A Quick Guide to Writing and Publishing Your Family History

With the world going digital, it may seem old-fashioned to print a book about your family’s history. But the truth is, a screen can never replace the experience of flipping through pages of pictures and stories about your loved ones.

We know this on a gut level, but it’s also backed up by a lot of research—we form strong emotional connections with print books, not so with screens. Consumer behavior proves it too: sales of print books continue to rise (especially among Millennials!) and sales of ebooks have flatlined (check out Revenge of the Analog for more on this topic).

But how do you write a book? It’s a daunting task. In this post, we’ll explore a few options that will make it easier for you.

Hire a Writer

This is by far the easiest option for you, but it will also be the most expensive. Ask friends, family, and colleagues if they know a good, professional writer. Personal recommendations will usually lead to the best working relationship.

If that doesn’t work out, you can use a site like Upwork.com. On Upwork, you post the specifics of your writing project, writers respond with price quotes, and you pick the one you want to work with. You can see the writers’ ratings, reviews, and testimonials. Prices range from $20 – $100+ per hour.

Hire an Editor

This option is less expensive than hiring a writer, but it’s a bigger time investment on your part. You’ll need to present the editor with a finished book. Thankfully, your book won’t need to be perfect. It’s the editor’s job to whip it into shape for you, so if you give them something to work with they can take it from there.

Just like hiring a writer, tapping into your network is the best way to find an editor. Use Upwork.com if that doesn’t work out. Prices range from $15 – $50+ per hour.

Pay to be Prompted

For $79 (as I write this, there’s a holiday special price of $59), Storyworth.com will send you a story prompt each week for one year. You’ll write or record your response. At the end of the year, Storyworth will put your responses together in a hardcover, black & white book, which they’ll print and ship to you (all included in the $79 price). You can buy as many additional copies of the book as you’d like, and you can upgrade to a color book for an additional fee.

The questions they present are interesting, and aren’t things you would think of on your own. Buying a year of Storyworth for someone else (like Grandma or Grandpa) is a great way to prompt them to tell their stories and get it written and/or recorded for posterity.

Write It Yourself

This is the hardest but most fulfilling option. You may think you’re not a writer, but as famous PBS painter Bob Ross said, “Talent is a pursued interest. Anything you’re willing to practice, you can do….I really believe that if you practice enough, you could paint The Mona Lisa with a two-inch brush.” I think he’d apply that sentiment to writing too.

Let’s say you’ve finished your book, how do you get it printed? I recommend Amazon KDP or lulu.com. They both offer great pricing and lots of size options. Pricing per book can be as low as $2.15/each (100-page, black & white) up to about $14/each (for a 200-page book in color).

Setting your book up on these platforms can be a bit technical. Lulu.com will offer more customer service help than Amazon. But don’t let this stop you—you can easily hire someone to do the setup process for you. Once your book is published, anyone in your family can order their own copy and have it shipped directly to them.

In the end, all your hard work will be worth it. There’s nothing quite like pulling a copy of your family’s history right off the bookshelf. (My grandfather left us such a gift.) It’s a priceless experience for you and generations to come.

For more on preserving your family’s legacy, check out this blog post: Recording and Transcribing Family Conversations on Your Smartphone.

transcription, transcribe, family legacy

Recording and Transcribing Family Conversations on Your Smartphone

With all the holiday gatherings coming up, this is the perfect time of year to get around the table and record your family’s stories. Smartphones have made this easier than ever: turn on a voice record app, set it in the middle of the table, and start asking grandma and grandpa questions about their lives.

Having your loved one’s voice recorded for posterity is wonderful—it’s  amazing to think that one day your grandkids will have the chance to hear your grandfather’s voice! But you can do more with these recordings than just listen to them. You can easily turn them into text, creating a readable, searchable history of your family, and maybe even a book (like Attorney David Edwardsgrandfather did).

Two Benefits of Turning Audio into Text

Readable: When you have hours of recordings from several loved ones, it can be daunting and time-consuming to listen to all of it. Converting their words to text, allows you to read through it much faster (2-3x as fast, depending on how fast you read), and you can skim through it even faster than that.

Searchable: Many transcription apps allow you to search transcribed text. So if you remembered a story that grandpa told about being in Paris, you won’t need to dig through hours of recordings.You can search the text for “Paris” and you’ll see every spot where that word is mentioned. You can also copy and paste the transcriptions into Microsoft Word or Google Docs and do the same type of search.

How to Turn Your Recordings into Text

Transcribe Live. With this option your words will turn to text as you speak. You can do this for free on your iPhone and Android. The downside is the accuracy is mediocre, especially with several different speakers. And these options won’t save your audio, just the text.

  • For iPhones: open Notes, start a new Note, press the little microphone button, and you’re good to go. If you don’t see the microphone, turn on your Dictation setting under General Settings, Keyboard.
  • For Android phones: download the Google Docs app, open it, and press the microphone button.

Transcribe in an App. Transcription apps do it all: record your audio, transcribe it, and allow you to search and share the text. With lots of options available, I’ll only highlight the best apps on the market.

  • Otter (iPhone & Android) is free to download and will transcribe up to 600 minutes of recording for free each month. It transcribes live as you speak and is more accurate than the free options mentioned above. Otter also saves your audio and offers unlimited storage.
  • Rev (iPhone & Android) is the best of the best. The app is free to download and it’s free to record. Transcribing your recordings costs $1 per minute. So if you’ve got 10 minutes it’s $10. Rev is 99% accurate and transcription is done by humans, so you’ll get excellent punctuation and paragraphs.

Transcribe Old Recordings. You can import old recordings—from your iPhone Voice Memos or an Android app or any type of file on your computer—into Otter and Rev and they’ll transcribe it. Even if you have cassettes or CDs, you can turn them into a digital file (lots of online services will help you with this) and upload them into Rev or Otter.

Transcribe Phone Calls. I love this option because even though you may not get a lot of face-to-face time with your loved ones, you can still record your conversations and transcribe them.

  • Smart Record (iPhone only) will record your calls, then transcribe them. They charge $4.99/week or $9.99/month for call recording (you can cancel any time). You can then transcribe those recordings via machines (for $0.12/minute) or humans (for $1/minute).
  • Rev (iPhone & Android) lets you record calls for free and you can then pay to transcribe them ($1/minute). You could also download one of the many call recording apps, then upload your files into Otter for free transcription.

These apps and options might take a little time to learn, but it’s a worthwhile investment. Turning your conversations into text opens all kinds of options for preserving your non-financial legacy. Happy transcribing!

 

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.

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.

 

Don’t Get Stuck With a Stupid Tax

Have you ever heard the phrase, “stupid tax”? I hate paying a stupid tax, because it’s always something that could have been avoided.

A few years ago my wife and I went with my parents to see an Illini basketball game in Champaign. After eating at the Ribeye on Neil Street (good food!), I ran through the snow to get the car. As I approached the car I had a sinking feeling.

I had forgotten the tickets. 

Thankfully, the box office was able to reissue forgotten season tickets, but I had to pay a stupid tax of $5 for every ticket being replaced!

We all get stuck paying a stupid tax every now and then. A few dollars isn’t bad as far as a stupid tax is concerned, but when it comes to estate planning, mistakes can be very costly. One of my primary goals is to help you and your family avoid paying any stupid taxes by thoroughly thinking through things and planning ahead.

Recently, a younger high profile celebrity died without thinking through what would happen to his estate if he suddenly passed away. His estate ended up paying a $12 million stupid tax. While most people won’t make that big of a mistake when it comes to planning, we see people all the time who did not properly plan, and therefore, end up owing a stupid tax. And the most frustrating part? It could have been avoided.

If you’re not sure whether your estate will be slapped with a stupid tax, we encourage you to give us a call at 217-726-9200 or attend an upcoming workshop on estate planning. Wills & Trusts: How to Get Started is a great way to learn more about effective planning.

estate planning act of love

7 Reasons Estate Planning Is an Act of Love

When you think of Valentine’s Day, you probably don’t think about estate planning, but we do! We see the depth of our clients’ love for their families everyday as they put an effective plan together — a plan from which they may never see the benefits. A plan that will give their loved ones peace at a time of great loss and grief.

Here are seven reasons why our staff sees estate planning as a great act of love:

  1. It provides protection at every stage of the game. You’ve worked to protect your children throughout their life — when they learned to walk, when they learned to drive, even after they moved out. Creating an effective estate plan is another way we can protect our kids.
  2. It makes sure nothing important gets lost in the shuffle. You may have IRAs, multiple insurance policies or other assets that children know nothing about. It is incredibly stressful, after the loss of a loved one, to run around, playing detective, trying to gather necessary information about these things.
  3. It’s likely the largest financial gift you’ll ever make. You want to get it right. Even if you don’t think you have much of an “estate,” if you own a house, then you have an estate to pass on. Bad estate plans (or no plan) make big messes for those left behind to deal with.
  4. Without planning, your estate could cause great hardship. In Illinois, if you die without a will, your estate will be split 50-50 between your spouse and kids. This means that your wife could be prevented from selling the house because the children won’t agree to it.
  5. You can still watch out for that wayward child. It’s really difficult when our children don’t make the choices we’d like them to make for themselves. It causes everyone a lot of heartache. Creating a trust for a child like this can bring a deep sense of peace.
  6. Long-term Care Planning takes the burden off your family. The last decade of life is one of the most stressful times in the human lifespan. There is nothing harder for a child or family member than not being able to provide care for a loved one when the time comes.
  7. It takes the guesswork away. It is very difficult to be grieving the loss of a loved one (or the catastrophic illness of a loved one) all the while not knowing if you are making the decisions they would want made. Good planning prevents guilt and emotional conflict between siblings or family members.

If you’ve been putting off planning because of the hassle or the cost, we encourage you to take a step toward protecting your loved ones today. You’ve already taken at least one step by learning more in this post. Next, we encourage you to attend a free educational workshopAging With Confidence: 9 Keys to Wise Planning & Peace of Mind. See the upcoming dates here, and call 217-726-9200 to RSVP.

We also understand that time is of the essence if you have a loved one who is facing a nursing home or already in a nursing home. In that case, we urge you to call us right away at 217-726-9200 and one of our Elder Care Advisors will be more than happy to speak with you about your urgent situation.

(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

Not Your Best Option: Life Estate Deeds

So, what are life estates or life estate deeds?

Sometimes, instead of using a trust, people will use a life estate deed to try and protect a house or farmland. This means they deed the land to their kids but reserve the right to still use the house or the farm as long as they are living. Because all of the instructions are contained in the deed itself, it can sound like a nice, simple solution. Life estates can seem like a cheaper and easier alternative to a trust…

But life estate deeds do not always work as advertised.

 

A Life Estate Case Study

Click here to download the Case Study as a PDF

We recently had a situation here at the office that is a good example of why life estates are generally not a good option.  Mom had put her house into a life estate a while back. She was now in a situation where she needed more care and was going to a nursing home. The family wanted to sell the house, but if they sold the house, then a percentage of the house would be considered an asset for the purposes of Medicaid. Even with good legal planning, some of the funds would have to be spent on nursing home costs, and the ultimate goal of planning is to protect your hard-earned money and assets (like your house) that you hoped could be a legacy for your family someday. 

4 Reasons Life Estates Don’t Work

1. They don’t protect ALL the value. People are surprised by how much of the value of their house or property is still considered theirs if they need Medicaid. This is all governed by a Medicaid table. (See it here.) So, what are the exact problems with life estates and why don’t life estate deeds “work”?

Here’s how the Medicaid table works: if someone is 65-years-old, Medicaid says that almost 68% of the house is still considered yours. At age 70, 60.5% is yours. At age 80, 43.66% of the value of the house still counts as yours. 

So what does this mean? It means that if you are 70-years-old, have a stroke and need to go to a nursing home, when your house is sold then 60.5% of the house sale money stays in your name and is exposed to long term care costs. This is true even if it has been more than 5 years since the deed was done.

2. You don’t own or fully control your house or property anymore. If something unexpected happens and you “need” to sell the property, you can’t without getting the kids to sign off on it, because they actually own the property. You don’t own it anymore (even though you have the right to use it for the rest of your life).

3. You can’t change who gets it after you are gone. With a deed, it’s a done deal. The house goes to your kids at your death — no matter what. There is no way to change it. So, if your child dies before you do, you can’t reconsider who the house or property goes to. It will go through his or her estate and be completely out of your control (even though you have the right to use it for the rest of your life).

4. Life estate deeds could prevent you from getting VA benefits. The VA sees things differently and assumes that any income interest or life estate you might have are entirely yours (and therefore counted as an asset). Depending on the situation, this could cause you to be denied VA benefits. For instance, farmland with a life estate would typically prevent VA benefits without further planning.

 What’s the Solution?

In contrast to the above issues with life estates, nest egg trusts can effectively address all of these issues:

• They can protect 100% of the value once 5 years has passed.

• You can be the trustee of the trust where your farm or home is kept, which means you can sell the property, buy a different house if you want, etc.

• You can reserve a rewrite power (called a “power of appointment”) so you can change who gets it at death. That way, if circumstances change, you can respond to them appropriately.

• A trust can be set up to allow VA benefits or be adjusted later to qualify for VA benefits.

Trusts are one of the best tools that we have in our legal toolbox to help clients, and our firm is one of the best at setting them up. If you are considering a life estate deed, please give us a call first to see if there are better options available for your unique situation.

Download the Life Estate Deeds Case Study for quick reference and to share with others.

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

 

Is Your Estate Plan Old and Clunky?

David Edwards loves what he does, and it’s obvious because he can connect just about anything to estate planning! In this post, Dave and his dad explore how estate planning is like… old tennis rackets. 

Estate Planning is Like… Old Tennis Rackets

When my parents were first married (around 1967 or so), my mom’s parents gave them each a tennis racket. They were nice sturdy wooden rackets with the frames that you could screw down to keep them from warping.

My parents used them a little, but not too much before they ended up in storage in the attic above the garage. When I was in the 10th grade, I signed up for tennis at the YMCA one summer. Since I needed a racket, my dad proudly offered, “We have a couple of nice ones up in the attic. Barely been used.”

I came home after that first lesson and said, “Dad, the coach said that I need a new racket.” As we shopped for the new racket, my dad later told me he realized just how much things had changed in the past 20 years or so. That wooden racket was really heavy and clunky compared to the new, lightweight metal ones.

Dave and the Taylorville Boys Tennis Team

David Edwards and the Taylorville Boys Tennis Team around 1989

David Edwards and the Taylorville Boys Tennis Team around 1989

Dave’s Dad Tells Us How Old Rackets are Like Estate Planning (And No, Estate Planning is Not a Racket!)

Recently my dad reminded me of this story and thought it would be a good topic for a newsletter or a post. And he was right!

Old tennis rackets are like estate planning… if we’re not careful, our estate plans can become “clunky old wooden rackets” and be really out of date. They just won’t get the job done.

But there’s another great lesson in here, too, concerning our children —

Don’t send them out into the world with “clunky old wooden rackets.” Be sure to give them the training and the tools they need to face what lies ahead.

Our firm is pretty unique in that we work with the whole family to draft an estate plan that is effective. That means that when the time comes to put your plan into action, your kids will already have met us, know who to call, and we will help guide them through the process during one of the most stressful times of their life. What better tool to get the job done?

If you’re new to Edwards Group and wondering if we’re the right estate planning firm for you, please check out our FREE workshop, Aging With Confidence: 9 Keys to Wise Planning & Peace of Mind. We hold it every month and it’s a great way to learn:

  • that planning must include both estate planning (death planning) and LIFE planning.
  • the 5 life stages to plan for and which one you’re in.
  • simple planning steps to take on your own — plus options for additional guidance from the Edwards Group team.

Call 217-726-9200 to save your spot at an upcoming workshop or to schedule an Initial Meeting.