Making Lemonade out of Lemons

agewyzI was interviewed by Jana Panarites about my journey as a sandwich generation caregiver and shared my dream that MemoryBanc would help millions of families avoid the difficulties my family faced. My parents did everything the estate lawyer, financial planner, and insurance adviser suggested–why wasn’t that enough? Find out by listening to this broadcast.

“Author and innovator Kay Bransford left her corporate career because she couldn’t work full-time, be a mom AND an effective medical advocate for her parents, who both had dementia and were in denial about their condition. In this episode, Kay shares her tough yet at times comical caregiving journey with mom and dad, and how it affected her relationship with her siblings and her kids. Caring for her parents not only changed Kay’s perspective on life, it led to a new career: the organizational book she created to manage her parents’ lives—and her own sanity—became the basis for MemoryBanc, an award-winning system Kay created to organize and protect documents, accounts, and assets.

To learn more about MemoryBanc, winner of the AARP Foundation’s “Older-Adult Focused Innovation” prize, click here:

What the death of Robin Williams can teach us

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By all accounts, Robin Williams had his estate plan zipped-up. He had a will and trust and even named professional trustees, so why is the family at odds over things after his death?

Grief impacts everyone very differently. As a suicide, it’s not just sudden but the nature of the death can complicate the grieving process. As caregivers, we know that many of these family issues surface well before a death.

From the latest reports, there is disagreement about how items are defined. A colleague of mine who is a professional appraiser has shared how contentious items with personal meaning but little value can wreak on a family. She commented that it’s interesting that so many parents who raised kids that argued over the last cookie expect their adult children to behave any better when it comes to settling their estate.

It seems Robin Williams put immense thought into his plan, but it sounds like there is some ambiguity and now both his wife and children who are still grieving are arguing over his things.

What Robin Williams Can Teach Us: It’s not enough to create the perfect estate plan. You have to tell those people who are impacted about your plan. Make it a part of normal conversations and allow your loved ones to ask questions and understand your wishes. You might not be around to appreciate it, but they will. And for those of caring for loved ones with dementia, we know that someone may have to make many decisions for us and our assets well before a death.

Robin  was known for his improvisational skills. As caregivers, we are required to improvise–and approaching each interaction with humor is a handy tool on this journey. Reminded. 

7 out of 10 people will need long-term care support – Are you ready?

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services:

  • Someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services and supports in their remaining years
  • Women need care longer (3.7 years) than men (2.2 years)
  • One-third of today’s 65 year-olds may never need long-term care support, but 20 percent will need it for longer than 5 years

Having a will and medical directives or even long-term care insurance won’t guarantee that the individual(s) who would step in to advocate for you will know about your medical history, your bills, your home improvements, your tax preparer or even your pets care needs. You want someone to be your advocate should you be facing a medical crisis or long-term care needs.

To get started, download a free check list of the documents you need or order a copy of the MemoryBanc Register that will guide you through the process of organizing your documents, accounts, and assets so that you can easily find them, and share them with a loved one when needed. Organized. 

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.

Life Preparedness 101

mbicons1.jpgWe all know that we should plan for future life-changing events, but it’s one of the first things we put on the back burner. We have a million excuses, and have learned that procrastination does not work, but there are some things we just never make time to complete.

When it comes to organizing your personal information, doing it later is often too late. The statistics are alarming—some 43 percent of all people age 40 now will have a long-term disability event prior to reaching age 65. And seven out of ten people who turn 65 today will need some type of long-term care services and support lasting three or more years. Could a loved one act as your medical advocate and provide your medical history or list of medications if you were unable to? Could someone else access your bill-paying account to cover basic expenses while you recovered?

Having a system that documents your passcodes, inventories your assets and provides a health biography will not only provide you with quick access to information when you need it, but also can provide a roadmap to the individual that would step in and help you—even if only temporarily—should you need it.

In 70 percent of all households, Consumer Reports found that both spouses were unaware of the major details about family finances and where to find account information. If your partner was suddenly incapacitated, would you be able to step in and manage what your partner was doing? And if you live on your own, it’s doubtful that friends or family would know the details of your life and your wishes if they wanted to help you.

For all these reasons, documenting your life details and putting them in a format that makes it easier for you to retrieve and that someone else can access is important. It matters the most to those people around you whom you love and would be negatively impacted by your failure to simply document basic details.

Click here for a checklist of all of the important documents and details you should have organized. 

Managing End-of-Life Wishes and Caregiver Suggestions

carveouttimeWe hired extra assistance (personal daily assistants or PDAs) for my Mom so she has someone with her and working toward her comfort daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. even though she is in an Assisted Living community. She has also been moved into “hospice” care so there is a second doctor, social worker and nurse monitoring my Mom. I have found that having more people and organizations involved in her care has created more complexities to my family caregiver role. I spend a lot of time on the phone and meeting with her caregivers.

What’s become both a blessing and a challenge is that I’m getting advice and recommendations from a variety of caregivers. The three women who are with her the most continue to suggest we add vitamins to her diet. She eats very little and I understand their concern, but then feel guilty when I explain to them that my Mom doesn’t like vitamins and we feel like it would be the choice she would make if she could.

My Mom made it clear she would not want to extend a life of low-quality. I shared my angst over the idea of even having her drink Ensure. After speaking with the Social Worker from hospice and the head nurse in her Assisted Living community, I moved past my concern when I watched her enjoy the shakes and they helped sate her hunger. My bench-mark is to know that what we give her brings her pleasure. I know the vitamins would not bring her pleasure.

My siblings and I continue to struggle to know what things keep her comfortable and what things may just extend her life. It’s not such an easy black and white choice. I’m thankful that I have involved siblings that come to help, call to ask how they can help and bring varied perspectives to our journey to care for our Mom in this last phase of her life. I was lucky my parents told me how they wanted to live, as well as how they didn’t want to live. Because they started this conversation so early in their lives, it never felt uncomfortable.

This Thanksgiving, I hope you will carve out some time to start the conversation with your loved ones on how you plan to live the rest of your life. I’ve included two great resources below, and hope you might start by sharing with friends and family your ideas about how you will spend your time in your 60s and 70s; where you plan to be living and how you will be spending your time.

I am lucky my parents shared their thoughts with me. It has made a difficult journey a little easier knowing that we did or are doing what we can to honor their individual wishes. Thankful. 


AARP Roadmap for the Rest of Your Life: Smart Choices About Money, Health, Work, Lifestyle … and Pursuing Your Dreams by Bart Astor
Life after 50 isn’t what it used to be. The rules have changed. No more guaranteed pensions, retiree health plans, or extensive leisure and travel. It’s time to forge new paths and create innovative models. That’s where the AARP Roadmap for the Rest of Your Life comes in. Bart Astor, author of more than a dozen books, offers a comprehensive guide for making lifestyle decisions, growing your nest egg, and realizing your goals. It’s a positive read I highly recommend.

The Conversation Starter Kit
If you want to be the expert on your wishes and those of your loved ones, not the doctors, nurses, or end-of-life experts, check out this free resource (donations accepted) that includes easy discussion starters for the coming holiday. This doesn’t have to be a gloomy conversation. I was lucky my parents shared their wishes with me.

Yikes! One in Three Americans is a Caregiver.

crowdAt almost every visit, my Mom will ask “Who would help me if you weren’t here?” I tell her friends would fill in or she could hire someone, but she always bats away these responses. My mom is currently in an Assisted Living facility. For three years I have been very involved in the care and support of my parents. They were 78 and 79 years old when I turned into a caregiver.

An AARP report from 2010 stated that one-third of U.S. adult population plays a caregiver role in households across America. That totals 65.7 million caregivers. A previous report I found put this number as 44 million — either way — it’s a large number of people. We all have unique roles and challenges as caregivers.

At almost every adult gathering, you will find a discussion about this topic and many of the caregivers are overwhelmed, frustrated and often hog-tied because they lack access to the information they need to better support the person they are helping.  

I feel like I was lucky. Because my parents had dementia, I had time to work with them to collect and organize much of their household information. My parents had completed their estate plans, and I held a Durable Power of Attorney. When that didn’t work or we found that it could take weeks and even months to navigate the approval process. We ended up setting up online access to most of their accounts to allow me to easier help my parents. Shhhh, don’t tell — it’s against most online user agreements.

For those of you dealing with a loved one with dementia, please know that my mother was very resistant to turning over these reigns. To this day she doesn’t recognize her limits and I set up a small checking account so that she could still keep a checkbook in her wallet and write checks if she so desires. My father helped me navigate most of their accounts. I hope that you are able to at least get access to the information you need. Once you have gone through the process of trying to be a caregiver and running into roadblocks, you will start looking at your own life and affairs. If someone needed to step in and help you, could they?

This topic seems to be such a cloaked conversation. I do see media outlets covering the topic more as many in the media are dealing with issues in their own families and are trying to bring light to this topic. I’m doing my job to shed light on this subject and offer simple solutions with MemoryBanc. Powered. 

Thank you for Documenting your Burial Wishes

brilliant mindThe death of my father has been easier to manage because he had done so much advance preparation.

My parents worked to update their estate and financial plans in 2002. Most of you have been reading about my journey to pull together the information I have needed to assist them which was the reason I launched MemoryBanc almost two years ago. A Durable Power of Attorney has its limits and there are several financial institutions that won’t accept it. Helping someone requires more information than traditional estate and financial planning provides.

In 2009, my Dad went the extra mile and wrote up his wishes – funeral, casket choice, songs, what we should bury him in … as well as several varieties of his obituary! He gave me a copy and it was sitting in my safe … until we needed it.

My Dad was a decorated military veteran and served for 35 years. He then left to a civilian career and consulted on environmental and engineering issues around the globe. He even served with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq. We still have some road to travel to finalize all the details (thanks to my brother for stepping in – they all aren’t that trivial) and thankfully, many of his colleagues are helping us manage this process who know more about his career and the military process for burial than we really do.

My Mom has been surprised by all the work my Dad did in advance. What a gift he left.

I appreciate what he did so we can do some simple task management without having to really ponder which option to choose. I continue to be impressed by the brilliant mind of my Dad the engineer. Blessed. 


Documenting all of your personal details with the MemoryBanc Register

A past colleague wrote this book which can help you through the process of planning: The Ultimate To-Do List When Your Loved One Dies

The Digital Keys to Your Estate

digital keyIn the past week, The New York Times has run two stories on two different angles of our modern-day lives. 

The first story posted on May 24th Leaving Behind the Digital Keys to Financial Lives discusses the real life issue created that is not being addressed in current financial or estate planning. Our financial lives are online – we have paperless statements, automated bill payments as well as credit cards on file with several of our treasured online services. If you have not documented these, your loved ones would have no clue on how to access this information. This goes beyond the roster of accounts and includes the online access codes and details with those accounts. This is the prime problem I created the MemoryBanc Register to solve — it helps individuals catalog and share this information if it is ever needed. 

What most American’s fail to recognize is that until our 80s, we are more likely to suffer a disability than die. You may very well be on this planet and need to have someone in your life access and manage your affairs for you – if even only temporarily.

Don’t forget about the $58 billion sitting in state and federal treasuries. This is not a new problem.

The second story is from May 25th Bequeathing the Keys to Your Digital Afterlife which deals with the issue of all those online assets, like photographs or even your blog. Google is the first to set up a provision for this and hopefully, the other online firms will follow. Hoped.

How about you?  Take this quick poll now.

MemoryBanc named a finalist in the GW Biz Plan Competition

gwbizplanAs my parents have successfully adapted to their new living arrangements in Assisted Living, the business that I started in response to our situation is blossoming. 

To help fill in the gaps left by my durable power-of-attorney and modern-day business practices, I created a binder to organize and manage my parents personal, financial, medical, online and household needs.  Enough people asked me about it who were facing similar situations that I brought the product to market. Like any good entrepreneur, I was driven and started to sell the product but never stopped to finish the business plan.

As I entered 2013, my goal was to create more structure and a road map for MemoryBanc. I’m crazy competitive. Two friends who were helping me with the business teamed up with me to enter the GW Business Plan Competition.

The GW Business Plan Competition  is a series of educational events and active mentorship on new venture creation. This year, 109 entries were submitted in the first round, which concluded in January 2013. From those initial submissions, only 33 were invited to write full business plans, and from them, only 8 teams made it to the GW Business Plan Competition Finals. These 8 finalists, including MemoryBanc, will present their business plans and ideas to a panel of distinguished entrepreneurs, investors, venture capitalists, and GW alumni.

MemoryBanc will vie for $60,000 in cash prizes in the 2013 GW Business Plan Competition Finals that are being help Friday, April 19, 2013.

Date: April 19, 2013

Time: MemoryBanc will present around 3:00 PM and is the final team to present. There is the possibility they may present up to a half hour before or after this scheduled time.

Cost: Free

We would love for those of you that are in the metro DC area to join us. RSVP at to save your spot! You will receive a name badge and can join the reception. EXCITED!

Jonesing for the Era of June Cleaver

june cleaver valentineI was so excited with my first mobile phone. It was a car phone that had to be installed. I had a two-hour commute and being able to call my boyfriend was worth the cost of the latest technology.

The expectation to manage the many modes of communication 24/7 has made me reconsider the joy I felt towards that first mobile phone. We now have to manage email, texts and postings on the various social media sites we use on top of mail and home and work numbers.

The change from letters and a home phone to a variety of communication devices has radically changed how we manage our lives and how the companies that we use interact with us and how they provide service. It’s also made managing and organizing personal, financial, online and household accounts and services much more complex.

As I sift through my parents’ papers and try to manage their accounts due to their dementia diagnoses, I envy the era of the Cleavers. More than three years ago, I started to support my parents’ banking and bill pay needs. It took me more than six months just to collect major account details. Just last month a life insurance policy of my mother’s emerged.

This is not a new problem. Today, $58 billion is sitting with a variety of state treasuries and federal agencies representing checking accounts, security deposits and life insurance policies that are unclaimed (CNN Money). Many of these details fall off the radar in a crisis or during the chaos of settling an estate. However, I’m wondering how many accounts I am missing and I have had three years with my parents to collect and organize their important papers. Things are just a lot more complex today and if you don’t already know this, most financial institutions DO NOT ACCEPT even a Durable Power-of-Attorney if it’s not on their letterhead and written by their lawyers.

This month’s edition of Consumer Reports shared that both spouses knew the details about family finances and where to find major account information in only 30 percent of all households. The story went on to report that 86 percent had not updated their wills or other estate planning documents within the previous five years. Without these documents, the laws in your state will dictate how your assets and children are cared for – and you will be paying them to provide that service for your estate regardless of its size.

Several recent news stories highlight the need to document your personal, financial and online details – regardless of your age. The breadth and depth of the impact to individuals of all ages and walks of life continues to surprise me. The Wall Street Journal reported Life and Death Online: Who Controls a Digital Legacy? The article discusses the impact of the digital world on the legacy of an individual when they die. The prime subject of the story was only 16 years old.

There is a lot of material to organize. You can download our free guide to all the important papers and accounts that would make a huge difference to your loved ones should they need it. Make it your special Valentine’s Day gift to your those around you who will be impacted if you have not done this already.

We can also help you get organized. From the MemoryBanc® Register™ that organizes your personal, financial, medical, online and household details, to our Do-It-Now Service to get organized in 2 two-hour sessions, to our secure concierge storage and delivery services to ensure your information gets to the right person when it’s needed most.

We have left the era of June Cleaver far behind, and now I ask you to consider organizing your vital papers and telling family members where to find them. It’s the kindest thing you can do for your loved ones.

– Kay
Kay Bransford
Chief Curator and Founder, MemoryBanc
P.S. Order a MemoryBanc Register by February 28, 2013 and receive a 10 percent discount. To take advantage of this offer, enter “GRACE” in the coupon code box at

For questions or to place your order by phone, call 703.436.2827.