A lot of discussions with clients over the years have related to technical property issues: Who gets what? How do I handle this asset? How should I treat this problem? Ownership of assets carries with it the responsibility of how to manage.
But the bigger philosophical question I raise is after you are gone, what happens? I suggest that this summer you step back from looking at individual property questions and answer the question, “What will be your legacy?”.
A part of your legacy may be great experiences with your family, such as a family reunion, a memorable road trip or summer vacation. Your legacy can include the memory of great fellowship occasions, adventures of new sights and sounds shared with family, the laughter of children and grandchildren who will be too soon gone – all on a summer vacation. Create those memories while you can. Pack your bags today.
Another definition of legacy is what survives you. It can be family memories, but those will pass with the passing of your children and grandchildren. Another could be a financial legacy that supports humanitarian charitable organizations and causes. I am blessed to have known a number of people who lived modestly, cared about people, and, because of the legacy discussion we shared in past years and their heart to help others, organizations such as the Salvation Army, Children’s Hospital, the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia Society, the local food bank, and other organizations are now receiving annual financial support from their estates that will continue for generations long after their passing.
That was part of their legacy. What is yours?
At the end of each of my four years of undergraduate studies the President of school would encourage the whole student body to read at least five books over the summer. Apparently lifelong learning is important for one’s personal growth (who knew?). This summer while I have done a lot of reading, I would like to share a potpourri of things I’ve learned professionally and personally.
First, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), Memorial Day kicks off what is known as the “100 Deadliest Days” for young drivers. Fatal crashes go up at least 16% nationally over summer days primarily due to drinking, texting and more drivers with more time.
Second, if someone needs a paternity test you can go to Job and Family Services or file a suit, which will take longer, in the juvenile, probate or common pleas court depending on your facts (this was learned for professional purposes, not personal of course).
Third, apparently if you are elderly and cut the toes out of your new orthopedic walking shoes because they don’t fit, the company will not take them for return or exchange (I knew this but my friend did not).
Fourth, some frogs slip right through the holes of your kids’ nets if the frog is too small.
Fifth, Greenfield Village in Detroit, Michigan is really impressive.
Sixth, the Psalms in the Bible are quite encouraging and challenging.
Seventh, kids are resilient creatures.
Finally, it is a good idea to organize your important legal documents and provide a plan for key people to access those documents. This avoids a lot of headaches.
On this 4th of July, we could spend time at family gatherings telling lawyer jokes – there are lots to go around and everyone enjoys them – except lawyers. There are better things to talk about, like Cleveland – the Cavaliers, the Indians, etc.
I, however, will be cooking over the grill, the honored tradition in our family where everyone is invited and “Tim can throw something on the grill.” I don’t mind – I’ve always loved outdoor cooking (and indoor in the winter).
Here is an easy one I came up with to replace burgers and dogs: Pork Loin. Just get a pork loin, unwrap it and make a wrapper of aluminum foil. Then open 2 cans of frozen apple juice concentrate – let it melt so it is like syrup. Make some thin slices in the edge of the loin all around, spread the concentrate on the loin, and wrap again. I like to leave it setting out on the counter for several hours on a cookie sheet to come to room temperature before I cook. Then remove the foil and put the loin put on a medium grill, turning every 15 minutes and sprinkle with salt/pepper and drizzle the apple juice concentrate on the loin until internal temperature with your meat thermometer shows the pork is done. Let it sit on the platter for 30 minutes and slice. You will be a hero.
Never got anything for free from an attorney? You just did.
As lawyers, we live our lives understanding and studying legal rights and establishing or safeguarding clients’ rights. Today in America our rights are quietly eroding with each minor overstep by a governmental authority here or a major infraction there. Founding father and US President James Madison said, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of freedoms of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
Which of your freedoms is important to you? Your favored freedom is intimately connected to the Constitutional rights you abhor or just don’t use. If you hate guns but love the right to free speech, you must defend the right to bear arms. In essence, the well-intended whale which swallows the Second Amendment (i.e. the right to keep and bear arms) due to your indifference to that freedom, will slowly slurp down your favored freedoms as it finishes its meal.
The old adage “you give an inch, they will take a mile” applies to our relationship with the local, state or federal government. As an attorney I have seen many misinformed or authority corrupted government employees leverage their position against average citizens, parents and property owners.
According to Thomas Jefferson “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Our independence from Great Britain was not fought for us to trade a tyrant king for a tyrannical government. At some point you, I or we the people need to press all our freedoms to keep our peers in authority honest.
1. Parents. Unless you engage or need an advocate, you are your child’s best advocate in the school system.
2. Kids. As it comes to your aging parents, with a pure heart, you are your parent’s best advocate in the Medicare, Veterans Affairs and Medicaid systems.
Last week, my family (which includes four eleven year olds) took a vacation to the area surrounding Hershey, Pennsylvania. We enjoyed the amusement park, chocolate factory tours, swimming, Pennsylvania’s version of Amish country, miniature golf, Sight & Sound Theatre and a good deal of food.
There were a lot of laughs, a good bit of playing, conversation, and prayers as well as a number of “keep your hands to yourself” moments. Maybe I laughed less and assisted more as my son danced around a parking lot with a man-eating cicada on his shoulder? In light of vacation and on the eve of Father’s Day, I am struck with the awesome responsibility I have to provide for my children. The most important provisions are not just monetary or estate bequests. The greatest provisions I have for my kids can be found in my love for their mother, my concern for their character, and teachable moments whereby they can grow to focus on others and not themselves.
Dad, what we can do in our lives and even legal planning today to model for our children?
Today’s Helpful Hints:
(1) Make sure all of your property is in your Trust, if you have one.
(2) Double check your beneficiary designations at the bank or other institutions.
(3) As noted in past blogs, the IRS will not call you by phone. The caller is a fraudster.
(4) Write a “Thank You” note today.
What tremendous changes I have seen over the past 40 years in how we take care of the elderly! Sometimes, what worked in the past, with some changes, had a lot of wisdom.
In the early 70’s, elders got sick at home and generally died at home, or went to a hospital, and, if they survived, returned home to die or went to a nursing home for long term, expensive care. Not much choice.
Then we realized what Denmark had known for years – that seniors with health issues could still live in an assisted care environment where only the help they needed would be provided, but meals and housing would be supplied by an institution. Great! Although less expensive than a nursing home, assisted care was more expensive than many could afford. Assisted care expanded and became an interim step before the nursing home as a final residence.
But care in the home still was a dream for many. Home health nurses and aides became more numerous and as third-party payers for service realized the economy compared to institutional care, we saw home health organizations spring up across the country. Modern technology helped. Today, the home health movement is expanding and a lower percentage is going to nursing homes.
Now, Oregon is in the first year of a pilot program called Housecall Providers, where a physician now makes house calls, seeing senior citizens at their homes, in their own environment. Sounds better than piling sick Grandma into a car and transporting her to an office waiting room with other sick people. But wait, didn’t an earlier generation do it that way? Stay tuned.
Its graduation time – grandkids graduating from high school, college, technical school, great-grandkids graduating from kindergarten– milestones in a lifetime that only come once. Certainly it is important for the person graduating but also important for the extended family that has invested time and energy sharing in the graduate’s life. Graduation is another special event that binds families together.
But graduation passes quickly and the next phase of life begins. In counseling those that have lost someone, I refer to life as a chapter book and, although some chapters are joyous, some painful, some long and complicated and others brief and pointed, our lives move forward at a pace many of us would like to change. It is at milestone times like graduation that I feel we should take stock, see where we are, look to the future and plan as best we can. That is just not legal planning – it is financial, social, spiritual – the big picture view of the future. Be prepared, as life has turns we cannot see clearly but with good, thoughtful plans, we fare far better than by stumbling along, blowing in the wind.
Hug your graduates, celebrate their accomplishments, and savor the moment in the sun.
At one time according to a 1944 Newsweek article, the founder of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, had at least 33 simultaneous lawsuits pending against those trying to commercialize Mother’s Day.
As you can see, Mother’s Day is near and dear to the heart of lawyers. Not only did advocates of the past earn a living protecting the special day, but each of us has a mother as well. Parentage is a foundational pillar of the law in almost every society in existence in the past, present and, hopefully, the future.
We have a responsibility to honor our mothers. How can we honor mom?
1) Behave in ways that bring her peace of mind.
2) Bless her other children and family, even if you don’t like them.
3) Think of what she wanted when you have the upper hand legally against your siblings.
4) Visit her, wherever she is whether at a home or resting in a cemetery.
5) If you have something against her, forgive her.
6) Make sure her legal planning is not just in order, but good order.
7) Thank God publicly for your mother.
This may be your last day, month or year to hold her hand, give her a hug, serve her or bring honor to her name. I have grown over the years and acquired the certain pretenses required by social convention. But there is one thing that will always be true and while I may say “Mom”, she will always be my “Mommy.” Happy Mother’s Day!
In generations past, there was no question where Grandma or Aunt Betty was going to spend their last days – at home with the extended family. But in modern society, is that still an option? Maybe.
Aging in place is an option for some but not for many. Because our extended families are geographically distributed, both spouses frequently work until retirement, and elders are living for longer periods where assistance is required, many other options have developed out of necessity. The first option and the one that many feared is the “nursing home”, which, as an industry, has developed a questionable reputation because of the licensing and staffing demands and costs being perceived as the driving force ahead of compassionate patient care. I have been in many and seen examples of both great care and questionable care. It is a people business and the personality and caring of management is reflected in the halls. It is the last resort for most.
Then, in the 1970’s we started to copy the care model in the Netherlands, where far more seniors were in assisted care facilities, at lower cost and with more comfort amenities than nursing homes. However, these were and generally are private-pay facilities, so those with $3 to $4 thousand a month available for care can benefit. With the financial resources, these facilities offer a safe and protected environment for seniors and the social aspects add joy to their lives. Those who are most medically-needy, however, require the care available only in a nursing home.
So… why not just stay home. With home health visits, many are doing that. But there is a limit of how safely we can care for seniors at home, many in homes that need substantial repair or have safety issues. An additional problem is how to find dedicated, caring staff at the relatively low wages, who will not steal from or take advantage of a sick senior citizen with little ability to defend themselves. It is a source of stress for those that run home health agencies.
Age in place? Not simple to decide.
My dad always said, “Do not loan it, unless you are willing to give it away.” You know the scenario. Your neighbor or brother borrows your bolt cutters and “man they’re gone!” You have a better chance of retrieving keys from a river of molten lava than seeing those bolt cutters or your mom’s cake pan return to their proper place. Now imagine what it looks like when the receiver thinks the property (i.e. cash, vehicle, even house) is a “gift”, while the giver thinks it is a “loan.”
Yep, I’m sure you’re chuckling but you know it’s true. As attorneys we experience this all the time. I had a client whose ex-in-laws demanded repayment of a “loan”. The exes gave some property to the client and client’s spouse during the marriage. Now that the marriage was no more, the exes are calling the gift a loan, demanding repayment with interest in an amount pulled out of thin air. The problem was there is nothing in writing.
There are numerous practical problems in gifting. First, will the contested amount be worth your time and money with an attorney. Think of a $500 lawnmower. Who is going to engage a lawyer at $200-400/hour for the hope, as there are no guarantees of winning any suit in court, to get a used $500 lawnmower or $500 back. Second, they say relationships are the only thing you take to heaven. How many relationships have been ruined over “stuff”? I will not represent someone whose core purpose is to harm others.
Remember this: If you are loaning it out, be willing to give it away. If you are not willing to give it away, get it in writing and preferably secure your loan with right to the borrower’s property in a proportionate amount. If the amount is significant to you, engage an attorney in the beginning. It will save you a lot of future angst. Finally, if it is a gift, there are scenarios where memorializing it in writing is not only prudent but wise.