Answers for Elders Podcasts: Legacy Estate Planning

Stephen Waltar joined me to talk about Money and Law here at Answers for Elders radio. He is a renowned estate planning attorney in Bellevue, WA. Stephen walked me through numerous aspects such as Property and AssetsEstate Planning and Trusts. These legal terms can be confusing and complicated, but Stephen helps simplify these concepts. “I often have clients call me afterwards and say, ‘that wasn’t that bad.'” Visiting an attorney can be scary. And many people don’t like to think about, much less talk about or plan for, dying. But protecting yourself when you’re alive and protecting your loved ones when you pass away is what good estate planning is all about.

Estate planning can (but doesn’t have to) include wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and living wills. A will just says who gets what when you die. A trust helps protect your assets and reduces probatePower of attorney governs what should happen while you’re alive. It gives someone else authority to act as if they were you, whether making medical or financial decisions. (You can have different people acting on your behalf for different aspects of your life.) Who you choose for your power of attorney is not a popularity contest. It isn’t about loving one person more than another. It’s who you want making your decisions. A living will tells everyone (medical personnel, family members, et al) what you do or do not want to happen to you medically if you are incapacitated and unable to communicate your wishes. This helps alleviate guilt because you have clearly communicated your desires.

A lot of people try to avoid estate planning by simply adding a person (i.e. child) to their accounts. But this opens senior parents to be liable for adult children’s debts or actions. It is much better to draft a legal document, such as a trust, that a child can be the beneficiary or trustee of, instead. Powers of Attorney may also be needed between spouses. Many people erroneously believe in a community property state like Washington that if a spouse dies, the assets automatically go to the surviving spouse. Instead, it goes into probate. The surviving spouse cannot do anything (sell or refinance a house, for example) for mutually owned property until it’s probated.

One of the best quotes Stephen said was, “Don’t put your trust in money, put your money in trust!” There are several different kinds of trusts. Revocable trusts can be changed as your goals change. Irrevocable trusts cannot be changed. These may protect your beneficiaries from expensive taxes. It may protect your spouse who may remarry from losing the assets with which he or she would go into the next marriage. You can also put your house in a trust. This may avoid or reduce some estate taxes and streamline the probate process. You may also set up a Special Needs Trust to protect a beneficiary who is disabled and reducing government assistance. The trust protects them from having their much-needed benefits reduced or removed but allows the trust to help pay for additional expenses. There are many other kinds of trusts.

As to what is needed, the short answer is…it depends. It depends on what you have. It depends on your goals. It depends on who is getting what. Stephen will sit down with you for a free consult. But first, he asks that a questionnaire of “nosy questions” (his words, not mine!) be completed. that allows him to get to know what you’re coming in with, do some research, then really spend the consult getting to know you, listening to you, your goals and your needs.

For more of my delightful conversation with Stephen, go to

To contact Stephen, call 425-455-6788 or go to .

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Answers for Elders Podcasts: Real Estate 55 Plus

Founder and CEO Juli Anne Gibson, of Real Estate 55 Plus, sat down with me to discuss the specializations required to market and sell homes for seniors in transition. While real estate often has cycles and busy seasons, adult children with seniors in crisis means that her team of agents stays busy year-round. Juli Anne has excellent information on what distinguishes this segment of the market, provides seminars to seniors and their families to work through the process of selling the family home, and advises on the right questions to ask real estate agents in order to find the right fit for you.

Selling a family home is emotional, at best. Trying to find the right home for a parent in the middle of a health crisis, financing the move, readying a home that may have been owned by the same person for more than 50 years, and working through the emotional attachments thereof requires a very specialized real estate agentReal Estate 55 Plus is not just another agency. Rather, they look for seasoned agents with specialty markets and areas (real estate is hyperlocal!) and with a passion and background for working with seniors. Then, they provide specialized coaching and consulting to help agents work through the financial, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of a transaction for seniors and their families. Real Estate 55 Plus also works with and recommends contractors who can do roofing, HVAC, painting, staging and other necessary repairs and updates. These are contractors who have worked with them well in the past, offer discounts to seniors, or will allow payment after escrow, realizing some seniors do not have funding up front for the repairs necessary to sell their homes.

Juli Anne and her company also provide workshops to seniors and their families who are wanting to be proactive with their future living arrangements. The three Aging With Choice workshops offered are (1) What’s the Right Sized Home for My Life? (2) What Do I Do with My Stuff? and (3) Embracing the Change!

Another great piece of advice is on the questions to ask when interviewing real estate agents. Some of her top questions to ask include (1) Do you know [your particular] area? Keep in mind, you want an agent who not only knows the comparables in the neighborhood, but also one who has good relationships with buyer’s agents in the area. (2) With how many seniors have you worked? Remember, 90% of homes are sold by 10% of agents. So time in the business does not equal success or experience. (3) How well do you understand the distinct transition and transaction of seniors? (4) Ask for references from past clients! Then call them. Ask previous clients any questions or concerns you have about the entire process and experience. Other people’s testimony tells you more than anything.

For more solid advice and information from Juli Anne, listen to the podcasts.

Contact Real Estate 55 Plus at 1-800-964-1553 or email Juli Anne at Find them online at

For more information and resources for caregiving, go to


Answers for Elders Podcasts: Mission Healthcare (a Careage company)

I was fortunate enough to have Beth Deems, community liaison for Mission Healthcare from Bellevue, sit down and talk with me about several crucial, and often difficult to Aunderstand, aspects of caregiving. Beth does such an amazing job of giving tips on fall prevention, understanding Medicare, defining skilled nursing and elaborating on continuum of care and makes it so easy to understand. Careage has more than 50 years experience of focusing on various aspects of senior living.

Fall prevention is one of the best things we as caregivers can do for our senior parents. And while it may not be possible to prevent all falls, mitigating that risk is so important. One in five falls results in a serious injury, such as broken bone or head injury, according to the Center for Disease Control. Even if the fall itself does not result in an injury, the inability to get up or call for help may result in complications, such as dehydration, pressure sores, or hypothermia, per the National Council on Aging. Falls may stem from changes in your parent’s gait. Balance, peripheral neuropathy in the feet, or dizziness due to medications are all things that can affect someone’s gait. Do you notice your parent furniture walking (holding on and moving from furniture piece to piece or the wall?) This could be indicative of a gait issue. Making sure they have good, comfortable shoes with sufficient tread and support is important. More causes of falls include throw rugs, uneven walkways, and clutter. Clutter could easily fall (especially with furniture walking) and cause unexpected obstacles. Good lighting is also important. These causes may be indoors or outdoors, so do a thorough assessment of the entire property. Bathrooms are a common room for falls. Installing preventive measures such as handrails in the shower, along the walls, and beside the commode could be useful.

If your parent has experienced a fall or illness resulting in hospitalization, your head may be swimming, trying to understand Medicare. Or maybe you are walking your senior loved one through the application process and need help understanding what it covers and what you need to buy. Fear not! Beth is here to help. First things first…this information is accurate as of May 2017. Like all Federal programs, it is subject to change. Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospitalization and inpatient skilled nursing rehabilitation on a short-term basis at 80%. Part B (an option for which you pay extra) provides outpatient coverage, including doctor’s office visits. Part D covers prescriptions. And Plan F is a supplemental policy you can buy to help cover things such as copays and the 20% that Medicare may not cover.  When it comes to hospitalization and getting covered to move from the hospital to a skilled nursing facility to do rehab, Medicare has very specific guidelines. The patient must have a “qualifying stay” of three days (three midnights) for which they were ADMITTED into the hospital. If your parent was only under observation, it does not matter how long they are in the hospital. You may have to advocate for your parent to be admitted, or to stay through the qualifying period. Otherwise, Medicare will deny coverage for the rehabilitation.

Once your parent has moved to skilled nursing, you may wonder what exactly that entails and why it is preferable to outpatient or in-home rehabilitation. Skilled nursing is not the same as assisted living or retirement living. Rather, it is focused on getting your loved one back to their prior living situation. By having 6 days of therapy a week (instead of 2 days, like in-home or outpatient,) the patient progresses faster and returns to more independent living. While in skilled nursing, measures of home comfort are so helpful to the rehabilitative process. Having comfortable workout clothes, photos of loved ones, cheerful plants, or a comforting quilt can help ease the mental and emotional stress of being away from home.

Finally, how do you understand and manage your parent’s potential ongoing care and living needs? Being able to predict the potential course of their needs is tricky. That’s where Continuum of Care comes into play. Selecting a facility that can help your loved one transition easily as their needs change may be the right move. A Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) can work with your parent as they progress from needing simply assisted living (not round-the-clock nursing, but help with meal preparations, dressing, and other Activities of Daily Living (ADL)) to skilled nursing (higher level of nursing need) to Memory Care, such as for patients with Dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Beth Deems and the wonderful staff at Mission Healthcare and other Careage facilities are happy to answer your questions and walk you through the options and process of finding the ideal living scenario for your parent. For more information, contact Beth at 206-930-2873 or .

For more details on these important issues, listen to

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