Monday, September 25, 2017

Change is in the Air

Debra C. Pecor, Senior Paralegal
Wow! Summer passed us rather quickly and fall is upon us.  Okay, you can’t tell from the temperature, but the first day of fall has officially arrived.  This is the time of year for all things fall: apple picking, fall festivals, seafood festivals (I live in Poquoson, yum!), peanut festivals – any reason to gather together and enjoy the cool, crisp fall weather.  The leaves change; it’s just a beautiful time of year.

Change isn’t always easy in life.  Some changes are good, some not so good.  But each change brings with it an opportunity to grow in strength and, hopefully, in love.  We hear about so many friends, family, and clients (who have become like family too) being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  It’s such a sad diagnosis because the body is strong but the brain is just not functioning the way it should.  I saw Dr. Oz show pictures of what happens to a brain with Alzheimer’s and truthfully, it was rather shocking and made me realize it is really much more than just losing your memory.  Dr. Oz did say that he expects that within 10 years there will be a cure for Alzheimer’s. 

Our firm is participating in a fundraising walk for Alzheimer’s in October.  Perhaps if more funds for research can be raised, the cure could come more quickly.  If you want to help, you can click this link:  Thank you!

In the meantime, enjoy your family.  And enjoy this beautiful fall season!  Enjoy each day… no one knows what tomorrow will bring.  

Monday, September 18, 2017

Respect for the Aged Day

Catherine E. Sears, Law Clerk
The calendar at my parents’ house is a little unusual. It lists mainstream American holidays like Labor Day, of course, but it also features selected holidays from around the world. Because of this, I now know that September 2nd is Independence Day in Vietnam and that September 24th is Republic Day in Trinidad & Tobago. With no disrespect meant to the Vietnamese or Trinidadians, however, the international holiday I found most interesting is September 18th: Respect for the Aged Day in Japan.

I had mixed feelings in reflecting on this holiday. Has our society fallen so far that we really need to designate a day to remind ourselves to respect the elderly? What happened to the Judeo-Christian commandment to “honor thy father and thy mother”? On the other hand, though, elder abuse runs rampant, with perpetrators coming not only from internet or phone scams, but from trusted caregivers and family members. This abuse can take many forms. There is physical abuse or neglect, especially in light of increased frailty and the heightened levels of care that many senior citizens need. Emotional abuse and undue influence occurs when a person manipulates a senior or isolates him from the rest of his family, often taking advantage of his diminished judgment or poor decision-making skills. Financial abuse has become heartbreakingly widespread, with seniors collectively being scammed out of millions of dollars each year as perpetrators take advantage of the good credit and sizeable savings that many elderly individuals have accrued from a lifetime of hard work. Maybe, then, we need a “Respect for the Aged Day” in the United States after all.

Being curious, I researched what exactly “Respect for the Aged Day” entails in Japanese culture. It sounds delightful. This holiday always falls on the third Monday of September, giving people a long weekend to spend time with their families. Consequently, it apparently is a busy travel weekend in Japan, with younger generations making trips across the country to visit their older relatives and spend quality time with them. Visits often include going out to lunch, and many restaurants will let senior citizens eat their favorite meal for free. Families bring gifts and celebrate as though it were the senior’s birthday. People who no longer have older family members often volunteer on this day by providing meals, a comforting visit, or musical entertainment to the senior community. News stories focus on the accomplishments of seniors, and the Japanese government bestows a special silver dish on those seniors who have turned 100 years old within the past year. If the holiday falls in the same week as the Autumnal Equinox, the celebration is extended and people get even more time off from work to be with their families, a phenomenon known as “Silver Week.”

Clearly, I am not Japanese. I am at work and writing this blog today instead of spending time with my grandparents in Connecticut and Massachusetts. However, as cheesy as it sounds, every day truly is “Respect for the Aged Day” at The Peninsula Center. We strive to break the negative stereotypes about lawyers, focusing instead on meeting our clients’ unique needs and doing what is genuinely best for them, not simply what will be the most profitable for us. It may not be as glamorous as a complimentary lunch and a three-day weekend, but we will continue to do our part to protect seniors, accomplish their goals, and help them age with dignity. Happy Respect for the Aged Day!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Generations of Concern

Barbara K. Armstrong, Paralegal
I went to a conference last year and a discussion was had regarding the different generations. Of course, the subject of millennials and how they just don’t seem to have the same work ethic as the generations before them was a hot topic. It seems to me that every generation has always thought that the one that came after them would never amount to anything.

The “Greatest Generation” or “Builders” believed their path to success was to:
  1. Serve your country,
  2. Find a good job,
  3. Fulfill your “role” in life,
  4. Build the institution,
  5. Stay steady and remain faithful, and
  6. Retire on a fixed income.
They were a great generation who fathered the “Baby Boomers.” The Boomers believed their path to success was in valuing intelligence and education by:
  1. Maintaining good grades,
  2. Getting an education,
  3. Reforming the institution,
  4. Working hard and saving,
  5. Downsizing, and
  6. Living your life to the fullest.
Then we have “Generation X,” or “Busters.” They became disenchanted with the “institution.”  This generation rebelled against the previous establishment and became politically disengaged.
  1. Many came from broken homes,
  2. Went to college,
  3. Went into debt,
  4. Worked to live,
  5. Were hyper parents, and
  6. Had “perfect children.”
Millennials are involved in personalized technology. You can’t go anywhere and not see someone on their cell phone or tablet. At a restaurant, you see four people sitting with each other but not talking as they are looking at their phones. Millennials:
  1. Are individualized,
  2. Lack patience,
  3. Seek to find a shared sense of reality,
  4. Believe they can own their career through another’s business,
  5. Believe if everything is the same, then nothing can have meaning, and
  6. Love.
I come from the “Baby Boomer” generation. I was at the latter end. I have raised a Generation X’er, one on the cusp, and a Millennial. I’ve watched their friends grow up, and some now have families of their own. I can tell you that they are all going to be all right. The way I see it, as long as you become a productive part of society in all ways, then I don’t see anything to worry about. The Millennials will be just fine, and I am sure that they will do whatever they need to do to make sure that they succeed in life on their own terms.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


Jodi B., Paralegal
Recently, my mind has been rewinding to not-so-ancient memories when my girls were preschoolers and Veggie Tales characters were part of our morning routine.  In case you missed the episode starring Madame Blueberry, she is a blueberry cartoon character and lives in a simple treehouse at the top of a very tall tree.  Shopping at Stuffmart thrills her and she goes on a massive shopping spree, filling her house with stuff until the weight causes her house to plummet to the ground in shattered pieces. 

Estate law and blueberries…what’s the common denominator??  Stuff.

When our loved ones pass away, sometimes “stuff” (or rather tangible personal property) becomes so important, and there’s often a race to claim items before someone else can.  Changing locks.  Box trucks arriving in the middle of the night.  One family member often takes possession of the stuff and begins to gather as much as they can, perhaps forgetting that their mom was also someone else’s mom and that her “stuff” is to be split according to her last wishes or state intestacy laws if no record was left. People can be in such a hurry to gather as much “stuff” as possible to stuff into their own houses without realizing the hurt they are causing others.  Perhaps this illustration is far too simple for our non-blueberry lives because blueberries lack emotion, memories, and relationships.  But the principle is still the same. 

At The Peninsula Center for Estate and Lifelong Planning, we get calls all the time about “stuff.”  In the estate world, the personal representative of the estate should be the one in charge of marshalling assets, keeping assets (including tangible personal property) safe, and distributing the estate.  If you find yourself serving as the personal representative of an estate, open communication often puts anxieties to rest and can prevent feuds from happening.  And if you are not the personal representative and the personal representative is not communicating at all, try a soft approach.  Instead of accusing them of stealing the “stuff,” ask if they need help sorting through items or arranging a time for the heirs to get together.  Grief overwhelms and skews our judgment and causes us to jump to conclusions and speak harsh words that sometimes have lasting consequences.

Estate administration can be overwhelming not only because one is wrapping up someone else’s affairs that they may not have known much about, but because it’s also an extremely emotional time filled with constant reminders of who we have lost.  Please don’t get me wrong and think that I’m condoning those who truly steal from an estate, because that does happen.  But sometimes, harsh words and actions over “stuff” sever and damage family relationships.  Put relationships first and perhaps “stuff” will follow into its proper place.  And if that happens, consider bringing blueberry pie for desert at the next family dinner.  I promise Madame Blueberry won’t mind.