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A1. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LEAVE A MESS BEHIND
This is the first article in a series that will appear over the following months.
What do you want to happen to your belongings, money, collections, keepsakes, embarrassing secrets, and family members when you pass on?
Family members? Yes. Family Members. You DO realize that they have to deal with your estate once you pass into your glory, don't you? There's a lot of painful, dirty, tedious detail work to do that no person is ready for. If you don't take care of it now and ask for help, your family-or perhaps total strangers-will need to go through everything-the good, the bad, the embarrassing. All of it.
Yes. They will clean up your messy old papers, your power tools, your pantry, your cat, your medicine cabinet and your refrigerator's contents. They will read each and every note to the bank from 1947. The repetition may cause them to begin to slowly ignore other notes, which, according to Murphy's law, are likely to be the important ones to notice.
They will try to figure out which accountant's letterhead they find on your office desk belongs to which part of your life. What to do with the towels in the linen closet? What to do with this envelope that says "SECRET" on it and has a nondescript key inside? The sticky notes you wrote to yourself to remember how to turn on the computer? Those will be sorted with the sticky notes about your dry cleaning, and your prescriptions, and your investments.
Here is a typical set of papers one might find when cleaning a loved
Wait-Did you catch that? Yes, we once found almost exactly that set of items sitting by the trash and ready for disposal. Among them was a $100,000 municipal bond maturation notice. It would have been eventually relinquished to the State of California, had we not found it for the heirs. True story.
You see? These stories abound, so it ALL has to be gone through by someone. The medal you won in high school Latin club will be evaluated with your football trophy, or the first ring a boy ever gave you, perhaps. Of course all of this gets evaluated along with the box of self-addressed envelopes you saved to steam off the return postage back in the days before they made business-reply envelopes, and the sealed box of Ralston hot cereal left on your kitchen countertop, and your beloved cat's future.
The safe deposit box you kept secret and 100% of its contents will become property of the state you live in because you never told your heirs about it verbally, or formally on paper. Yes, you left that key in the envelope marked "SECRET," ...but no instructions to go with it. To even your most responsible heir, it does not exist. The heirloom diamonds in it? The state of your residence takes that, eventually. Rest assured!
Get the picture? If you do not organize your life, your personal effects, your papers, your will or living trust, it will be done by others who will miss many details under the sheer weight of the task, and you will have ZERO input. Your heirs inherit a headache at best, a nightmare at worst.
In this series we will explore the reality most heirs inherit when their parents and other loved ones die, from how to approach the two years' worth of moldering Meals-on-Wheels food containers shoved under the counter to how to organize paperwork found in the decedent's home office. We even have suggestions for what to do with a "secret" key.
We're going to look at your responsibilities both as an heir, and as a decedent, because in your lifetime you're guaranteed to be both.
Let's start with a basic concept: Everything in your home it will be examined when you're gone and most of it will likely be a mystery for your heirs to solve while they are grieving over their loss of you, their loved one. This cuts both ways. If you don't like your heirs, just think of them poring over your most personal and private things! If you love them dearly, why would you put them through the trauma of sorting out your estate?
EVERY AMERICAN should take an evening to write down what they want to happen to their belongings when they die. This is an important, if non-legal beginning. A first step. That piece of paper isn't worth the cost of air in a court of law, but it will help you immensely when you sit down with your advisors to make out a living trust or a will. And, it would STILL help your heirs if you passed before you got it formalized into a will because they could read your intentions in black-and-white. Break down your task into pieces:
Decide who should be in control LAST. Mind you, there are laws on the books to guide that person, but pick the most levelheaded person after you've gone through listing what it is that you'll be leaving them to deal with. The flashy relative you see only once per year isn't the one to pick, regardless of how much money she/he appears to have.
You want the most responsible, action oriented, decision-making person who cares about carrying out YOUR wishes first and foremost. List the following information for such a person to use after you are gone:
Now write out a little note to history. Tell your loved ones, or anyone else, what you value, what you're proud of, what you wish you had done differently even. Tell them where the diamonds are buried, about the newspaper you hid in the wall as a time capsule when you built the house. Tell them about your best friend, or how to care for Fluffy the cat. This wisdom will help your family and friends as they handle your final affairs.
If "who should get what" immediately occurs to you, write that down, too. If not, it can wait a bit. This is an ongoing process, but one that must be completed in full, and soon.
The next morning, call three estate attorneys for quotes on drawing up a living trust or will. Estate law varies from state to state, but if you are allowed a living trust, it is a far more powerful than a will, and can even help you financially. Speak with your financial advisors should you choose this method, so they can work with your chosen estate attorney.
The word "attorney" just sounds expensive, doesn't it? Well, it's actually not so bad. The consequences of not using one can be totally devastating to your loved ones, however. Financially, and emotionally. And those forms at the stationary store? Forget it. One little mistake in how they are completed, such as a misspelling, or a name on the wrong line, or a date mistake, and the entire document is worthless, and chaos takes over. Use an attorney.
Coming in the series:
Related financial information may be found at
A2. NEED TO GET BACK TO WORK?
Does the following description fit you or someone you know? :
You're part of the "sandwich generation." You know, sandwiched between kids in college and parents who will need, or already are receiving care. You worked hard, succeeded tremendously, packed your 401(k) and annuities as full as you could and took a much deserved and hard-won early retirement.
Then came the mortgage meltdown, and your investments went along for the ride.
And now you've got to return to work.
You're not alone, and you likely already knew that. For millions of Americans going back to work after they've retired is a reality. Some have been contacting their old employers. Others are back in school. Some are starting new businesses because they know that a recession is one of the best times to do it. Regardless, there are a number of things to consider, plan for, and options for everything.
Don't be bitter. Get over itit shows on our faces over time when we discuss anything we don't likeand it will in a job interview, too. Just make an action plan and get after the task like you used to in your office, and suck it up. Tap your old and new networks and spheres of influence just like you used to. C'mon, You know how to do this! Brush up the resume, and then write a new, neutral one that can transfer you into other professions. Did you graduate from Harvard? Go back under the executive refresher plan. That goes for other universities, too. What about going back to school to learn new skills? You probably took some career-enhancing courses back when you were working; it's the same thing now. If you don't use technology much, this isn't an option for you. You MUST learn to do it!
Forget returning to a workforce that is text message-literate, database spreadsheet driven, and email addicted if you aren't at least capable in those areas. There are many programs at the local level that teach these new and different but easy-to-learn skills. Call your city recreation department, your local school district, and community college for information on programs like these in your area. Training is likely available online for you, too, if you retired to a remote, bucolic area or are simply averse to walking through campus with a bunch of "kids." Remember that the fastest growing demographic online is senior citizens. If your parents and peers can do it you can, too.
Many retirees will try to return to their former employer. But in today's reality that employer may be long gone -or in receivership. If your old firm is still there you may try returning as a 1099-status contractor, if not as a W2 employee. The employer gets the benefit of your experience, doesn't have to incur the extra expenses of benefit package, retirement plan expense, and health insurance costs. You, the returning team member, get a good job. Very important-companies will use contractors even when there is a hiring freeze.
Another option is to apply for a position in the same industry, but at a competing firm. Your brains and experience are for sale here, and a competitor may be very interested in yours. It isn't espionage-you don't work anywhere now. It's just your experience and abilities on the market to the highest/best bidder you can find for them.
Some can seek part time work in a new industry at a lower pay rate than they may be used to. "Scrambling" is honorably taking action, a strong American cultural trait. Yes, the greeter at Wal-Mart is in that category, and for some it's a perfect fit. But part time work can be found in other, more intellectually satisfying areas, too. Are your high-level management skills transferable to a community non-profit? Those skills could be a valuable addition to a local charitable organization-working with schools, for instance. Don't think of unseating the organization's director, but you'll probably be very valuable at mid-level, and there are many more of those jobs than there are director positions for someone re-entering the work force.
What about a former salesman working as a fundraiser for a nonprofit?
You can get rich a second time in that profession if you're good at sales,
and nobody in their right mind who needs fundraising will turn up their
nose at a seasoned professional willing to work for "commission +",
or even just straight commission.
Can you start a business? If you were an entrepreneur in your former
life, or a business manager, you've probably got this in the back of your
mind already. As you know, a recession is one of the best times to start
one-but remember, your income needs must fit the task and goal. Don't
start a business to mollify your ego if you need cash today. Go get a
part time job and build the business plan at night-like you used to!
Additional financial information may be found at:
B. DID YOU KNOW...?
1. Mortgage Help on the Way
Veterans who are encountering problems making their mortgage payments should speak with their servicers as soon as possible to explore options to avoid foreclosure. Contrary to popular opinion, servicers really do not want to foreclose, because foreclosure costs a lot of money. Depending on a veteran's specific situation, servicers may offer options to avoid foreclosure. These options might include a repayment plan, special forbearance, loan modification, additional time to arrange a private sale, short sale, or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.
Additional financial information may be found at
2. Four Honored for 2008 AARP-NAHB "Livable Communities"
"The winners of the 2008 Livable Communities Awards have clearly taken note of the increasing demand for more accessible, livable homes and communities, and are on the leading edge of change," said NAHB Chairman, Sandy Dunn. "The trend-setting homes and communities we honor with the 2008 Livable Communities Awards meet the demands of both today's and tomorrow's home owners by combining easy living with inviting design."
"The 2008 Livable Communities Award winners offer some great examples of appealing, user-friendly design," said Elinor Ginzler, AARP senior vice president. "The sheer number of boomers will increase demand for a whole variety of home and community options." The number of persons 65 and older is expected to grow to 70 million by 2030.
Features help residents adapt the home to life-altering circumstances, and fully support the option of aging in place. The designs include such elements as: slip-resistant interior and exterior surfaces, extra-wide doorways, Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant plumbing and kitchen appliances, and adjustable shelves, which are among the many features that make this home easy for everyone to navigate. State-of-the-art insulation, "wise energy" light bulbs, ceiling fans, and Energy Star appliances-all contribute to reducing long-term utility usage and costs.
The winners were:
Interior Design Details, for the Rathburn residence in Brea, California
New Millennial Homes, for the Freedom Home in Tampa, Florida
Bainbridge Projects LLC, for Vineyard Lane on Bainbridge Island,
HallKeen/The Braverman Company for Winooski Falls in Winooski,
Additional Aging in Place information may be found at
C. THOUGHTS FOR THE MONTH
We present here some words from those with a birthday this month.
More "Thoughts" at: http://www.seniorresource.com/thought.htm
D. SPECIAL SURFING SITES
Computer and Internet Security Help
You can minimize the chance of an Internet problem using "awareness" as your first line of defense. Being alert while online helps you protect your information, your computer, and your money.
Here are seven elements that should be part of your online routine
In an effort to aid our readers we will from time to time provide a few
excerpts from the government site.
We all get spam in our email inbox. However, some of these are bogus offers looking to take some of our money. Con artists know how to make their claims seem legitimate. Some spam messages ask for your business, others invite you to a web site with a detailed pitch.
Either way, these tips can help you avoid spam scams:
Learn more about these elements at
E. OH MY AGING FUNNY BONE
1. Some Things to Ponder JG, Des Moines, IA
2. The Words of Music
A tourist in Vienna is walking through a graveyard, and all of a sudden he hears some music. No one is around, so he starts searching for the source.
He finally locates the origin and finds it is coming from a grave with a headstone that reads: "Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827." He then realizes that the music is the Ninth Symphony, but it is being played backwards! Puzzled, he leaves the graveyard, and persuades a friend to return with him.
By the time they arrive back at the grave, the music has changed. This time it is the Seventh Symphony, but like the previous piece, it is being played backwards.
Curious, the men agree to consult a music scholar. When they return with the expert, the Fifth Symphony is playing, again backwards. The expert notes that the symphonies are being played in the reverse order in which they were composed; the Ninth, then the Seventh, then the Fifth.
By the next day the word has spread and a throng has gathered around the grave. They are all listening to the Second Symphony being played backwards.
Just then the graveyard's caretaker ambles up to the group. Someone in the crowd asks him if he has an explanation for the music.
"Oh, it's nothing to worry about," says the caretaker. "He's just decomposing!"
For more fun and jokes visit "Oh My Aging Funny Bone" at:
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This issue has been edited by Betsy Day (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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Aging in Place