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Watch Dad's and Mom's Credit!

Fingerprint-2904774_640I recently read an article about a 103-year-old man who got himself into a credit mess. 

His memory had recently begun to decline, so his son used a power of attorney to take over Dad’s finances, including his checkbook and credit cards.

Although Son took Dad to look at assisted living facilities, Dad did not want to leave his retirement community where he lives alone, drives his own golf cart, and dates a former beauty queen. Who can blame him?

However, Dad decided one day to spruce up his home, so he called a repair company which he had used for over ten years to inspect his air conditioning. He didn’t remember to consult his son. As a result, Dad agreed to pay more than $24,000 for two new AC units and a warranty. Because he did not have access to credit cards or checks, he took out a 12-year loan, which could have added an additional $18,000 in interest. 

Son was furious when he found out, and believed Dad had been taken advantage of, as Son felt Dad was not competent to sign a contract. However, the company said that when they dealt with Dad he seemed the same as he always had been, showed no signs of any mental deficiency, and they and no knowledge of his declining memory; they said they do inquire further if they have information of a competency issue. 

The good news: Son and the company negotiated a settlement reducing the price of the units and cancelling the warranty.

There do not appear to be any villains here, but this could have been prevented. Son did almost everything right to keep Dad from making bad financial decisions. The one thing that Son did not think about doing was to freeze Dad’s credit, which makes it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts, or a parent to open a credit line without the child knowing. How can that be done?

  • Contact the three credit agencies, Equifax (800-685-1111), Experian (888-397-3742), and TransUnion (888-909-8872).
  • Provide the person’s name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, and other relevant personal information.
  • Verify your identification, provide a court order, power of attorney, or other documents showing you have authority to act.
  • Request that notifications come to you.
  • If requested by telephone, the account must be frozen within one business day.
  • The company will provide a PIN or password, which you will need to lift the freeze.
  • If you request that the freeze be lifted, it must be done within one hour.

This can be an important, but often overlooked, step in protecting a parent from “creditors and predators”.

 

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How long will you live? It depends.

Clock-4003126_640Life expectancy increased in the U.S. by nearly four years from 1990 to 2016. Americans born today can expect to live to a ripe old age of 78.9 years old.

However, researchers are worried that increasingly, Americans are smoking and drinking too much, eating bad food, and suffering from more drug use disorders. It’s all having an effect on how long people can live healthy, disability- and disease-free lives.

According to a new JAMA study that tracked the state of health in the U.S. from 1990-2016, although Americans are living longer today than they used to, they’re not necessarily living much healthier lives.

The study traced the prevalence of 333 different health problem causes and 84 risk factors for death over that 26-year period, and found that the average American born today can expect to live 67.7 years illness- and injury-free, a healthy life expectancy average that’s just 2.4 years longer than it was in 1990.

The researchers are especially worried about growing rates of health problems like obesity and diabetes, the prevalence of drug use disorders (including opioid addiction), and alcohol use. Other health issues on the rise in the U.S. include cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and hearing loss, which are edging out what used to be some of the most common health issues in the country, like major depression, low back pain, and car crash injuries.

Lead study author Christopher Murray, who directs the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, says that obesity and substance use disorders are increasing health problems around the globe, and this most recent data shows that the U.S. is no exception.

In 1960 Americans had the highest life expectancy of any country in the world. But today, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the U.S. has plummeted to the bottom of the list of countries with a similar GDP and high average income. The number of years people can expect to live healthy, illness- and injury-free lives in the U.S. is over 70 years in only two states: Minnesota and Hawaii.

Here’s the full list of states, plus Washington D.C., in order from longest healthy life expectancy to shortest.

1 Minnesota – 70.3 years
2 Hawaii – 70.1 years
3 California – 69.9 years
4 Washington – 69.1 years
5 Vermont – 69 years
6 Connecticut – 69 years
7 Iowa – 68.9 years
8 Massachusetts – 68.9 years
9 Colorado – 68.9 years
10 New Jersey – 68.8 years
11 North Dakota – 68.8 years
12 Nebraska – 68.8 years
13 Wisconsin – 68.6 years
14 New Hampshire – 68.5 years
15 New York – 68.5 years
16 South Dakota – 68.4 years
17 Oregon – 68.4 years
18 Illinois – 68.3 years
19 Utah – 68.2 years
20 Rhode Island – 68.1 years
21 Maine – 68 years
22 Maryland – 68 years
23 Virginia – 68 years
24 Florida – 67.9 years
25 Idaho – 67.9 years
26 Kansas – 67.8 years
27 Arizona – 67.7 years
28 Montana – 67.7 years
29 Texas – 67.4 years
30 Wyoming – 67.4 years
31 Washington, DC – 67.4 years
32 North Carolina – 67.4 years
33 Alaska – 67.3 years
34 Delaware – 67.2 years
35 Michigan – 67 years
36 Nevada – 66.9 years
37 Pennsylvania – 66.8 years
38 Georgia – 66.6 years
39 Missouri – 66.5 years
40 New Mexico – 66.3 years
41 Ohio – 66.1 years
42 Indiana – 66 years
43 South Carolina – 65.8 years
44 Arkansas – 65.5 years
45 Tennessee – 65.4 years
46 Louisiana – 65 years
47 Mississippi – 64.9 years
48 Alabama – 64.6 years
49 Oklahoma – 64.5 years
50 Kentucky – 64.3 years
51 West Virginia – 63.8 years


Adapted from an article by Hilary BrueckJenny

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Am I Entitled to Any of My Parent’s Estate?

Couple-daylight-elderly-1589865In Pennsylvania, children do not have any legal right to inherit from their parents in their parents’ Wills. Only a spouse has such a legal right.

In other words, even if a person were to specifically disinherit his or her spouse, the spouse could still make a claim, called a spousal election, against the estate, and would then be entitled to a percentage of the estate.

However, children have no such protection. A parent can disinherit a child by so stating in his or her Will, but the parent doesn’t even have to do that. By simply not mentioning a child in his or her Will, the parent has effectively disinherited that child.

Because children do not have any right of inheritance, then they only inherit by being named in the Will, either specifically by name, or as a class, such as “my children”.

This is the rule for inheritance in a Will, which is very different from the rules of inheritance when there is no Will. If a person dies without a valid Will, he or she has died intestate. In that case, each state has rules for who will inherit, and in what order.

In that case, in Pennsylvania, children fare much better. If the deceased person was married with children when he or she died without a Will, then both the spouse and the children will share in the estate.

The percentage for each is based on whether the decedent’s children are also children of the surviving spouse, or whether they are that spouse’s step-children. If the decedent was not married at the time of his or her death, better news yet for his or her children – they inherit equally among them all of his or her estate!

To be clear, we strongly believe that it is never a good idea for a person to have no Will at his or her death, and if a parent wants to disinherit one or more of his or her children, we have a frank conversation to assure that the parent understands the implications of his or her decision, and we strongly suggest that he or she specifically set out the disinheritance in the Will, so there is no confusion about the intent. 

Although there are oh so many, many more important reasons to do so, this certainly is a reason to be nice to your parents!  To get started on your estate planning, join us for one of our upcoming workshops.  Just click here to RSVP.

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A Legacy is More Than Money

Black-and-white-black-and-white-classic-1989747Four years ago, just as I started with Bellomo & Associates, my Grandma in Minnesota passed away. 

Although Jeff told me I could take the time to go to the funeral, I felt I could not afford the time, or the cost for last minute plane tickets, to go.  I knew she would have understood; funerals are for the living, not the dead. 

I still wanted to be a part of the day and to let everyone know what a very special person she was to me, so I share with you a portion of my Eulogy.

“You have all gathered here today to celebrate the life of Mary Murphy, my Grandma.  Although I could not be here, l would like to share with you some of the memories of the Mary Murphy I knew and love.

“After we moved out east, I spent many summers on the farm with Grandma and Grandpa.  Grandma was not known for her cooking. Her cooking was purely utilitarian, but there was one thing that she made that brings back memories of good times and wonderful aromas.  Baked bread! As children, she gave us our own piece of dough to shape into whatever we liked, bake and enjoy. As we got older, we weren’t so interested in the process as we were the product.  When the smell of hot bread wafted out the doors we came running! Grandma let us cut the hot crusty loaf, slather it in butter and eat the whole thing if we wanted to.

“The sound of a piano playing was also a common event at Grandma’s house.  We would beg her to play and tip toe to see her fingers touch the keys and dance around the living room to every song.  Later, my own children did the same. What is most amazing to me is that she never learned a note of music in her life.  She played by ear and only played the black keys, yet oh, the beautiful music she made!

“I remember going off to college and feeling very alone until I opened my mailbox to find a letter from Grandma, followed by a Halloween Card from Grandma, and many other letters and cards, missing not one holiday!  Her letters would be filled with every detail of every event she went to, right down to the ‘wonderful spice cake and ice cream’ they had for dessert. And every letter and card was signed with x’s and o’s, ‘Bushels of Love, Hugs and Kisses, Love, Grandma and Grandpa’, later to be just Grandma.  Every card and letter made me feel like she was right there giving me those hugs and kisses. Grandma never forgot you, no matter how many miles away you lived.  

“She also never forgot you in her prayers.  When Mary Murphy said she was going to pray for you, they were not just empty words, they were fact.  Religion was both a blessing and a curse for her. She believed strongly in prayer. She had a great faith in God, but not in that she herself was worthy of him.  Sadly, her biggest fear at the end was that she would not go to heaven. I’ve got news for you Grandma, if you didn’t, the rest of us are in real trouble!

“I could go on for hours about my Grandma.  I was blessed to have her for 50 years in my life.  I hope that I can be as wonderful a Grandma and leave my grandchildren the precious gift of the love she gave me.  

“I will miss you, Grandma.  XXX OOO With Bushels of Love, Hugs and Kisses, Missy.”

My Grandparents didn’t have a lot, but what they did have was love.  And THAT is the best legacy of all.  

Michelle Poole, Director of Community Outreach

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Simple Formula For Living

Beverage-blue-sky-blur-1804035How many of these suggestions do you practice? 

Imagine how much simpler – and better – life would be if all of us followed all of them every day. 

We each can start by making our own lives better by trying every day to follow as many as we can.

A Simple Formula For Living

Live beneath your means.

Return everything you borrow.

Stop blaming other people.

Admit it when you make a mistake.

Give unworn clothes to charity.

Do something nice and try not to get caught.

Listen more; talk less.

Every day take a 30-minute walk.

Strive for excellence, not perfection.

Be on time.  

Don’t make excuses.

Don’t argue. 

Get organized.

Be kind to unkind people.

Let someone cut ahead of you in line.

Take time to be alone.

Cultivate good manners.

Be humble.

Realize and accept that life isn’t fair.

Know when to keep your mouth shut.

Go an entire day without criticizing anyone.

Learn from the past. 

Plan for the future.

Live in the present.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

It’s all small stuff.

 

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