Archive for November, 2011
The National Center on Elder Abuse recently publicized 10 warning signs and symptoms to help us in raising alertness on this growing problem in our society. I’ve noticed more and more stories reported in the news of cases where elder financial abuse was suspected and sometimes (but not always) substantiated. Even high profile public figues are apparently not immune from this type of abuse.
A recent highly publicized court case involving the L’Oreal family fortune is the latest example. A few months ago, the family feud returned to court when Bettencourt reportedly invested 170 million euros in a company belonging to the Wilhem’s client. This prompted Bettencourt-Meyers to again file legal proceedings to protect her mother. Wilhelm was said to have encouraged the deal, which Bettencourt-Meyers felt was a conflict of interest.
The Judge must have agreed and shared the family’s concern, because her ruling today gave control over the vast financial holdings to Bettencourt-Meyers and her sons. In doing so, she removed Wilhem from managing Bettencourt’s fortune.
How vast is that fortune? Forbes last pegged Liliane Bettencourt at #15 on its list of the world’s billionaires. Her net worth was estimated at $23.5 billion dollars. She is the largest shareholder of L’Oreal, which was founded by her father. Now the family will manage that fortune instead of outside advisers accused of “scheming” against Bettencourt.
In the U.S., according to the National Center on Elder Abuse, there are an estimated 5 million cases of financial abuse of seniors each year.
How can you protect your elderly family members? The National Center on Elder Abuse lists the following warning signs and symptoms of exploitation and other forms of financial abuse:
- Sudden changes in bank account or banking practice, including an unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money by a person accompanying the elder;
- The inclusion of additional names on an elder’s bank signature card;
- Unauthorized withdrawal of the elder’s funds using the elder’s ATM card;
- Abrupt changes in a will or other financial documents;
- Unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions;
- Substandard care being provided or bills unpaid despite the availability of adequate financial resources;
- Discovery of an elder’s signature being forged for financial transactions or for the titles of his/her possessions;
- Sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming their rights to an elder’s affairs and possessions;
- The provision of services that are not necessary; and
- An elder’s report of financial exploitation.
The National Center on Elder Abuse, Administration on Aging
Read more about Liliane Bettncourt here
The Department of Veterans Affairs offers numerous benefits for the families of deceased veterans. Most people think of widow’s pensions or other monthly benefits when they think of VA benefits. However, there are benefits that would be useful to families of deceased veterans or even veterans who are currently planning for their final days. Also, as with most veteran benefits, knowing about a benefit is only half the battle – you must also know the correct form to fill out in order to apply for the benefit. Here are five benefits and the forms to apply for them – available at the Veteran’s Administration website www.va.gov
1. Reimbursement of Expenses for Funeral and Plot – Form 21-530
The executor of a veteran’s estate can apply within two years of the veteran’s death for reimbursement for expenses related to the veteran’s funeral and burial plot. The estate of a veteran who dies because of an injury sustained during active duty can receive up to $2,000. Otherwise, the estate may receive up to $600. This probably won’t pay for the entire funeral, but every little bit helps.
2. Headstone or Marker – Form 40-1330
The family of a deceased veteran can apply for a headstone or marker from the VA. The headstone or marker is free, as is the shipping. The family does have to pay for the installation, though. However, the VA will inscribe endearments, such as “Beloved Husband and Father” on the headstone without cost.
3. American Flag – Form 21-2008
The families of veterans are also entitled to an American flag. The family may display it in a shadowbox or choose to have it laid to rest with the veteran. Either way, the VA will provide it free of charge.
4. Presidential Memorial Certificate – Form 40-0247
The family of a veteran may request a Presidential Memorial Certificate, which is signed by the President and thanks the veteran for his or her service to the nation. It’s a nice reminder of a thankful country.
5. Burial Plot
Not every veteran can be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, but veterans can be buried in other federal veteran cemeteries. There is even one in Dallas. Call (214) 467-3374 for more information. If there is not a federal veteran cemetery nearby, there may be a veteran cemetery operated by the state. More information is available by contacting the Texas Veterans Land Board at (800) 252-VETS.
As with most benefits from the VA, in order to apply for them, the applicant must have a copy of the veteran’s discharge papers and a death certificate. A surviving family member can apply for a replacement copy of the discharge papers online at http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/.
Ten Strange Send-Offs
Sometimes when individuals die, they leave behind unusual requests for their send-offs. For example, Arch West, creator of Doritos, asked to have Doritos chips scattered into his grave. Ten more strange send-off requests are below:
- Frederic Baur (creator of the Pringles tube) requested that his remains be stored in, you guessed it, a Pringles tube.
- Malcolm McLaren (the Sex Pistols’ former manager) requested his coffin be spray painted to say “too fast to live, too young to die,” asked for four black horses to bring his coffin to a deconsecrated church, and requested a “minute of mayhem” in lieu of a moment of silence.
- Gene Roddenbery (creator of Star Trek) had his remains launched into space in 1997. His remains re-entered the atmosphere in 2002.
- Hunter S. Thompson (the gonzo journalist) had his ashes fired from a cannon (paid for by his friend Johnny Depp) from a 150 foot tower topped with the symbol of Thompson’s journalism.
- Tupac Shakur (rap artist) allegedly asked his rap group to mix his remains with marijuana and smoke them. The group claims to have followed Shakur’s request, but Shakur’s family says the rapper’s remains are closes guarded.
- Eugene Shoemaker (one of three people who discovered the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet) had some of his remains sent to the moon on the Lunar Prospector in 1999.
- Frank Sinatra had a bottle of whiskey, a Zippo lighter, and ten dimes included in his coffin. The ten dimes, it’s reported, were for any emergency phone calls.
- The wife of Brian Tandy (a geologist) had her husband’s remains turned into three synthetic canary yellow diamonds for her and their two daughters.
- Elizabeth Taylor, a fan of being fashionably late, stipulated that she wanted her funeral services to begin fifteen minutes after the scheduled time.
- Sandra West (a Beverly Hill’s socialite) left a hand written request to be buried in a lacy nightgown, while sitting in the front seat of her blue Ferrari.
Read the article here.
We’ve all seen the statistics – over half of the population doesn’t have even a will – let alone a comprehensive and effective estate plan that covers the important bases. What’s more startling and sad is that the percentage without a will is even higher for those with kids – a group that really afford not to have one.
These parents with young children are otherwise completely focused on nurturing and protecting their kids. So why is it that they haven’t made plans to protect their children from the worst possible disaster?
The worst-case scenario in their minds is what would happen if they’re in a fatal car crash and “something happens” to them. So why is it that they are apparently neglecting the job of making sure these kids have a suitable home and substitute parent (also known as a guardian) if they couldn’t be there for their child? Jacoba Urist writes about estate planning and she started to interview parents to find out.
She found out that there are some big misconceptions about the process. In fact, most folks are letting four major myths hold them back from getting the job done and protecting their kid in case the worst happens.
Myth #1: There is a perfect match
When I meet with parents to help them plan for their young children and choose a guardian, this is one of the biggest mindset problems that hold them back. Of course there will never be a perfect match – only the natural parents fit the bill.
Parents who search for the perfect guardian can spend all of their time looking and never finding the perfect match instead of choosing the best available option. Isn’t it better to have someone that you’ve selected instead of risking a bad selection by the Probate Court judge and having your children in limbo in the meantime?
Jacoba discusses a process that I’ve found to be extremely helpful and important. There is not a person on earth who would parent just like you, and of course, nobody is a perfect parent. But you can make your choice based on your parenting style and the values you instill in your children,
Write down your four most important core values — think about things like parenting style, religious beliefs, attitudes about education and money — and then try to find a friend or a relative who shares at least three of them. Take comfort in the fact that your choice is never set in stone. You can always name a different guardian when your children age, or your friends move away, or you simply change your mind.
Myth #2: Someone will step up anyway
Without a will; a judge makes the final decision, not you. And while your in-laws and neighbors are all vying for custody, your child could be caught in the middle — meeting with lawyers and social workers until the whole mess is sorted out. Some children even land in foster care while their case grinds its way through the legal system.
No one wants to think about leaving a child behind, but if you’re a parent, you’ve got to get your act together, and choose somebody.
Myth #3: You’ve left a letter or an email
No matter how eloquently you’ve voiced your preferences, your letter or email is not legally binding. A judge could take it under advisement, but he could also come to his own “better” assessment. And why risk it? If you’ve taken the time to consider the right person, why not just make it official and seal the deal?
Myth #4: You don’t have to ask
I often work with parents to help them pick the best choice for their family. But then, they don’t want to sit down and actually ask their guardian.
The Danger: If you don’t have the face-to-face, you don’t know how they feel about the role (some people don’t want the responsibility, no matter how much they love your kid), or what questions they have for you. Raising an additional child is a huge commitment. Your guardian may want to get a sense of your family’s financial picture and some of your day-to-day expectations: have you got a life insurance policy? College savings? Would you want your guardian to move into your place? Make room in theirs?
A little prying is a sign that the person or couple you’ve chosen takes your child’s future seriously. I recommend having all of the financial information organized ahead of time, and sharing it openly when you sit down to talk, so everyone has an accurate sense of what it would really mean to care for your child.
Read more here.