Summer Fun Means Summer Review of Important Documents

Making summer plans to travel?  While fun and exciting, travel can also mean accidents, illness and unexpected conditions.

This summer as you make plans to visit family or take that special trip, please take a moment to review your important legal documents.  Just as you make sure that someone gets your mail, waters the plants, etc. before you travel, you should take a moment to ensure that your estate planning documents are up to date and still reflect your wishes.

During this review, please pay particular attention to your healthcare directives, (i.e. your living will and health care power of attorney). These documents prepare you for a medical emergency. Please make sure that they exist and still reflect your current wishes. 

If you don’t have these documents or if they are out of date, I suggest you contact an attorney who specializes in Estate Planning as soon as possible. It is crucial you have these documents in place.

Updating and Sharing Your Current Digital Keys

So many of us have on-line accounts for banking, social media, and/or merchants. Many people fail to create a list of passwords and other log-in information for these accounts. Without these digital keys, survivors often have to get a court order to gain access to an account. Then they must convince the company running the website to heed their authority. The costs start to pile up.

I recommend you put together a list that contains: name of institution you have an on-line account with, nature of the account, username and password. Put a copy with your other important papers in your home (hopefully that means in a fire-proof and water-proof safe). Continue to update it as necessary.

 Leave town without worry that your affairs aren’t in order should something happen to you. You’ll enjoy your trip so much more!

April is National Donate Life Month

The statistics speak volumes:

· More than 100,000 men, women and children currently require life-saving transplants

· Every 11 minutes, another name is added to the National Organ Transplant Waiting List

· On average, 18 people die each day due to the lack of organs available for transplant.

· One donor can help more than 50 people.

National Donate Life Month (NDLM) was instituted by Donate Life America and its members in 2003 to help address this tragic situation. In 2010, President Obama officially proclaimed April as National Donate Life Month and called upon “health care professionals, volunteers, educators, government agencies, faith-based and community groups, and private organizations to join forces to boost the number of organ, tissue, blood, and stem cell donors throughout our Nation.”

As estate planning attorneys, we are well aware of the stress families endure hoping for a loved one’s potentially life-saving organ transplant—and the anguish they suffer when one is not available in time.  We therefore welcome this initiative and suggest if you haven’t made known your wish to be an organ donor, or if you’ve only put it on your driver’s license, it’s also a good idea to fill out an organ donor card as a further indication of your wishes.

We also applaud the efforts of participants in the 6th annual National Healthcare Decisions Day, which falls on April 16.  Together, these initiatives go a long way toward creating greater public awareness about the need for, and benefits of, proper planning and communication about one’s health care wishes. www.nationalhealthcaredecisionsday.org

While organ donation, and all advanced directives, are deeply personal decisions, we hope you will consider the importance of making them known in advance, discussing them with loved ones, and making sure they are both legally documented and easily accessible during an emergency or in the event of incapacity. If you would like to make changes to your advance health directives, or need to create advance health directives in the first place, please contact my office. We are here to assist you.

Join Me For A Day Of Family Fun To Benefit Big Brothers/Big Sisters

As you may know, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Ventura County has been a focus of mine for some time for several important reasons (ask me about it sometime). It’s not often that two of my passions (youth mentoring and music) coincide but I wanted you to know of an upcoming event that I’d love for you to attend with me.

Big Brothers/Big Sisters has the opportunity to raise some additional funds to support their youth mentoring programs by selling tickets to the upcoming Ventura County Blues Festival. The Ventura County Blues Festival will take place on Saturday, April 27 at Moorpark College with music starting at 11:00 a.m. This is a family friendly event with live blues music, food and craft vendors, guitar giveaways and a kid’s area. Youth under 12 years of age are free with an accompanying adult.

I will be there for the entire day, enjoying some of the best blues music, food and fun. I’d love for your family to join me in what promises to be an exceptionally good time. You can purchase tickets directly online for $25 plus a $1 dollar service fee. Big Brothers Big Sisters will receive $10 dollars out of every ticket sold through their own website: www.bbsvc.org. You can also purchase them from the Big Brothers Big Sisters office by writing a check for $25 bucks payable to the Ventura County Blues Society. Please contact Pedro Chavez at 805.484.2282 x 16 or email pchavez@bbsvc.org to reserve your tickets today.

All donations are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.

Please forward this to your contacts, family and friends, and invite them to join us.

Money Managers Cut Worry for Seniors

It’s tough enough for many adults to keep track of their bills, but it can be especially hard for those in their retirement years. Failing eyesight and hearing, coupled with arthritis-stricken hands and fading memory, can make keeping track of everything a Herculean task for many seniors. That is especially true if there are no trusted family members living nearby.

But there are resources to help. Whether it’s balancing the checkbook, paying bills, managing charity donations or filing insurance claims, a daily money manager can take care of a senior’s day-to-day business.

Not just for the rich

The wealthy have used money managers for generations, but the service has grown to include clients from all walks of life, the Chicago Tribune reports. Because they’re not financial planners, The Wall Street Journal says, daily money managers generally do bookkeeping services during house calls, including devising budgets, organizing tax records and filing medical claims and appeals. This service could be a perfect fit for retirees who travel a lot. Making sure bills are paid on time helps protect your nest egg and eliminates the need for you to keep on top of them while wintering south.

For a non-profit option, there’s the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers. Although it can help with referrals to professionals in the care giving field, about 20 percent of its geriatric care managers also offer daily money management services.

There are free services through the AARP Foundation’s Money Management Program that works with 127 non-profits and government agencies.

Due diligence

Unless expressly legally given, daily money managers do not have power of attorney. But because the field is currently unregulated, make sure you do their homework before hiring a money manager. Among the things you should do is hire someone with credentials that are verifiable and real, and ask if the manager is a member of an organization with a code of ethics. Get references from their clients and other professionals alike. Make sure you sign with someone who is bonded or has liability insurance — and find out the amounts of coverage they carry. Finally, be clear about fees; does the manager charge a flat fee, or are expenses included? And, of course, someone trusted should periodically double-check the money manager’s work to ensure its accuracy.

A health care directive protects you and your family. Make your wishes known now – – prevent the conflict later.

There has been a lot of talk about living wills and health care powers of attorney lately.  These legal documents (often called advance directives or health care directives) are important because they make your medical wishes known if you can’t speak for yourself.  Here is a brief description of the four primary health care directives and how they protect your wishes:

A Living Will is the directive you use to explain your medical preferences in the event that you are unable to speak for yourself.   This is the document you use to indicate whether you would or would not want a feeding tube, a ventilator, etc.

A Health Care Power Of Attorney is the directive you use to choose someone to speak for you if you aren’t capable of making your own decisions.  This person, often called a health care agent or health care proxy, uses your living will or your other instructions as guidance to make informed decisions about your care.  It is important that you choose a trusted individual who will uphold your wishes when the time comes.

A HIPAA Authorization allows doctors and hospitals to give your medical information to the people you designate so they can make informed decisions about your treatment.

An Organ Donation Authorization is completed if you wish to be an organ donor.

Completing these documents is crucial, but it’s still not enough.  You also should do the following:

1.         You should talk to your loved ones.  Tell the person you’ve chosen as your health care agent that you’ve selected them, and be sure they’re willing to do it.  You also need to talk to your family about your medical wishes, especially about end-of-life care.  The more information your family has about your views, the easier the decision making process will be regarding your care, should the need arise. These discussions can help ease the emotional stress your family will feel when making difficult decisions about your care, particularly if you opt for less medical intervention toward the end of life.

2.          If you have already completed these documents, it’s important to review them

periodically to make sure they still reflect your wishes.  It’s especially important to update them if your family situation has changed (e.g. do you need to appoint a new agent) or if there’s a change in your medical condition. 

Also, changes in state or federal law can make it necessary to update your directives.  For example, if you completed your medical directives prior to April, 2004, they probably need to be updated to include appropriate HIPAA language (see above) in order to assure the hospital will provide your agent with important medical information about you.  Otherwise the hospital could refuse, leaving your agent in a very difficult position. 

It is also critically important that these directives be available to hospitals and doctors right away. So it is not only vital to have completed and updated your documents, it’s also essential that they be accessible in an emergency. 

  

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Steven M. Greenwood, P.C.
2801 Townsgate Rd., Ste. 210
Westlake Village, CA 91361

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