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Estate Planning During Uncertain Times

ComaIt is very easy with everything that is going on in our country and our world right now, to be concerned about the pandemic and start to think about your own mortality and planning. 

While we recommend planning at all times to always be prepared ahead of time, this certainly provides a reminder for us to stop and take a look at our current situation to make sure that we have at least our basics in place.  

 

Powers of Attorney

Each person should have a financial power of attorney that authorizes another individual to make financial decisions on their behalf in case they are unable.  They could be unable because of an illness or an incapacitation or simply just not in town, or maybe they are traveling out of the country. 

We cannot not stress the importance of having a financial power of attorney in place to avoid the necessity for a guardianship.  We have discussed in detail in other blogs and articles about powers of attorney and guardianships, and we would encourage you to please take a further look at those, and why it would become important to have a financial power of attorney in place.

Medical power of attorney is an essential document that authorizes another individual to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are not capable or able to make those medical decisions for yourself.  Although there is a healthcare statute in the state of Pennsylvania that will name the next of kin to be able to make those healthcare decisions in case you cannot, we stress the importance enough of having this document in place to ensure that the people that you want making those decisions can make them without unintended people being named as well. 

When you reach the end of life stage is also important that you have in place a living will.  If the living will is coupled in one single document with a medical power of attorney, that is also considered an advanced healthcare directive.  We recommend having these documents in place to ease the burden of your family.  This will save them from having to make those end of life decisions if two qualified physicians put in writing that there is no realistic hope of recovery – that you will always remain end-stage medical or vegetative, comatose, permanently unconscious, or terminally ill. 

There is certainly a lot that goes into the medical definition, but plainly stated, it is imperative to decide for yourself how you would like those decisions to be made rather than to put the burden on a loved one to feel like they have to play God or pull the plug on their family member.  

 

Review  Your Current Documents, Including Beneficiaries, to Ensure They Meet Your Needs and Desires  

We encourage anyone who has planning in place to not assume that it is up to date or that it is what their current wishes are, things change over time.  It is also important to review all of your beneficiary designations on accounts, such as life insurance policies, annuities, retirement accounts, etc.  Often, the most overlooked item is reviewing the beneficiary designations of an account, and it is probably the single most important thing that can screw up an estate plan. 

Please make it a priority to review your documents to make sure they accurately reflect your wishes.  If you have questions or need to make some changes we would be more than happy to see you at one of our workshops to discuss the different documents and how they can assist you and your family.  We certainly understand if there is any anxiety or stress that you are experiencing but encourage you to be prepared no matter what, which will give you a sense of comfort and security.  If you would like any further information about this topic or to learn more about our firm, please visit us at www.bellomoassociates.com or call the office at 717-845-5390.

 

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In-office or virtual?

A18CFFAF-14DB-4B8B-8237-DF7C9C1563ABAs we have previously posted in other blogs and through social media posts, Bellomo and Associates is now open. However, we are only accommodating in-office meetings on a limited basis.

Each attorney is taking one day a week of in-office meetings and four days a week of phone calls and Zoom meetings. Our paralegals are also taking meetings as scheduled, and we will ensure that only one attorney or paralegal is in the office at a time conducting meetings.

There is certainly no question that some people have very strong opinions about whether they want to meet in person or virtually. However, there are certainly several others who don’t necessarily have a very strong opinion and who have asked us whether they should meet in person or whether they should meet over the phone or through Zoom or another video conferencing capability.

My personal opinion is that Zoom or video conferencing offers us the best of both worlds, which is the ability for us to see each other and for the clients to see my screen and any and all documents that I want to show them. Clients are also able to drop off paperwork ahead of time, and my team will upload that information into their matter so that I can show their documents on the screen as well.

Because of this, I personally love the option of video conferencing or meeting, because it gives us the ability to see each other and interact but keeps us safe as we are not in person and running the risk of infecting each other or our loved ones. Phone conferences are certainly better than nothing and still allow us to take the information necessary, but I believe it loses the personal touch that in person or video still allows us. I don’t mind phone conferences after we have met each other and there is already a relationship, but prefer not to do a phone conference for the first meeting or when we need to be able to read each other’s expressions and body language or to be able to view documents together.

Ultimately, nothing beats face to face, and if a client has a strong opinion about wanting to come in, we are certainly able to accommodate that. However, if a client does not have a strong opinion and is willing to go either way, I would recommend that they use the Zoom option.

Thank you for you continued support and trust.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for any questions you may have about our process and getting your estate planning done.  You can call us at (717)845-5390.  Fill out our simple form by clicking here and we’ll call you.  And you can always join us for any one of our upcoming workshops – just click here to RSVP for the one that works best for you!

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Is a DNR the same as a Living Will?

D19640FB-0D83-4AD2-8DFB-631449A58DF3_4_5005_cThe short answer is no, they are not the same.  A DNR stands for a DO NOT RESUSCITATE order and a Living Will is a completely different document that is used during a very different time.

A DNR should be entered into at your doctor’s office or in the hospital, not at your local estate planning and elder law attorney’s office.  

Typical estate planning documents that an attorney will assist you with would include a financial and medical power of attorney as well as a Last Will and Testament and maybe a Trust of some type.  The confusion often lies in the fact that in a medical power of attorney, you will often see a Living Will as a part to the document. 

This is collective known as an Advance Healthcare Directive if medical power of attorney and living will are together in one document.  The Living Will does not kick in until the individual is “end-stage medical.”  While there is a very long medical definition for this term, I simply like to state it as when two qualified physicians put in writing that there is no realistic hope of recovery and that you will always remain vegetative, comatose, permanently unconscious and terminally ill.  A medical power of attorney, living will or advanced health care directive are often documents that are obtained from your estate planning and elder law attorney and not from your health care provider. 

On the other hand, a DNR or DO NOT RESUSCITATE order is intended to let emergency and other medical professionals know whether or not they should resuscitate you.  Methods often used for resuscitation would be things such as defibrillators, breathing tubes, ventilators, CPR and other invasive techniques. 

The DO NOT RESUSCITATE order comes into play when the heart has stopped beating or the person has stopped breathing.   The medical power of attorney, on the other hand, comes into play when the person simply cannot answer questions for themselves.  That could be for numerous other reasons, such as being under sedation or incapacitated, unconscious due to an accident, or unable to speak, etc. 

Certainly, it does not necessarily mean that the heart has stopped beating or that you have stopped breathing.  The Living Will does not kick in until end of life, but the heart is often beating, sometimes due to heroic and lifesaving measures, but the DNR will prevent those “heroics” if that is your wish. 

We truly believe that it is imperative for you to talk to your estate planning and elder law attorney about the estate planning documents as outlined above as well as discuss with your doctor about a DNR order.  While you are discussing the DNR order, we would also recommend that you have a conversation with your healthcare professional around a POLST (Physician’s Order of Life Sustaining Treatment).  These are documents that will be obtained directly from your doctor and they will be able to assist you with the nuances of how they work. 

We hope that this article provided some insight into what a DO NOT RESUSCITATE order is and how it is different than a medical power of attorney and Living Will.  If you would like any further information about these items, please contact our office and we’d be more than happy to assist you.  You can call us at (717)845-5390 or click here and fill out our simple form and we’ll call you.

 

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Managing Relationships with Elderly Individuals During a Pandemic

1984D558-6A88-4987-AFC9-5C152F58604EOver the past several months during the Covid-19 pandemic, we have received numerous calls and e-mails from adult clients looking for advice in regard to their elderly parents during this time. 

The interesting part about the calls is that they range from one end of the spectrum to the other, but ultimately the bottom line is that their elderly parents will not listen to them and will not take their advice. 

In some instances, elderly individuals are panicking and taking the current guidelines and measures to an extreme and are refusing to leave their home for any reason, at any time, for any purpose. As this has been going on several months now, children worry about their parents not having left the house and having their groceries delivered and not stepping foot out of the house since March. 

They worry about their socialization as well as their health and maybe, most importantly, their mental wellbeing.  The part to remember is that it is ultimately the adult’s choice as to how they feel and how they want to react during this situation, but we recommend offering different ideas and options of things that they could do to keep their mind and body active, even if they are staying within the home.  Such as exercise videos, puzzles, word searches, coloring books, books, books on tape, crafts, video class on a tablet, anything that will keep their mind engaged. 

We also see the other extreme as a concern for many adults in regard to their aging parents who don’t believe any of it is real and are out and about visiting their friends, traveling, looking for the next great bargain on a cruise or a trip out of the country. The kids are concerned for their parent’s wellbeing, because they are of the age that are of the most vulnerable population  They struggle with realizing that they can’t make their parents stay home and can’t make them stop going out and hanging out with people that they don’t know and venues that they don’t know are safe or not.  

Although these are two opposite extremes of the same situation, many children are facing one or the other as an issue currently. We highly recommend that you talk to your parents in an honest and open conversation and express your concerns.  Offer different alternatives to either extreme or how they can meet you in the middle. 

Ultimately, please remember that they are adult individuals who are able to make their own choices and decisions.  In the words of a judge about 15 years ago, “an adult is allowed to make a bad decision, heck, we do all the time.”  Your job as a child is to support your parents and yes, provide options and ideas and express your concerns but ultimately be there to support them in the decisions that they are making until you don’t believe that those decisions are safe.  We certainly wish you nothing but the best during this time and are here if you need thoughts, ideas and options.  

If you have questions about this or anything else estate planning or elder law related, please consider joining us for one of our upcoming workshops.  You can RSVP by clicking here.

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Hey Grandpa, What’s for Supper? – Game Night Snacks

73D51170-BE27-4F0E-8327-05D80852C5EEAre you looking for some new snacks for game night?  Here are some great snack ideas for any gathering where you want to serve “finger” foods or grab and go items.  These would work great for a Super Bowl party or wine night with the girls.  

Dill Dip

8 oz. sour cream

8 oz. mayonnaise

2 Tbsp. instant onions (minced dried onions)

2 Tbsp. dill weed

2 Tbsp. celery salt

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate.  Good served with rye bread, sour dough bread or vegetables.  You can hollow out a round loaf of bread to use as a serving dish.  Best if made several hours before serving.

 

Spices Nuts

1 egg white

1 Tbsp. water

3 c. large pecan halves

½ c. sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

2/3 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. nutmeg

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Beat egg white until frothy.  Add water; beat until soft peaks form.  Stir in pecans until coated.  Combine sugar, salt and spices and pour over pecans.  Toss gently.  Spread on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for  30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove immediately from cookie sheet and cool on wax paper.  Store in an airtight container. 

 

Cheese Ball

1 lb. Cracker Barrell (or other brand) cheddar cheese spread

1 lb. cream cheese (not non-fat)

1 jar Kraft Old English cheese spread

1 jar Kraft Roca Blue cheese spread (if you can’t find this just omit; I like it better without)

16 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

1 tsp. garlic salt

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Allow cheeses to soften at room temperature.  Mix all ingredients in a food processer (preferred) or heavy duty mixer (Kitchen Aid type).  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  Shape into balls or logs and roll in a mixture of chopped pecans and parsley flakes.  Top with a cherry if desired.  Wrap each ball or log in plastic wrap and allow to ferment (to draw all the flavors together) for three or four days in the refrigerator.  These freeze well, just wrap the plastic wrap with an extra layer of foil and pop in a Ziplock bag before freezing).  Makes approximately 4 one pound cheese balls but you can make them any size you desire.  

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