Umbrella Insurance & Caregiving

pexels-photo-100671.jpegAny family helping or caring for someone with mild cognitive impairment or dementia should consider the addition of an “Umbrella” policy.

In a Kiplinger article titled Why You Need an Umbrella Policy, they share that “adding extra liability coverage to your auto- and homeowners-insurance policies can protect your finances from expensive lawsuits.”  Umbrella policies are designed “to help protect you from major claims and lawsuits and as a result it helps protect your assets and your future. It does this in two ways: Provides additional liability coverage above the limits of your homeowners, auto, and boat insurance policies.”

In the early stages of my parent’s dementia, when they didn’t quite recognize they were having trouble, I helped my dad add an Umbrella policy to their coverage.  They had auto- and homeowners insurance, but I was concerned that the might be responsible for something that would jeopardize their retirement savings. I figured they would need every penny of their money to pay for their care.

One issue we faced early was that my dad was driving without a valid license. Their doctor had submitted the paperwork to have both of my parents licenses revoked. For some reason, they only thought my dad had his license revoked, even though they both received a letter. They practiced what they would tell the police if they were pulled over.   I was pretty sure the auto-insurance wouldn’t cover them since their licenses were revoked, so I prayed that nothing would happen. If it did, I hoped the umbrella insurance would help protect their assets to pay for the years of care they would be needing.

Later, at a happy hour at my parent’s retirement community, my dad fell over onto a woman and sent her to the ER. Thankfully, she knew my dad and she nor her family pursued a lawsuit. However, I could only imagine how quickly all of their assets could disappear in legal fees and an award.

If you are are caregiver, two things to do to protect your loved one and their assets:

  1. Contact your insurance agent and have an open discussion about your concerns to find the type of policy that could best protect you and your loved ones.
  2. Contact your estate lawyer. A Trust might be a solution to help protect your assets …. but I’m NOT a lawyer …. so please find a local elder care attorney who can help you navigate the coming years.

Dementia is a cruel beast and it steals so much from the individuals it preys upon, and the loved ones caring for them. I hope the suggestion on how to deal with practical issues to protect your loved ones will help you and your family.

If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, you can visit the my other blog DealingWithDementia.org. 

Protecting Yourself Online Is Getting Harder

Protecting Yourself Online Is Getting Harder
     The ongoing saga of data breaches means that criminals have access to at least bits and pieces of our digital footprint. When Yahoo was attacked, they recently disclosed in October that over 3 billion user accounts were compromised. I think we were all shocked when the Experian data breach hit the news. However, it’s up to us to take ownership of our personal information.
     First, as the continued breaches prove, we need to make sure we aren’t using the same usernames and passcodes since the crooks use these to break into other online services you use. To learn more about how this could impact you, read the Harvard Business Review article You Can’t Secure 100% of Your Data 100% of the Time.
     For those of you wasting time resetting your passcodes, please download a free copy of the chapter “Taming the Internet” from my best-selling workbook. Within 5 minutes you will simplify your online life and have an easy way to manage your passcodes, security questions (how many times have you gotten your own question wrong), and PINs. I also explain why it is important to do.
     Whether you still aspire to follow the Japanese Art of Decluttering, or have moved onto the Swedish Death Cleaning craze, this one tool will help you make progress toward your 2018 goals.
     What about Passcode Keepers? These can be great time savers, as long as you use one that lets you print out a list of your current passcodes. Should you forget your passcode, or if a loved one needs to help you, without access to your codes you are making life very difficult for someone in a shared household — or for those who step forward to help you.
     I was told NOT to write down passcodes, isn’t that a security issue? At work, where you have an IT department that can reset your codes, I understand that guidance. At home, where I share multiple accounts with my husband (AT&T, Itunes, and our banking and finance accounts), having access to a written list is critical to handling our shared lives.
Best wishes for a peaceful and organized 2018!

Thieves Targeting Hospital Patients

pickpocketI wonder how hard thieves must work to come up with some of the depraved ways they target victims. In Northern Virginia, they have started to pick-pocket older adults at doctor’s offices and at the hospital.

I hope that by now, you have made copies of what is in your wallet. Should it get lost or stolen, you have a quick and easy way to cancel or freeze your credit cards and know what needs to get replaced. Most of us have a home printer and it takes 2 minutes to copy everything in your wallet. I recommend you use color and consider enlarging the images so they are easier to read.

Here are some tips from the police to avoid becoming victims to pickpocketers:

  • Keep all your personal items in your front pockets
  • Zip, fasten, and close your purse
  • Report any suspicious people or events
  • Make sure your elderly loved ones are accompanied by a trusted family member or friend

Three things you can do to protect yourself from fraud.

fraudprotectioniconThe number of institutions that have our data and that been hacked is only growing. The reality is that a lot of our personal information has probably been sold or can be found on the “dark web” used by these crooks.

We have the ability to defend our selves — the fact is that most people don’t do the basics to help themselves. In my role as a Daily Money Manager, I have stop being shocked by the number of auto-debits from subscription services my clients aren’t using and often don’t even know about that are on their credit card statements. To make bill-paying easy they set up auto-payments to make sure the bill got paid. However, that using results in the habit of ignoring the monthly review of your statement.

I also don’t recommend that you set up auto-debits from your checking account either. Instead of giving what amounts to a limited “power of attorney” to come into your account and take out the money you owe, set up automated payments you PUSH OUT from the account using the bill pay portal. While these direct from your checking account systems work well for many American’s, I was behind a man at the bank who had set this up for his mortgage. The payments kept being pulled after he sold his home and now he couldn’t pay his new mortgage. He was told that they only way to stop it was to close down his bank account. What a headache.

I had a similar issue with a charity pulling money from a clients’ account and thankfully, we were able to have them voluntarily terminate the automated transfer. It took MANY phone calls and follow-ups, but finally they stopped. It was a reputable charity, but they have little incentive to respond to requests to terminate donations.

Three things you can do to make sure you don’t become a victim of fraud is:

  1. Religiously review your credit card statements and address issues immediately.
  2. Monitor your checking account and balance your checkbook. I’ve recently seen a check for $2,000 debited for $3,000.
  3. Check your credit reports at least once a year and report any inaccuracies. If you aren’t at a point in your life to need credit, I would consider freezing or locking your credit. To learn more about that you can view this article.

A final step to protect yourself is to make sure you are not using your DEBIT card for any online purchases. Only use a Credit Card that offers the fraud protections should your card number be compromised.

You have the power to protect yourself, but it requires your attention.

Take Control of Your Credit Now.

CreditfraudfreezeGiven the number of breeches, especially for a loved one that doesn’t need to open a line of credit, it’s time to either put a FRAUD ALERT or a SECURITY (Credit) FREEZE in place.

Fraud Alert tells creditors they need to take reasonable extra-steps to confirm that it is you asking for credit. It lasts for 90 days and includes a free credit report.

Security Freeze locks your credit and requires action (and for now $10 to lift the freeze or re-freeze it) on your part to access credit. It took me about 30 minutes to do it online for all three. Be forewarned, you will have to be able to bring up past credit history and addresses — which is why I am an advocate of having one place for writing it all down. A great tool (it’s my book) can be found on Amazon.

I choose to use a Security Freeze for myself since I don’t foresee many situations in which I will be applying for credit in the coming years. Here are some links to each of three big bureaus:

Equifax Link to Freeze your credit: https://www.freeze.equifax.com

Experian Security Freeze: https://www.freeze.equifax.com ($10.00 fee)

Transunion Security Freeze: https://www.transunion.com/ ($10.00 fee)

Watch out for the upsell. Many of the sites will try to get you to buy their monitoring services. I don’t recommend those because I have found they just make you more concerned and the truth is that you have the ability to put the protections in place for free or a minimal cost.

To view the story on the report from Consumer Reports, click here.

Please let me know what you chose and what you found if you initiated one of these services. Protected. 

Do you know what’s on your Credit Report?

Do you know what’s on your Credit Report?

I work with a variety of older adults, and often, when there starts to be signs of overwhelm and memory decline, we look at the credit report to make sure we have a handle on the accounts. You can get a free copy from the three major bureaus once a year, and it’s worth doing. When I recently ran my own reports, I found that my mom was listed along with some of her credit history. My mom passed away almost two years ago.

To get your report, visit: AnnualCreditReport.com 

You should not have to pay ANYTHING, so if you are being prompted to pay, you are on the wrong site. If you are just doing a check up, I would request all three. On the first one from Equifax, everything appeared to be in order. When I got to Equifax, it provided more details and showed some accounts from my mom, who is now deceased. It also had several misspellings and listed former work addresses as former residences. It took around 45 minutes to get through the customer service system to the person that could help me. I found the same errors on the TransUnion report.

The good news is that corrections get shared with the other credit bureaus, and Equifax is going to send me a note when the updates have been made and shared with the other bureaus.

For my older clients (I work as a daily money money and help pay bills and manage day-to-day financial affairs), we take the next step and put a freeze on the accounts. They aren’t in the phase of life when they are opening up new credit cards or purchasing properties, and it’s easy enough to unfreeze should they need to open up a line of credit.

Monitoring your own credit report is one way to fight the growing risk of fraud. What are you doing to protect yourself?

Could your loved ones be victims of fraud?

Could your loved ones be victims of fraud?

 

Every year, at least $36 Billion is reportedly taken from older Americans, according to the National Council on Aging. The largest segment is “Exploitation” — when businesses, individuals, or charities use pressure tactics or misleading language to lead seniors into financial mistakes. My parents were prayed upon, and the source of the fraud was surprising.

When my parents still lived in their home, they signed two agreements for the same work — one was for a few hundred, and the second was for $5,200. Thankfully, my mom sensed something was wrong and called my sister. I lived near mom and dad so could stop by and found the two contracts for the same work — one that was horrifically over-priced. We were able to cancel the outrageous contract, but I should have also called the police, Adult Protective Services, and the Better Business Bureau. We were so stunned at the time that 1) they could victims of horrible people; 2) thankful we caught it in time that I never circled back to work with the systems in place that could help protect others from this same crime.

The Washington Post carried a story that detailed the depth of the crimes against three local seniors. They were robbed of more than $100,000 by what our local police call “woodchucks”.  They start by offering to trim trees, and if they do return after you have given them a deposit, they usually find a host of other issues to repair. Most of the work is either not needed (roof tile or chimney repair that you can’t see), is done poorly, or never completed.

Holding that checkbook is for many, the last item in helping them feel control over their world. When I started to notice that my parents were writing weekly checks to a variety of charities I had never heard of, my antennae went up. If you read the letters, they are written to make the recipient believe they have already promised a donation. It can be hard to get a handle on this since it feels good to give. However, sometimes it can get out of control.

As a daily money manager, I helped one client who was giving over $2,000 a month to a host of charities she doesn’t even believe in because of the letters and calls coming into her home. He son asked her to keep the donations to under $30, which she did. However, she was writing checks and giving her credit card out nearly 100 times every month.

When we started working on bill pay together, I was able to show her how much money she was giving away and it surprised her. When we started to go through the mail and discussed the charities, she realized she didn’t know what they did or even believe in the mission. After taking these steps, it was easy for her to realize that she needed to reconsider her giving and we came up with a good solution for her.

If you are worried about this with your loved one, start slow. Work in tandem to get a handle on the charitable giving — tax season is a great time to do this. Create a list of the key charities of interest and suggest that you review all of the others at the end of the year.

Money is always a difficult topic in families. If you don’t live near your loved one, or do and think it might be better for a third-party to help, I suggest you consider finding a local daily money manager to help you.