with Greg and Hayden.
GM: Happy thanksgiving. I bought a big picture of a turkey, I can’t wait to dig in. Today’s topic is ‘Turkey Talk.’ How to get down to business and talk turkey with your family over the holidays, and why you should do it.
So, what are you doing for thanksgiving?
HS: We’re going to New York, to Manhattan for a couple of shopping errands, and we are going to New Hampshire.
GM: Send me some pictures, I’m jealous, I love New York City.
HS: And we’re going to Amish country. We’re having thanksgiving with my husband’s sister and her family and extended friends that we know. It’ll be great.
GM: I’m going to Savannah, Georgia. Stef and my kids have convinced me to go and see my mom and dad. I will be working Friday from a Savannah satellite, but I am going to try and unplug a little bit.
So, why, during the holidays is talking about estate planning so important?
Well, I’ll tell you..
Families should get together and talk business anyway, you should set up a time. I meet with my family for an official meeting on a weekly basis. We do a family meeting at 8pm on Sunday night and plan out the week. We run it like a business meeting because my wife has her calendar going, the kids have their calendar going, and we all try and get on the same page. We look at finances, we look at everything, any grievances we have, and we hash it out. If you can’t be on the same page with your family, there’s going to be problems in life.
HS: I don’t want people to think you’re all business with the kids because you let them climb all over you.
GM: Oh, I love my kids, but you’ve got to be responsible, you’ve got to have your calendar, money and work under control. We talk about all those things. Nothing is perfect but certainly you can’t even get close to perfection if you’re not on the same page and meeting regularly and keep things going. This is just an extension of that.
You should meet at least on the holidays. If you’re a senior, your kids are spread out everywhere. You might have kids in a different state right? You might have parents in different states like I do. You need to meet on the holidays because that is when you come together. You don’t need to do it when you sit down at the dinner table and say, oh yeah, business, business, business, when you’re stuffing your mouth with delicious turkey and stuffing. Carve out some time after dinner, but make time. Talk about family business, about estate planning, and why that might be important? Remember, your parents are aging, your aging.
Family traditions change all the time. I admit, I don’t like change, at least when it comes to holiday traditions, but a good change would be to introduce a family meeting.
I’ll give you an example. I had a client one time whose mother got a call, and they said, hey, you’ve won the lottery. Now, she was suffering from early on-set dementia, and everybody knew it, they knew something was wrong, but nobody had talked about it much. It was kind of like, sshh, don’t talk about it. That’s what families do, they shove it under the carpet, they don’t take action, they don’t talk about it. So, this phone call, they said you’ve won the lottery, all nice and polite, all you have to do is send me $30,000 dollars on the taxes of the winnings and we can send you your millions. What’s your bank account number, what’s your credit card number, great. $30,000 gone. There are so many scams out there.
So, how do we prevent things like that?
HS: Have conversations.
GM: Have conversations, plan, talk and take action. One thing you can do in that situation is either pursue a Guardianship, or put in place General Durable Power of Attorney, and maybe have something on the accounts that makes it harder to clear that transaction. Just have some ‘control’ put in place, so it’s harder to give away land or money or property.
I meet with families all the time who are scared that mom or dad might deed away their house to somebody.
HS: I’ve heard of people who’ve had caregivers come in and befriend them and convinced grandma to leave them the house because their kids don’t need it.
GM: Let me ask you, if you could go back and prevent the forest fire from happening in Lake Lure in the mountains, would you do it?
HS: I’d be stomping that thing out.
GM: You’d do it right away wouldn’t you? One way to prevent things like that is to have your foundations in place with your parents and yourselves. Everyone 18 to 180, should have their ‘General Durable Power of Attorney’ in place, so I could help you or you could help me if I’m in a wreck on the way home, and help me look after my personal business so I don’t lose everything. The band played on right?
Also, ‘Healthcare Power of Attorney.’ I want to appoint a specific person I trust to make my life or death and even long term healthcare decisions. That way, my kids aren’t arguing over what should be done with me, because I’ve appointed that one quarterback.
How many quarterbacks do you have for one team on the field? And why?
HS: One, because you can’t have two people giving conflicting instructions.
GM: You can’t have more than one person calling the plan, or calling plays, everybody would be fighting with each other, you would never get anything accomplished.
HS: You know, the military is a good example. People who go into battle, or overseas, or anywhere, they make sure they have all their documents ready, such as a will, my grandson had to have this done before going to the Middle East as an Army Ranger. They do that for a reason.
GM: And whether you believe it or not, your family is a business. You have assets, you have bills to pay, you have expenses, it’s a personal business.
HS: The ‘Saving the Farm’ book would be a great ice breaker. Just say to mom, I read something in this book I think you should read. I think this is something we might need to talk about.
GM: I wrote this book for situations like this. I like what Hayden said about this, it’s a reference book that reads like a novel. It’s very informative, it raises questions. But unless you talk about those things, does mom and dad have long term care insurance in place? Do you as a young or aging senior have long term care insurance in place?
This book is a great ice breaker. Nothing would be better than setting up your meeting after lunch on Thanksgiving day, and have this book there as a reference to talk about long term care insurance, or types of wills, or the pitfalls of wills, who’s going to be the executor? Who’s going to be your Power of Attorney? What’s wrong with Guardianships? Guardianship nightmares, read about those. What about VA benefits, is someone a veteran in the family? How will those benefits affect you? There are little known veterans benefits such as ‘Aid and Attendance’ that could add several thousand to your account every month, that could pay for an in-home care, or help pay for long term care.
Another reason you want to get a meeting planned and going is Guardianships. You do not want to end up in a Guardianship situation with your family. It’s cumbersome, it’s overwhelming trying to work with the courts, and when you do, you have to petition the courts to spend any money. Even if it’s to protect assets.
Look at your foundations. General Durable Power of Attorney. You do not want to have three quarterbacks on the field when your life and finances are on the line. You want to designate one person who will make the decisions for you.
Living Wills is another one, (also known as ‘The Declaration for Desire of a Natural Death.’ Put those in place so you can say, if I’m terminal, incurable, brain death has occurred and I’m being maintained by a respirator, do I want to continue on that way?
And do I want to put that on my son or daughter or my wife to make that guilt ridden decision, or do I want to make it, and go ahead and put forth my statement of intent.
What about ‘Wills?’ You should have a Will to allow you to pass your property the way you want to pass it, not the way the state of North Carolina has chosen to pass it for you. I guarantee, politicians have already chosen a path for you, and your property. Elect me, and I will choose how everybody in the state chooses to pass their property, how about that? Does that sound good?
HS: No. But they have to do that because there are so many people who die intestate (without a will).
GM: That’s true, it is done for a reason, it’s a good thing.
HS: And nowadays there are second marriages, and step children, things aren’t cut and dried anymore. You’ve got a second husband who is living in the house and you’ve got a daughter whom you wanted to inherit the house. There’s all kinds of situations.
GM: So, avoid surprises.
HS: If you don’t know the questions to ask, we can help you understand the situation and what is going to work best for you.
GM: Those are your foundations. You need to have them in place. Just starting there can be great. Go to our website, mcelderlaw.com, I will post this Deed Planning guide. This is a whole estate planning guide. It will show you how you can use Trusts, and avoid Probate, and how you might want to use Ladybird Deeds or Life Estate Deeds to protect your property and avoid probate. I will post that, and you talk about it with your family.
Talk about eDocs Access which I will post also. It will show you a 5 step process how to use our system. This is a bank level security system. We put all your documents there, and your kids from out of state even, can access them only if you give them permission to do so. If there is an emergency, it allows you to view those documents, even if you are traveling.
I will also put up a Trust guide for you.
Print these off, it will make a good guide to your conversation. Just make your meeting a separate thing, don’t make it a dessert conversation piece. Set a real meeting time, and get on the same page as mom and dad, or your kids. Figure out how to protect all the hard earned money and property your family worked for. Don’t let another Thanksgiving or holiday season go by and gamble everything.
HS: And when we do Wills, there is a personal property memorandum that we give to everyone, where they can start to list things. That would be a good thing to have in your hand for Thanksgiving. People could then say, okay mom, I want you to put it in writing, you promised me that item, and I want you to put it on this list. That could start the conversation.
GM: And remember, you can avoid all the infighting by making some simple decisions. If you add a little money to the family mix, it’s like blood to sharks.
So, make sure to give us call at 704 259 7040, or go to our website and download those documents, and use them.
Make it a great day and Happy Thanksgiving.
Elder Law Attorney
McIntyre Elder Law
123 W. Marion Street
Shelby, NC 28150