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The Power of The "Power of Attorney"

When my mom first asked me to prepare medical and financial power-of-attorney documents, I honestly thought she was being overly cautious. I lead a pretty adventurous life; as a diver and archaeologist, I have the opportunity to do pretty amazing things in pretty spectacular places.

I’ve gone to fairly deep depths in far-away places without hospitals. I’m out of the country once a year, if not more. Considering that I have a bad track record of getting hurt, there’s really no wonder why she’s always about one step away from a heart attack.

So to put her mind at ease, I told her that I would fill them out. As I lived out-of-state, my stepfather had to draw up North Carolina power of attorney documents and send them with me after the Christmas holiday….where they sat in my drawer for about six months, untouched and blank. Between school, work, and being out of the country, I just felt I never had the time to do it. But finally, if only to get her to stop nagging me, I made an appointment with the school’s notary public.

I quickly read over the papers, asked my friend Maddie to come with me as a witness, and we walked into the notary office. The notary read over the paperwork thoroughly, and found the one thing I overlooked – I needed a second witness. So, he ducked into the hallway and asked his co-worker to come into the office and be another witness. The co-worker scanned the paperwork and after reading a specific section, said “I don’t think I can be a witness. It states that she has to be of sound mind, and I don’t know her, so how can I say she is of sound mind?” He left the office unwilling to sign, and along the way, tells every other co-worker that little stipulation, and discourages them from signing as well. Seriously.

I knew of two other friends who worked nearby, and frantically called them. No answer. Maddie encouraged me to call our boss at the Dive Office which was a five minute walk away. I gave him a call, explained the bizarre situation, and cashed in a few favors. Thankfully, he walked into the office a few minutes later and watched me sign the papers. Unfortunately, there was one final hiccup.

As the notary continued to read the papers, he noticed that North Carolina requires a witness to the witnesses signing the documents. Even though it was just a witness to the witnesses, the notary’s co-worker still refused to act as a witness. At this point, Maddie and my boss are laughing at the insanity of the situation while I’m banging my head against the table in frustration. Luckily, my boss knew one of the desk workers out front and pulled her in to be our witness. I think I’ve used up all my favors with him. Finally, the papers were signed.

Reading this, you’re probably thinking “That sounds far too complicated!” Was it entirely longwinded and torturous? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes. Not only does it put my family at ease, but it’s also worth it to know that my requests will be honored if I’m hurt, whether it be in a far-away country or right outside my front door. Not only do I have my affairs in order, but this completely convoluted process encouraged my boss to do the same. He told me that he and his wife didn’t have anything like this prepared and that watching a 26 year old do it was eye-opening. Accidents can happen anywhere, anytime – it’s much better to be prepared than not.

Stephanie Soder, Daughter – Michelle Poole

If you have questions or concerns regarding your estate planning or even just creating a Power of Attorney, join us for one of our upcoming workshops.  Just click here now to choose a day and time that work best for you.  

Thank you for the guest blog Stephanie and sharing your story!

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Your Family Name

What is the most valuable thing you own? Is it your house, a car, or maybe that boat you saved for?

Some things are just more important than any of those material items. My parents gave me this poem when I was just a kid. I cherished that plaque and still keep it in a safe place these many years later. I hope you’ll agree that this gift is among your most valuable.

 

Your Family Name – by Nelle A. Williams

You got it from your father
It was all he had to give
So it’s yours to use and cherish
For as long as you may live

If you lost the watch he gave you
It can always be replaced
But a black mark on your name
Can never be erased

It was clean the day you took it
And a worthy name to bear
When he got it from his father
There was no dishonor there

So make sure you guard it wisely
After all is said and done
You’ll be glad the name is spotless
When you give it to your son

I cherish the plaque with this poem. Thank you Mom and Dad for sharing this with me. I am proud of the Bellomo name and what it means.

Jeffrey Bellomo

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Why preplan a funeral?

We are often asked whether or not people should preplan their funerals, and my response is always (with a smile on my face), “Absolutely, assuming you love your family”. This is an the important conversation to have. Many professionals recommend preplanning a funeral because it will often be cheaper in today’s dollars than it will be in the future.

Others recommend it because it is a legitimate spend-down for Medicaid purposes and other critical technical reasons. Those are good reasons, but the main reason that I recommend it is simply because it is a burden that you don’t want your family to have to go through at the time of your passing.

If you take the time today to think about all of those tough decisions, it is one less thing that your family has to think about in that horrific moment when they learn that you are no longer with them.

While it might now seem like a big deal today, I assure you that when we were looking at caskets knowing that mom picked out the exact casket that she wanted with the rose trim somehow made things just a little easier. Whether the reason you want to plan is for financial reasons or for convenience for your family, the bottom line is that it is a real gift that you can give your loved one.

I recommend that the next holiday or other occasion when your family is in town, bring it up and say that you want to get it done for peace of mind for the family and for you, and I’m willing to bet that your family will thank you.

Jeffrey Bellomo

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Why NOT to add your child as a joint owner on your accounts….

Clients frequently tell me that they want to add their son or daughter as a joint owner on all of their accounts and assets “for convenience”. It would take much more space than we have here detail the plethora of reasons why people should not do that, and why, in reality, it is probably the most inconvenient thing that you can do. However, I will highlight some of the important ones.

The biggest reason people give is to avoid inheritance tax, and when the parent passes away, the money will transfer automatically to the child, and won’t be frozen. However, although both are true, if the child dies first, the parents will then to have to pay inheritance tax on their own money. In Pennsylvania, the inheritance tax to lineal descendants (children/grandchildren) and ascendants (parents) is 4.5%. Thus, the parent would have to pay 4.5% on half of all of the accounts the parent jointly owns with the child.  It is a difficult call to make to a parent who recently lost a child to tell them that, although they are grieving, unfortunately, they will have pay tax on their own money. Their shock and dismay is palpable. “Why do I have to pay inheritance tax on my own money? I only added my daughter or son to that account because the bank teller told me to”, or the like.

Yes, when a person dies, if he or she has an asset in his or her own name, the accounts are frozen. However, it only takes a few days to open up an estate account, with very few hoops that to jump through. At most, it could take about a week or so to get the account open and start paying bills. A week of a little inconvenience certainly offsets all the other risks associated with joint accounts.  

When a person ends up in long-term care and looks to qualify for Medicaid in order to be able to pay for the care, having joint-owned accounts is often far from convenient. For the parent, the caseworker is going to look to see who contributed the money into the account, and often the caseworker will try to count 100% against the child as well, because he or she had access to it. There too many concerns that with joint accounts with children; it simply doesn’t pay to have one. We offer weekly workshops at Bellomo and Associates, and a good portion of the workshop is directly around this concept of the reasons not to do it – from the perspectives of tax, long-term care, or estate planning. If this is something that you’re considering, please come attend a workshop and listen to the reasons not to do so. Sometimes, a little inconvenience can avoid an absolute catastrophe.  

Take the next steps towards getting your estate planning matters into order.  Join us for any one of our upcoming workshops.  Just click here and select the topic and the day and time that works best for you.  We’ll see you soon!

Jeffrey Bellomo

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Alzheimer’s Disease

I was recently reading an article in the USA Today about a report from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) entitled “Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia Cases That Double by 2060.” The title alone certainly surprised me and grabbed my attention and the article did that and more.

The article said that in 2014, there were five million people in the United States with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The CDC estimates that by 2060 that number will grow to 13.9 million.  

As an estate planning and elder law attorney, I present weekly in the community about the importance of powers of attorney and making sure that all of your financial and medical decisions can be taken care of by another individual in the event that you are not able to take care of them for yourself.  

I often feel that the information is falling on deaf ears as more times than not people reply that they’re too young and that it won’t happen to them. The article made me realize that not only has this been something that I have seen time and time again in my practice, but the statistics say that it is now something that is going to occur with a higher frequency as time goes by.  

Please put your oxygen mask on first as the airline stewardess tells you to do, and get yourself a written financial and medical power of attorney.  If these statistics are true, it is increasingly likely that this will happen to one of us. Be prepared and protect your family and your loved ones so that decisions can still be made for you even if Alzheimer’s or dementia.

If you want to join us in the cause to fight this horrible disease consider walking with us on Saturday, October 20th.  You can click here to walk or donate to the cause: http://act.alz.org/site/TR?team_id=496681&fr_id=11501&pg=team

Jeffrey Bellomo

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