Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Tales From the ER: The Man with the DNR Tattoo

The following story from The New England Journal of Medicine illustrates the importance of not just creating an Advance Healthcare Directive and a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order, but making sure your family and healthcare providers are advised of and committed to your decisions.

An unconscious man with a DNR tattoo on his chest

A Miami medical team faced a legal and ethical dilemma when an unconscious patient was wheeled into the emergency room with “Do Not Resuscitate” tattooed on his chest–the tattoo seemed to be the patient’s way of identifying his end-of-life wishes. It didn’t end there: “Not” was underlined, and the tattoo included a signature. Not surprisingly, none of the team had encountered this situation before, and there was no way to validate the DNR or determine if it was legally sound.

The tattoo was created to provide clarity; what it actually created was confusion

The tattoo produced more confusion than clarity—fueled by the common belief that tattoos are the result of regrettable decisions made while intoxicated. While in theory this tattoo may have been a great idea, without any context, it backfired.
This patient had a history of pulmonary disease, lived at a nursing home but was found intoxicated and unconscious on the street and brought to the hospital. He arrived without identification, family or friends. The doctors had no idea what his end-of-life wishes were, but an infection had led to septic shock, which causes organ failure and extremely low blood pressure. When his blood pressure started to drop, the medical team gave him intravenous fluids, antibiotics and blood-pressure medication, buying time to decide whether to try to save his life or manage his pain and let him die, as per his DNR order.

A cautionary tale helps explain medical team’s dilemma

Doctors referenced a case published in 2012 in The Journal of General Internal Medicine about a 59-year-old patient who had a DNR tattoo on his chest. In this case, however, the patient wanted lifesaving measures to be taken if he needed them. The reason for the tattoo? He’d lost a bet playing poker. In his case, the tattoo was a joke, but the medical team couldn’t assume that the tattooed man in their own ER was also the butt of a joke.
In Florida, when outside of hospitals, DNR orders are printed on yellow paper and signed by a physician and the patient, or a surrogate. Inside the hospitals, doctors can talk to a patient or the patient’s family or friends to determine end-of-life wishes. Since this patient remained unconscious, the doctors consulted an ethics expert to discuss the legal and ethical issues. He determined that the doctors could assume that the tattoo reflected the patient’s wishes.

The tattooed man died the next morning

The patient died the next morning. Thankfully, social workers were later able to track down the man’s proper DNR paperwork which supported the DNR order, assuring doctors they had acted according to the patient’s wishes.

A DNR tattoo: No substitute for an Advance Healthcare Directive or Living Trust

The lesson we can take from this? A tattoo is not the best way to alert medical staff to your wishes. A better methodology is to keep the actual document in a pocket or wallet, and it does not replace a properly executed Advance Healthcare Directive.

Inform families, friends and doctor of your end-of-life wishes

If a family member or friend who is unaware of a patient’s DNR wishes calls the local emergency response team (EMT) via 911 or other system, it’s likely that this team will work to resuscitate the patient; EMTs are trained to save lives, not interpret DNR orders.
While we can all appreciate the humor in this story, it alerts us to the importance of making sure our family and doctor are aware of and support our decisions.
CDP’s Living Trust package includes both a Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive, where you name an Agent, the person who will make healthcare decisions for you if you’re no longer able to do this yourself. An important part of this document is a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order—which means you do not want a medical team performing Hail Mary efforts to keep you alive when you are clearly near the end.

Do you need to create or update your Living Trust?

Life changes often mean that it’s necessary to name a different Agent for your Healthcare Directive or Power of Attorney.  Contact California Document Preparers at one of our three Bay Area offices today to schedule an appointment. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A New Year: A New Start and a Divorce

A New Year. A time for a fresh start. We’re betting that even those who hate New Year’s resolutions still make silent promises to themselves that this will be the year they finally lose ten pounds, take that trip to Disneyland they’ve been promising their kids or visit their folks more often. And for the many married couples filing for Divorce, the New Year will be the time for major life changes that will have a profound effect on the lives of their families.

Divorce rates increase by one third in January

According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the number of Divorce filings is one third higher than normal in the month of January. Unfortunately, too many couples are more focused on ending a bad relationship than they are on taking the time to fully understand the process involved in dissolving a marriage.

Preparing for Divorce: Understanding the financial implications

The most important preparation for Divorce should include understanding the financial implications of dividing property and starting a new life as a single adult or parent. Each spouse needs to have a firm understanding of what and where all of his/her assets are and the most equitable way to divide them. If there are children, identifying custody and a parenting planare critical parts of the Divorce process.

People considering separation should review their taxes

Most of us receive our end-of-year tax forms in January, so this is the perfect month to review your earnings as well as your debts. Gather copies of documents that verify assets, liabilities, income and expenses–bank, brokerage and retirement statements and real estate documents.

Money and children are the most contentious topics for divorcing couples

Having a firm grip on your assets and liabilities puts you in a better position to negotiate and reach an equitable financial resolution. Many people are surprised at the amount of debt their spouses are carrying, which may include credit card debt that is easy to accumulate and difficult to pay down. California is a community property state, so that which is accumulated during marriage is a shared responsibility—which can become problematic when it comes to time for division of property.

Run a credit report on yourself

One financial adviser recommends running at least one credit report on yourself, as there may be debt about which you may be unaware. It can be shocking to learn that you potentially owe thousands of dollars because you have agreed to personally guarantee loans or have unknowingly underwritten other financial commitments. This kind of thing can happen when one spouse manages the couple’s finances and the other spouse remains uninformed about the couple’s fiscal affairs.

Review retirement plans and insurance policies

Review retirement plans and insurance policies to determine what changes need to be made to take your spouse off the policies and protect minor children. Something to think about: You want your life insurance proceeds to go to your children; however, if the children are minors at the time of a parent’s death, the receipt of a large sum of money is complicated. Even if a child is 18 years old and legally an adult, the receipt of a large amount of money may not be prudent. It might be better to name a conservator who would be responsible for managing the money and overseeing the wellbeing of children until they are able to care for themselves independently. If you have a Living TrustPower of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive, you likely will want to make changes to these documents as well.

Saving money and stress with CDP’s Uncontested Divorce

California Document Preparers has assisted hundreds of Bay Area couples with their Divorces. We are the service providers of choice for an increasing number of couples who do not require an attorney to get divorced because they are not fighting over custody of their children and they are able to determine an equitable division of property—these are the fundamentals of an uncontested divorce. We help our clients save money and stress at what is already a very difficult time for families.

We guide our clients through the step-by-step Divorce process

Our clients fill out our attorney-approved workbooks, and we prepare the legal documents and file them with the courts. We manage the entire process and remain in touch by phone and email. Our dedicated team is compassionate and helpful; we understand the emotional impact of Divorce and work hard to make the process as seamless as possible.
If a Divorce is part of your plans for 2018, contact California Document Preparers at one of our three Bay Area offices today to schedule an appointment. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Difficult Family Conversations About End-of-Life Planning

The reluctance or downright unwillingness to talk to parents and grandparents about the difficult topic of end-of-life planning is one that frequently arises in our offices. It ranges from “Mom’s a terrible driver and shouldn’t be behind the wheel, but nobody will confront her” to “Dad’s health is deteriorating, and we need to talk about downsizing, estate planning and preparing a Living Trust, but every time we try to talk to him he blows up.”

One client’s story illuminates the need for planning

“Brian’s” grandfather has been managing his cardiac health for many years–bypass surgery at 60, stents put in at 73 and again at 82. He is now 85 and still in good health, is active and busy. He just rebuilt his garage and a new boat dock, from the ground up, earlier this year.

Recent heart procedure left Grandpa with diminished physical capacity

But Brian’s grandfather recently underwent a procedure to have still more stents installed, and for the first time, he left the hospital not feeling significantly better. Instead of being back to 90% efficiency post-procedure, he’s now at about 50%. Brian and his family have always taken for granted their grandfather’s robust health, but this last procedure has been a wakeup call. They’re aware that their grandfather’s diminished capacity at 85 is going to affect his ability to care for himself, his wife and his property.

It gets more complicated: Meet Grace

Grandpa remarried about five years ago, and “Grace”, 83, is in shaky health. Her kids and other family members all live on the east coast. If Grandpa dies first, his Trust allows Grace to continue to live at his very high-maintenance, hilly, fire-prone, lakefront property for the rest of her life.
While Brian and his siblings are all very fond of Grace, they worry that she won’t be able to care for herself, much less the property, which is fairly rural. If/when Grace can no longer drive, she will be isolated. Brian is his grandfather’s Trustee, and he’s concerned that Grace will then become his responsibility, along with managing the estate.

Time to have “the talk” with Grandpa

Brian knows that he must have this conversation with his grandfather. He’s struggling with how to frame the conversation so it doesn’t sound like he’s trying to get rid of Grace after his grandfather dies. Brian wants to work with his grandfather to develop a workable solution. The sensible thing would be for the couple to downsize now, move to a retirement community that would care for both his grandfather and Grace as their needs require. But ask anyone who’s had to deal with aging family members–the sensible thing can be a tough sell.

End-of-life planning discussions never get any easier

Those with parents and grandparents in failing health need to encourage them to name a Power of Attorney and an Agent for their Advanced Healthcare Directive before they become incapacitated. Our Living Trust package contains both of these documents and thoughtfully assists families to prepare for eventualities. If creating a Living Trust is on your New Year to-do list, contact California Document Preparers at one of our three Bay Area offices today to schedule an appointment. We are helpful, compassionate and affordable.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Getting Divorced? Have You Reviewed Your Estate-Planning Documents?

Divorce has become a reality for many couples, and for most, the details of dividing property, developing a parenting planand helping their kids adjust to what will be a new family situation are consuming. There are often additional challenges, including selling the family home, packing, moving to a new neighborhood and enrolling in a new school. With these kinds of pressures, it’s not surprising that people aren’t thinking about their Living Trusts and other estate-planning documents at times like this. But failing to update these documents to reflect the changes in your life can have significant long-term consequences.

California: A community property state

According to California’s community property law, upon divorce, each party is entitled to half of all property accumulated during the marriage, and each spouse is entitled to retain control and ownership of separate property.
  • Once divorced, most estate-planning documents are legally nullified, yet that nullification can be enforced only if an estate is submitted to Probate.
  • While the divorce is pending, those documents remain in force unless legally modified.
  • If one party dies before a divorce is granted, the courts may treat the parties as if they are still married, depending on the stage of the divorce proceedings when the death occurred.

Temporary restraining order prevents disposing of property without spousal consent

When someone files for Divorce in California, the court issues an automatic temporary restraining order (ATRO). This order prevents either party from disposing of any property–whether community, marital, or separate–without written notice to the other party. If that order is ignored, the offending party may be assessed attorney’s fees and be ordered to provide full restitution. However, nothing prevents making changes to appointments and bequests in estate-planning documents. So if one spouse were to sell or redistribute a property without notifying the other spouse, there would be consequences, but changing the way that property will be distributed in a Living Trust is legal.

Divorce clients: Strongly consider reviewing your estate-planning documents

Because of the document nullification issue, it may be in the best interest of Divorce clients to review their Wills, Living Trusts, Powers of Attorney and Advanced Health Care Directives. It may be time to revoke your Joint Trust and create new individual Trusts. Appointing new representatives and adjusting bequests ensures that intent is clear and will not be subjected to legal challenge. Failure to adjust bequests can raise the question of whether someone actually intended to benefit an ex-spouse. Documents that are revised and executed after a Divorce assure that the issue has been addressed.
Family law is an important service for us. We’ve helped hundreds of couples get divorced. For those who may be contemplating Divorce, we are happy to answer questions and explain how we work with our clients. Contact California Document Preparers at one of our three Bay Area offices today to schedule an appointment. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

“Olderpreneurs”: Carving Out a Larger Role in the Workforce

In our youth-driven culture, we hear more about people losing jobs because they’re too old than we do about those over 50 who are launching new businesses. In the UK, however, this demographic is thriving. An estimated one in five people over 50 is self-employed—a higher proportion than for any other age group. They’re called olderpreneurs, and there are now nearly 1.8 million self-employed people over the age of 50, an increase of 21% since 2008.

Entrepreneurship is no longer the exclusive domain of the young

Many of those starting new businesses realize that they have the life skills, contacts and business experience that will help make them successful. They understand sales cycles, marketing, the importance of relationships and often have more money for the startup investment. Statistics show that older entrepreneurs tend to be more successful than those who are starting businesses at a younger age.

Other typical demographic information of olderpreneurs in the U.S.

  • According to Jeff Williams, founder of BizStarters, a service that coaches older entrepreneurs here in the U.S., roughly 60% of clients prioritize schedule flexibility over economics—being able to take time off to travel or spend time with family is important.
  • Very few older business founders are trying to replace corporate salaries; average earnings expectations are $50,000-75,000 a year.
  • The majority also prefer to be solopreneurs, depending on strategic alliances when necessary. Many have spent their careers managing workforces and now prefer to create a simpler business model that fits their new lifestyle—without employee concerns.
  • The internet, which enables research, virtual sales and sourcing, has made the solo enterprise model infinitely more accessible.

Regardless of age, new business owners need to identify a business formation structure

Whether 25 or 65, those starting new businesses in California need to identify a business formation structure. Many people with years of industry experience retire and become consultants, often going back to their former companies on an advisory basis to share their expertise. For these individuals, a sole proprietorship may be the right business structure. California Document Preparers assists our clients in preparing the documents to set up the business structure, such as an LLC or S Corp, that is the right fit at the right time for your business.

From sole proprietor to corporation

A number of our clients starts out as sole proprietors, but as their businesses grow, as they hire either part-time or full-time teams, they choose to incorporate, separating the business from the owner. A corporation acts like a separate body that can do things like buy and sell property, be taxed and enter into contracts. Perhaps most important, it protects its owners from personal liability for corporate debts and obligations.

The growing popularity of LLCs

Many business owners who wish to incorporate these days are choosing LLCs because of the personal liability protection, flexibility and tax benefits. An LLC can be one or many members; they’re not required to have Boards or keep meeting minutes and can be managed by the members themselves.
Are you starting a new business or planning to change your business structure in the New Year? Contact California Document Preparers at one of our three Bay Area offices today to schedule an appointment. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Plan While You Can: Now is the Time to Make Critical Life Decisions

Clients frequently come in to our offices seeking to get a Power of Attorney and Advanced Healthcare Directive for a parent who is suffering some degree of dementia. In many cases, one parent has died, and the remaining parent is no longer able to manage his/her financial matters or make informed health care decisions. Unfortunately, by the time these clients come in, it is often too late; that parent is no longer legally qualified to sign documents.

The solution is a Conservatorship

In most of these situations, our clients become court-appointed Conservators of both the Person and the Estate—a process that is both expensive and time-consuming. Sadly, this could have been avoided by creating a Financial Power of Attorneyand a Health Care Directive when those parents were still alert and legally able to sign documents.

Jane Bryant Quinn recommends long-term planning to protect against poor decision-making later in life

Jane Bryant Quinn, a personal finance advisor who writes for the AARP, discusses the importance of making important life decisions while you still can, protecting yourself against the risk of poor decision-making in the later stages of your life when you may be affected by dementia or other illnesses.
Quinn uses the example of a University of California professor whose 85-year-old father had fallen down the stairs, broken some bones and had become very weak. Yet for some reason, without consulting his son or healthcare providers, he decided to cancel his long-term care insurance. Within two years, he wound up in a nursing home, uninsured. That fall had taken a big toll and the client’s father was no longer thinking clearly. If anything, the fall and its subsequent debilitating effect should have prompted him to take out more long-term care insurance—not cancel it completely!

Loss of powers might come on us gradually or suddenly

The better prepared we are, the safer we’ll be. Below are some suggestions on ways to plan for old age now to ensure you will be making sound decisions.
  • Simplify your finances to make it easy for someone to take over.
  • Consolidate any scattered CD accounts and IRAs.
  • Set up automatic payments for household bills.
  • Create good financial files that are easily accessed. If you pay your bills and access your accounts online, provide login information.
  • Choose an Agentwho will help you with your finances if you become uncertain or unable. Give your Agent durable financial Power of Attorney.
  • Get in the habit of talking to your Agent about even small money decisions.
  • Make sure your financial adviser(s) is part of your plans and has the name of your Power of Attorney and can contact him/her if you begin to do irregular things with your money.
  • Create an Advance Healthcare Directive and name an Agent. This person will be making critical medical decisions for you if you can no longer do this yourself.
  • If you’ve not already done this, create a Living Trust and make sure this is funded and updated with important life events. At California Document Preparers, our Living Trust package includes a Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive.

Other considerations for your long-term planning

  • Where will you live? The family home may be more than you can manage. This may be the time to downsize to a smaller home or condo or investigate independent or assisted living possibilities. Many senior communities provide a wide range of activities and care designed to help keep seniors from becoming isolated.
  • Think about when you’ll give up driving. This may be part of the downsizing plan that will determine where you live. If you give up driving, you may want to live where you’re able to walk or take public transportation to services and activities.
The more work you do now to prepare for the possible eventualities of old age, the easier it will be for your children.
Do you need to create or update your Living Trust? Life changes mean that it’s often necessary to name a different Agent for your Healthcare Directive or Power of Attorney.  Contact California Document Preparers at one of our three Bay Area offices today to schedule an appointment. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

CDP Works Remotely for Those Living Outside the Bay Area

For many people these days, working remotely is the way business gets done, and California Document Preparers is able to accommodate clients who live outside the greater Bay Area. We frequently get calls from those who are located in different parts of California or even different states who would like our assistance in creating legal documents.

Last month, “Jo” called to inquire about our Living Trust package. We provided a brief explanation of our services, detailed the pricing and suggested that she come into our office so we could show her samples, review the process, and answer her questions. As it turned out, Jo lived in Calaveras County and driving to our office represented two-plus hours each way. We further explained our process and the documents we would be preparing. She gave us her email address and we sent her our Trust overview, workbook and price list.

Barely one week later, Jo emailed us the completed workbook

She was very impressed with our customer service, paid us by credit card and scheduled a meeting to review and sign the Trust and other estate-planning documents because she had decided it was worth the long drive.
We are always happy to work remotely with our clients by answering questions, forwarding materials and transacting as much business as possible by phone and email. Most of our clients are from the greater Bay Area, so we develop a face-to-face relationship while working on their documents. We look forward to clients from the Central Valley, Southern California and northern counties coming in to complete the signing of their Trusts. It gives us the opportunity to meet them in person, walk them through the contents of the Trust and explain the funding process.

Remote clients can arrange for the Trust’s signing in a convenient location

In those cases where our remote clients cannot meet in our offices for the signing, they can arrange the signing with a local notary. We send detailed instructions for the signing process, highlighting those areas of the Trust and other estate-planning documents that require signatures, initials and dates.

Because of our personal attention and service, Jo’s brother and friends have become Living Trust clients as well. We believe our thoroughness makes a difference. We do not charge for our time and are happy to answer questions. We want our clients to be informed and comfortable about the decisions they are making. Ask any small business owner: the best compliment he/she can receive is a referral of new business from a happy client.

Creating a Living Trust is an important part of your retirement planning

Contact California Document Preparers at one of our three Bay Area offices today to schedule an appointment. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable.