Download a copy of The Legacy Advisor Summer 2017
Planning Ahead, Featured Guest Article
by Julie Graf Skinner – Funeral Planning Specialist, Funeral Director, Busch Funeral and Crematory Services
We exert a great deal of energy in effort to protect our loved ones from the possible misfortunes of life. We protect our property with insurance in case something unfortunate happens. Just as often we exert a great deal of energy trying to avoid or ignore those things in life that are certain. In my career, I’ve come to understand that like taxes, death is certain.
Funeral Director Perspective
As a funeral director, I often meet with families and quickly realize that they have never had a meaningful conversation about their funeral wishes. This lack of planning forces survivors to make decisions of necessity rather than decisions of choice. Unfortunately, this is sometimes intensified by survivors that don’t have great working relationships with one another or are emotionally and financially ill prepared to make appropriate decisions.
Benefits of Planning Your Funeral Ahead of Time
I would challenge you to take the steps that are necessary to have a meaningful conversation about your wishes with your loved ones and to discuss your funeral planning options with a professional. Planning ahead, before a difficult day, provides many valuable benefits:
- Allows for many urgent tasks and decisions to be handled before a time of emotional upheaval
- Eliminates doubts for survivors about funeral preferences and disputes about expenses
- Provides peace of mind that your wishes are expressed
- Ensures that funeral expenses have been addressed
- Allows for necessary legal documents to be gathering and filed with a funeral professional
I would encourage you to have a meaningful conversation with a funeral professional to record your personal information, funeral preferences and plans related to funeral expenses. Many people are unaware that they can make plans, record their wishes and learn about the many funding options that are available. I believe the hardest part of this process is making the call to talk to a professional. It takes a great deal of energy to avoid something and often people find out it is easier than they imagined. The most common comments I hear at the end of a planning session include: “That was so much easier that I imagined”, “I didn’t realize that I would laugh as much as we did today”, “I had no idea that I could make payments on my funeral”, “I feel so much better knowing that that this will be easier for my children”.
Once again, I encourage you to take the next step, make the call to set an appointment. I would be honored to help you.
Preparing for Incapacity – Part Two
In our previous newsletter, we discussed how proper estate planning involves not only planning for the distribution of your assets at death, but also preparing for the management of your financial affairs during your lifetime if you become incapacitated. We noted that without adequate legal planning, someone would have to apply to the probate court to be appointed guardian for the management of your property and financial accounts. Accordingly, we explored the benefits of a well drafted Power of Attorney. In a Power of Attorney, an individual (referred to as the “principal”) designates someone (referred to as the “agent”) who is given the legal authority to conduct financial transactions on their behalf. The authority of the agent continues to be effective even if the principal subsequently becomes incapacitated.
Although a Power of Attorney is a very useful legal document, it does have some disadvantages. Some financial institutions refuse to recognize the authority of an agent under a Power of Attorney. They are fearful of incurring legal liability if the agent uses the Power of Attorney in a manner that causes financial harm to the principal. There have been many instances in which agents have improperly used their authority to benefit themselves to the detriment of their principals. In such cases, the family members of a principal often file lawsuits against both the agent and any financial institutions that have followed the agent’s instructions.
Some financial institutions will only recognize an agent’s authority if it is granted pursuant to a Power of Attorney form provided by the financial institution. Unfortunately, an agent often learns of this fact only after the principal has become incapacitated and is unable to legally execute the financial institution’s form.
The problems associated with a Power of Attorney can be avoided through the use of a Living Trust. A Living Trust is simply a legal agreement pursuant to which a person (referred to as the “grantor”) transfers legal title of property to another person (referred to as the “trustee”), who is obligated to hold and manage the property in accordance with the terms of the agreement. The crucial distinction between a Trust and a Power of Attorney is that the trustee of a Trust actually holds legal title to the Trust property. Thus, the trustee has complete legal authority to manage the property transferred to the Trust.
Generally, the grantor will serve as the trustee of their Trust as long as he or she is living and competent. However, if the grantor becomes incapacitated, the trust agreement will designate someone to act as a successor trustee. Like the original trustee, a successor trustee will hold legal title to all of the assets transferred to the Trust. Accordingly, a financial institution cannot refuse to follow the instructions of the successor trustee with respect to the Trust assets. In addition, a Trust agreement often provides specific instructions concerning the administration of the Trust property if the grantor becomes incapacitated. By using a Trust, a grantor can insure that, in the event of incapacity, his or her assets will be supervised by a person whose authority must be recognized by a financial institution or other third party.
Although every adult should have a well drafted Power of Attorney, additional legal planning is often necessary to ensure that you are fully prepared for incapacity.
Please feel free to share the articles provided in these newsletters with your family and friends. Call our office to obtain more information about planning for incapacity or any other estate planning topic.
Exercise and Senior Health
It’s hard to believe that nearly 67% of the elderly population is inactive for an average of 8.5 hours each day. Doctors are starting to see an increase in metabolic disorders and other diseases as a result. They are strongly urging the senior community to improve activity levels. Here are ten areas of wellness that are dramatically impacted by having a regular exercise regimen..
- Insomnia: Lack of sleep can lead to many other health problems. Certain medications and stress are just a few causes of insomnia. Exercise helps to exhaust the body, making it easier to rest when it is time for bed.
- Dementia: This condition affects many senior citizens and can be disabling. There are several ways to prevent Dementia, but exercise is proven to help slow the mental decline.
- Quality of Life: This is probably the most important. Maintaining their independence is something all older adults strive for. 30 minutes of exercise per day can help achieve this by improving strength and balance.
- All-Cause Mortality: Keeping the body healthy and moving is known to decrease death from all causes. A recent study showed a 30-80% decrease in all-cause mortality in those who exercise on a regular basis.
- Cancer: Studies have shown a 30-40% reduction in cancer among men and women who perform moderate to regular exercise.
- Type II Diabetes and Obesity: Maintaining proper body weight, glucose and insulin levels can decrease the risk of metabolic dysfunction. Exercise helps to make the body more efficient.
- Arthritis: Exercise is a necessity when it comes to arthritis management. It helps to lubricate the joints and greatly reduces pain and stiffness.
- Hypertension: 30 minutes of exercise per day can help lower blood pressure. Lowering blood pressure also reduces the risk of stroke.
- Depression: Healthy body=healthy mind. Period.
- Heart disease: Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. You can reduce the risk of heart disease with exercise, which helps to manage blood pressure, glucose levels, and cholesterol.
Exercise should be performed on a regular basis in order to develop a long term routine. The health benefits from long term fitness are endless.