Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Eighteen- More Than Just a Number

Madeline Calthorpe 
18 is far more than just a number.  It is a symbol of transition.  Finally, after years of waiting, you are no longer a child.  Nights of rushing home to make 12 am curfew are over and freedom has never tasted so sweet.  In a few months, it will be time to head off to college, allowing you to truly test out this new thing called adulthood.  What you may not realize, however, is that 18 is also the year when your parents can no longer make health care decisions on your behalf. 

So, what exactly does this mean?  Should you be worried?  Well, let’s say you and your friends have decided to spend your Spring Break in the mountains.  A week of skiing, relaxing by the fire, and thinking about anything other than school—what could be better?  Unfortunately, things don’t go quite as planned and you end up in the hospital after the first hour on the slopes.  Your friends call your parents in a frenzy, but when your parents call the hospital they are unable to get any information.  Despite the fact that they’re your parents, you’re an adult and, in effect, sharing your information would be a privacy concern.  I know what you’re thinking, what’s the big deal?  It’s probably just a broken leg.  I’ll call my parents when I get out of the hospital.  But what if it wasn’t just a broken leg?  What if you were unconscious?  Wouldn’t you want your parents by your side supporting you and helping to make important medical decisions?

Luckily, there is a solution: a medical power of attorney.  Contrary to belief, this document is not only for aging parents, but is important for young adults too.  By signing a medical power of attorney, you are giving your parents, or another adult of your choice, the ability to act in your place.  Had you been unconscious after that accident, they could have told the doctors what steps to take. 
Here at The Peninsula Center, we offer a College Power Pack, which includes a Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, and HIPPA form.  Five years ago, when I said goodbye to my parents as they dropped me off for my freshman year, I would never have thought to sign these documents.  Now, I would sign them in a heartbeat. 

You may be an adult, but that doesn’t make you invincible.  The world is full of unexpecteds, but you don’t have to be alone when they pop up.  On your eighteenth birthday, rather than rushing out and buying a lottery ticket, call and set up an appointment to sign a medical power of attorney.  Leaving for college is stressful enough; give yourself peace of mind by knowing that you are in good hands.            

Friday, May 12, 2017

New Rules Aimed to Protect Senior Investors

Erin A. Smith, Esq. 
The financial exploitation of elderly investors is becoming a major problem in our country. In order to address this growing trend, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) adopted new rules, effective February 2018, to allow members of banks to act if they have a reasonable belief that a client is being financially exploited. The rules were proposed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) due to this growing need. Currently, there is little a financial institution can do to protect their investors from this sort of abuse. The new guidelines allow the following:

    FINRA Rule 2165 allows a member who has a reasonable belief that a client is being financially exploited to put a hold on that customer’s disbursements of their accounts and/or securities. This is not a requirement, but it does allow the member to have discretion and to put a temporary hold on funds when there is a concern.

    FINRA Rule 4512 requires a member to make reasonable efforts to obtain the name of and contact information for a trusted person for a customer’s account. The member must ask the client for a trusted contact when they open an account. The trusted person can provide input as to the customer’s health situation, confirm specifics of customer’s contact information, report concerns regarding financial exploitation, and identify a legal guardian, trustee, executor, agent for the client.

It may not be the perfect solution, but certainly a step in the right direction. It is helpful to have a trusted person to contact in the event that there is a concern. However, they have limited power to protect the assets and can really only provide information.

The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from financial exploitation is to plan ahead. A comprehensive durable power of attorney and a revocable living trust can provide more protection for you and/or your aging family members from becoming victims of this type of abuse.

Monday, May 8, 2017

It's OK to Grieve

Barbara K. Armstrong, Paralegal
Working for an estate planning firm can be very rewarding as you interact with your clients and their families, whether it is finalizing their estate planning documents or helping a family begin the process of administering a loved one’s estate.  For the latter, every family is different.  I have spoken to some families who want to get the administration process started right away, and I tell them to slow down.  There is nothing that needs to be done right away.  Take care of the final arrangements and give yourself some time to grieve.

Grief is a natural response to loss.  It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away.  The more significant the loss, the more intense your grief will be.  You may associate grieving with the death of a loved one – which is often the cause of the most intense type of grief – but any loss can cause grief.

In a conversation with one of our clients, she mentioned how much she missed her husband.  He had always been her rock and they were such a team.  Her husband is still alive.  He has been suffering with Alzheimer’s and she had to move him to a memory care unit.  Even though her husband is still alive, she has lost the man she married as though he has died.

Most recently, an old friend of mine lost her son.  Unfortunately, it was due to an overdose.  She told me that at first everyone was supportive, but in the weeks that followed, she was told to “suck it up” or that “he did it to himself” and that she should move on.  I cannot imagine telling a grieving mother anything other than “There is no time-frame for grieving.  It is a process.”   Listen and give someone who is grieving your ear as you would hope someone would for you when you experience a loss. 

Eventually, you will move on.  Moving on means that you've accepted your loss, but that's not the same as forgetting.  You can move on with your life and keep the memory of someone or something you lost as an important part of you.  In fact, as we move through life, these memories can become more and more integral to defining us as the people we are.

Whatever your loss, it’s personal to you, so don’t feel ashamed about how you feel or believe that it’s somehow only appropriate to grieve for certain things.  If the person, animal, relationship, or situation was significant to you, it’s normal to grieve the loss you’re experiencing.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

It's Good to Unplug

Teresa M. Clemons, Office Manager
I am sure you have heard that when a lamp, phone charger, toaster oven, or any electrical device is plugged into the receptacle, it is using energy – even if it is not in use.  Same thing with iPhones, iPads, and laptops.  Even when you are not using them, but they are within earshot, hands-reach, or you can see that bright colorful screen, it using YOUR energy.  And just as importantly, your valuable time.

I am not one to walk around with my phone at all times.  So, when I do not have it, I do not feel that I am missing an appendage, like some people I know.  I arrived back home mid-morning from church. It was Easter Sunday morning.  I left my purse in the car, which is where I usually keep my phone.  I had a wonderfully peaceful day with family and friends.  The celebration was over, my guests left around 7:30, and I began to clean up.  After everything was back in order and I began to prepare for Monday morning, I realized I did not have my phone and must have left it in the car.  Yes, there were many text messages with greetings for a Happy Easter, I had missed a call or two, and no, I did not know all the latest on Facebook updates.  But, what I did have was a day of uninterrupted time with my family and friends.  An immediate response does not mean that I do not care or respect the callers and the others who took the time to text me their warm wishes, but it gave me a day with my undivided attention belonging to the people who were with me in person.

I witness people who actually pause when they hear the “ding” or feel the vibration of their phone.  Even though they may not respond at that moment – which many people do – the curiosity of
wanting to know who is texting them is in their mind, bouncing around.  You can see it in people’s faces.  They are looking right at you, but they are not really paying attention to what you are saying because they are wondering what they are missing.  At least, that’s how it seems to me.

So “unplug” every once in a while, and enjoy the moment that you are in!