Celebrities Illustrate the Good, Bad and Ugly in Life Planning

The Forbes story The 10 Biggest Celebrity Estate Stories Of 2014 And What You Can Learn illustrate good planning, bad planning and the ugly side of family feuds after a loved one dies.

From complicated family issues for Robin Williams, to misinformation about “trust fund kids” by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, it’s easy to stop and gawk. However, it’s reported that more than half of all American’s die without a will.

I’m lucky that my parents shared their wishes with me and my siblings and completed their estate plans well before we needed to use the tools created.

When you turn 65 years old, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, you have a 70 percent chance of needing 3 or more years of long-term care. You will be on this earth and need someone to advocate for you, pay your bills, manage your household and ensure that you live the life the way you wish.

If you do nothing else, contact a local estate lawyer about a Durable Power of Attorney. It should cost a few hundred dollars and will prove to be priceless in the very likely event that you need it.

Don’t repeat the mistakes of the rich and famous. Deliver the ultimate gift to your loved ones by planning now.

Sharing MY DPOA & Estate Plan Wishes

This past weekend, I sat down with my brother and my kids and walked them through the estate plan my husband and I recently had updated. It wasn’t doomy or gloomy since we are in good health. It just resulted in peace of mind for my kids to know our plans and we made sure that everyone knows where they can find our completed MemoryBanc Register, and the original copies of all of our important documents.

I wanted to share this as a follow-up to last weeks post discussing the importance of having a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA).

If you don’t already know this, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 7 out of 10 of us will need long-term care assistance for at least 3 years. The difficulty a loved one faces when you don’t have a DPOA can be expensive, undignified and lengthy.

I hope you will consider speaking with a lawyer dedicated to the practice of estate law in your area. You should be able to get one for just a few hundred dollars.

SSA vs My Durable Power of Attorney

ssaTwo month’s ago, I shared how easy my appointment and the process was to become the “representative payee” with the Social Security Administration (SSA) for my parent’s using my durable power of attorney.

I was told I would get all the details mailed to me within 4 weeks. At 6 weeks, I started to call and cursed my belief that SSA would live up to the promise of services. The window for phone inquiries is relatively small (M, T, TH & F from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., W 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.). On my first call during the “open” hours, the call volume was so heavy, I took the option to request a return call. A half of an hour later a woman calls from their central phone bank who is unable to help me. I am told I need to back during office hours to reach the local office. I explained that I called the number I was given during office hours. I’m told that I need to try again and know that when call volume is heavy, all calls are redirected to the central number , who in my case are unable to help me.

I tried calling more than eight times over a two-week period and was always bumped to the central phone bank. After ten weeks, my first confirmation that the process worked was my mom giving me a letter that she got from Social Security. She hands it over and asks me what it means. I tell her and she responds “Okay, Babe!” It took a lot longer than I had expected, but at least it’s finally done. Now … if only I would get the notice and details on how to login so I can update the address to make sure this year I get the tax forms. Completed. 


Related Posts:

Where Government Services Crush US Financial Services

The Promise of Services at Social Security (SSA)

My Durable Power of Attorney vs. Armed Forces Insurance (AFI)

afiOn a recent visit, I find my mother has written a check* for $495 to Armed Forces Insurance (AFI). I had no knowledge of this insurance plan and my mom had no recollection of what it was for, she just paid it. Sometimes my Mom will set it aside and hand over bills and other times, she will pay them. It’s really only been a major issue when it comes to magazine subscriptions which is why we have a subscription to Birds & Blooms until 2025. This is the first real bill she has paid in a while.

I find a copy of the invoice and contact the customer service department. They were very helpful and just asked that I send in a copy of my durable power of attorney. The customer service representative offered the option of emailing or faxing. YEAH!

I emailed the durable POA with my address and request for documentation on what the insurance is for. It was a list of personal items and jewelry. As I review the list, I know my Mom no longer has some of the items. She has handed over some of the jewelry to children already. I set it aside to address later.

Three weeks later, I get a call from AFI.  They want to know if they can help answer questions and if I’m aware that the policy needs to be renewed. The woman on the phone kindly walks me through the steps needed to get online access so I can renew and make the needed adjustments to the policy.

Armed Forces Insurance, not only made this easy, they followed up and helped me get this settled. Of course, they wanted payment, but they made the process of reviewing and accepting my Durable Power of Attorney what we all thought it would be!  Psyched. 

* My Mother was not ready to give up her checkbook so I opened a second account with limited funds that I monitor. It is not ideal, but it helped smooth the transition of the bill pay activities and protect their real checking account from a major loss of funds.

USAA vs My Durable Power of Attorney

usaaTwo months ago, my mom sent in a payment to USAA for a policy we believed was cancelled in January.  As we were going through the move with my parents from Independent into Assisted Living, we tried to make changes to their policy. When USAA refused to make the changes we requested, we decided to cancel the policy and purchased new insurance. That was the quickest and easiest way for us to resolve having the insurance company accept our calls to make adjustments to our parents insurance policies.

My initial call on 5/7/2013 to update the address and straighten out my parents insurance policy started off badly. The woman on the phone asked me for a lot of information about me and my husband — birth dates, employer, social security numbers — and I was a little put-off.  I stopped her and asked her why she needed this and she admitted she was interested in updating the records she had on me since we were eligible for USAA.

I am sure my voice was not pleasant when I asked her to just help me resolve the issue that I called about. She continued to try to engage me and got an earful. At first she tried to suggest I complete the USAA version of the power of attorney. I explain that my parents no longer have the ability to sign over this power — and the durable power of attorney was done for this reason and should suffice. She finally provides me with the fax number and directions to get my request resolved.  She tells me it will take about 2 weeks to have the durable power of attorney reviewed and I would hear back from USAA confirming their receipt of my request.

When three weeks passed and I had not received an acknowledgement, I called back.  I’m told they don’t show receiving either of the two 11-page faxes I sent to the number provided. The gentleman promises that when they receive the documents, they will put it on the fast track and I should hear back within a few days.

I just resent both copies of my Durable Power of Attorney in today — I will let you know when I hear back and the outcome. Aggravated.



Does the Durable Power of Attorney Make Assisting a Loved One Easier?

I recommend that EVERYONE have one, but it is not as simple to use as most of us believe. medicarecaredI am embarking on a journey to use my parent’s updated Durable Power of Attorney (POA). We worked with their medical team to ensure we could have them sign a new one. The one they did in 2002 needed to be updated because MANY banks refused to accept it – several stating they would not accept one that was more than 2 years old. 

In the interim, my mom and dad helped get me access by adding me to their bank account and then helping me set up online access to several of the big accounts that needed maintenance. I am embarking on a mission to get their accounts cleaned up while I have a fresh POA. I will be sharing with you the different institutions and what they are requiring of me to get access to my parent’s accounts. It takes hours, days, weeks … so I’m thankful this isn’t a critical medical emergency because I know in that case, we would NOT have access to the accounts, information and would have to cover many of their expenses had I not been added to the bank account already.

The first one I will cover is MEDICARE. I simply wanted to update the mailing address so I called from a billing summary. The mail doesn’t forward from the Post Office change of address notice and the letters are being mailed to my parent’s in Assisted Living. Unfortunately, that means I don’t see many of the bills and notices. I called to update the address and after some time navigating the automated phone system — I finally reach a human. I’m told I have to report the change of address to the Social Security Administration (SSA). They just receive the information from SSA. The person on the phone gives me a phone number to call.

When I reach a person at SSA, she is very helpful. She explains to me that I need to come in and meet with them to request to become the “representative” for my parent’s. I can bring the POA, but the most important thing I need to bring is the number to the doctor that will confirm my parent’s are unable to handle their own affairs. She offers to set an appointment and is surprised to find me one next week.

I will share with you how that meeting goes … next Wednesday … starting at 9:04 a.m. Endeavored.

Did you know that a Durable Power-of-Attorney won’t help with financial institutions?

durablepoaIf you haven’t already faced this, you will find that the Durable Power-of-Attorney (POA) doesn’t work with U.S. financial institutions. At least that has been our experience, and I have heard from dozen’s of others who found the same issues.

Most financial institutions and insurance companies want the POA to be their version.  A court battle would most likely get you what you need, but we all were thinking this legal tool would be easier to use than it has been.

Three months ago we started to pursue filing a lawsuit for guardianship of my parents. After meeting with many professionals and a little soul-searching, we wanted to first exhaust all other methods. We knew our parents would understand the nature of the lawsuit. Our parents were (and still are some days) resistant to any assistance. We had their friends, doctor and the retirement community suggesting that we do something to help my parents move forward with more dignity — most suggested we pursue guardianship which would allow us to make all the decisions for our parents that they would be unable to overturn.

We recognize how hurt our parents were with the loss of their cars. They didn’t remember that a doctor had written a note to the DMV and their licenses were revoked — so my dad continued to drive. While they initially handed over the keys, they continued to tell everyone their kids stole their car.

We felt the move for guardianship would be a direct hit on my parent’s dignity. There had to be another way to move forward without causing more hurt.

I upped my weekly visits and I have worked to adapt to better serve my parents needs on their terms. Most days, my mom understands they are on the waiting list for assisted living and while I’m sure this won’t be easy, we are moving closer to the right solution for my parents. Reflected.