,
Then gave the Dynasty members a warm greeting.
As Dave was speaking, down the hall you could hear,
Giggling and playing, our children dear.
As Dave shut the door and was turning around,
Through the front door St. Nicholas did bound.

He said, “Dave’s again on my nice list this year.
So I’ve come to fill the office with cheer.
He’s been honest, caring, hardworking, sincere.
Takes care of his staff all throughout the year.
He uses his knowledge to serve clients well.
He’s a generous boss – I know you can tell.
His relaxed demeanor puts clients at ease.
He’s patient and always so eager to please.
He’s a loving father to Bailey and Cole,
Michelle would say he’s a kind-hearted soul.”

A new copy machine, Santa pulled from his sack,
With plenty of toner, both colored and black.
With a clap of his hands the staff went to work,
“And now for those trusts,” Santa said with a smirk.
Tarina approached the man with the hat,
Saying, “No worries at all. There’s a checklist for that!”

The gleeful staff then loaded the paper to print,
While Santa nibbled on a green peppermint.
The trusts were delivered to Dave and the crowd.
The ooh’s and the ahh’s of the members were loud.
With eyes shining brightly, Dave grinned at St. Nick.
Then he said, “Why thank you. That new copier’s slick.”

It was all suddenly over in quite a hurry.
Santa hopped in his sleigh in the midst of a flurry.
But we all heard him shout, heading into the blue-
“Next year I need my planning updated, too!”

life care planning

2 Types of Help You May Need

Last week we gave you a secret test you could give a named helper (or potential helper) to see if they might be up to the task. But what sorts of things might you need help with? There are generally two categories…

Help With Finances

A recent National Institutes of Health study showed a decrease in decision-making skills between the ages of 56-85. We also know, statistically, that if you reach the age of 65 you will, on average, live 19.2 more years. Therefore, many of us will need help with complicated financial decisions that occur in the last few decades of life.

A Power of Attorney for finances will allow someone to help you pay bills, manage your investments and make financial decisions. This may sound very scary, but we help our clients make good choices about financial POAs on a daily basis. That’s why you see the word “Counselor” in our name.

Help With Healthcare Decisions

As you age, you may want input from others about your healthcare. We all know how complicated the medical care world is to navigate these days.

A Power of Attorney for healthcare will allow someone to help you make decisions about a variety of medical issues:

• Medical treatments – like chemo and radiation if you’re diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, doctors and nurses can’t always be relied upon to recommend the best course of action. It can be extremely helpful to have someone else listening to the options, the pros and cons, and then helping you make sense of the process.

• Surgery – whether it’s really needed or not.

End of life decisions – do you want to be hooked up to machines? Do you want to spend your last days at home if at all possible?

• Where to  live – should I downsize, stay put (age in place) or is there another alternative?

• How to get the best care – marketers are very savvy and they know that seniors are an easy target. It would be very helpful to have someone who can help you weed through all the “flash” of advertisements and get down to the real useful information so you can make informed choices.

• When to sign a “Do Not Resuscitate” order.

Learn more about what exactly helpers do in our post, “12 Duties of a Helper.”

How Edwards Group Can Help

We help families choose good helpers everyday. This is a difficult decision and one of the most important you’ll ever make. You don’t have to do it alone. We can guide you through the process of deciding who is best. While you’ll only do this once in your lifetime (maybe twice), we’ve helped hundreds of families since 2008. In that time, our firm has been solely dedicated to estate planning and elder law. We’ve seen A LOT and gained a lot of wisdom from the families we help on a daily basis. We can help you know what to do and what NOT to do.

Give us a call at 217-726-9200 and plan to attend an upcoming workshop today. Attending a workshop makes the planning process easier and more effective all around!

The greatest threat to an effective estate plan is not taking any action at all, so take your first step today and call us at 217-726-9200 to schedule an Initial Meeting or come to a workshop.

The Top 2 Concerns of Planning

When a loved one is facing long-term care the first concern people have when they come to us for planning is how to get the best care possible. The second concern is how to pay for it.

Getting Good Care

People come to us worried about an aging family member or friend all the time. Their primary concerns are making sure their loved one is provided for, making sure they’re safe and getting the medical care that they need, while helping them have quality of life as much as possible. And these are the primary goals for our firm as well. We want to help decrease stress, increase quality of life and preserve family relationships during the last decades of life.

Paying for Care

This is the issue that usually adds the most stress for families because they don’t know where to turn or where to get good advice about the options that are out there. The scary truth is that a lot of people are given wrong information and think there’s nothing that can be done if you can’t afford care on your own.

In reality, there are many planning tools that we can use to protect assets and gain benefits, even if someone is already in a nursing home. Our firm finds ways to maximize benefits available to pay for care, and protect some of the assets that mom hoped she would leave her family someday. Even if somebody’s been in a nursing home for months or years, it’s oftentimes not too late to get benefits to pay for care.

As long as somebody is writing personal checks to the nursing home every month, it is not too late to plan and save some of those assets.

The key is working with an experienced elder law attorney. Most “estate planning” attorneys just do what we call “death planning” (last will and testament, etc.), but elder law attorneys (like Edwards Group) have specialized training and expertise, and that means we deal with Medicaid and VA benefits every single day. We help you use the legal tools to their full advantage. And that means, in most cases, we can qualify someone for benefits faster than they ever expected, get more benefits than they ever expected, and in the end, protect much more of their life savings than they thought possible!