Get your Digital Life Together, Please

The latest story that demonstrates the issues around our digital assets describes how the father of a best-selling novelist, Marsha Mehran, has been on an International data hunt to claim her writing stored online. 

Apparently there is a “surge of families struggling with similar questions is driving a behind-the-scenes political battle between tech companies and estate lawyers over who gets the keys to someone’s digital afterlife.” Facebook and Google have set up options for a legacy contact, but the reality is that someone might need access to your information even when you are still on this planet.

My parents gave me a durable power of attorney so that I could step in to help if they needed it, but it didn’t give me access to any of my father’s business or personal online accounts. Thankfully, we could take care of this before he could no longer help me (my father had Alzheimer’s).

As a mom and wife, my husband and I need to share access to our bill-pay, utility, mobile phone and even our insurance portal since the information pertains to our shared lives.

Please take a minute to download the free guide that will help you tame the Internet.

The guide is a chapter from the best-selling MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life. 

A Listening Tour about Which Papers are Important

A Listening Tour about Which Papers are Important

Robert Sharpe, host of Bringing Inspiration to Earth radio show interviewed me about my journey. He focused in on the important documents and records I needed to be a competent family caregiver. We also discussed how the fact that my parent’s had dementia made this task much more difficult.

We talk through some real life stories and discuss the how and why these details are important to document for ourselves, as well as for our loved ones should they need the information to help us along the way.

To listen to this podcast, visit BlogTalkRadio.

Download a copy of the Important Documents Summary if you need this information for you or your family. Listen to this podcast for a walk through the list and how and why each item is important.

Mom (or Dad) is Acting Differently, Should This Concern Me?

roundaboutYes! I am an adult family member who has cared for two parents. My parents had complete estate plans in place and did everything their financial and insurance advisor suggested. Helping them was initially incredibly difficult for a variety of reasons. Many financial institutions create roadblocks when you need to use the Durable Power of Attorney–I’m still waiting for Wells Fargo to accept mine on my mom’s CD account.

Any change in behavior by a loved one should start by a visit to the doctor. There are a variety of things that could cause changes like medication, lack of sleep, or a variety of medical conditions.

My parent’s both were eventually diagnosed with dementia. My mom’s symptoms started to present themselves to me when she was in her early 70s; I started to notice a change in my dad when he was in his late 70s. Their needs changed my life in unexpected ways. If you have suspicions, you will find information and suggestions on how to deal with the possibility of dementia by following the blog on DealingWithDementia.org. You can visit this page for a deeper explanation of dementia and its many forms.

My mom dismissed my concerns when I went to the doctor with her. After managing as the medical advocate for both of my parents, I know and have had many doctors and nurses confirm that family is the best resource. Often, dementia won’t be diagnosed until later in the disease progression and early treatment could help slow the advance of the disease. So getting an early start is beneficial to everyone.

If you are noticing changes, be mindful of what you are seeing. A loved one could be experiencing something that is very treatable.

Looking back, I now recognize so many issues and signs that alerted us to mom’s dementia, but it was a long difficult road to even get to a diagnosis for a variety of reasons. The biggest one being my mom and dad fought to keep their independence fiercely. Ignoring issues won’t make them go away and letting them linger may cause more harm than good. It will also help to involve an estate attorney so you will have the tools to help mom/dad if they are no longer able to help themselves. You can also have a discussion on they can guide the many choices that need to be made about how they want to live … and die.

Will Wells Fargo Accept Your DPOA?

Will Wells Fargo Accept Your DPOA?

Having a roadmap to your assets along with a back up plan should your durable power of attorney be refused is now something every adult should do.

Dealing with Dementia

wellsfargoAs I began to use the Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) several years ago, I found out that many banks don’t like them. They would prefer you use the one they supply that doesn’t give you control over when it goes into effect or a way to dictate specific wishes. If and when you need to use one, you will find that getting them to accept it, can take hours in the bank and then possibly weeks to months to resolve issues.

Last month, I went in to clear up two checking accounts and remove my Dad’s name the accounts. It took over two hours to have it processed and the two accounts cleaned up. I was already listed on my parents major account, so I think they weren’t so worried about giving my access and POA rights over the second smaller checking account.

However, I have hit a major…

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Can the Law Keep Up With Our Modern LifeStyle?

After having to step in and use a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) to assist my parents, I quickly found so many gaps in its functionality, I devised many work arounds with my Dad so I could help them.

Not only were we surprised to find that a number of financial institutions declined to accept the DPOA, but there are many facets of our digital lives that it doesn’t cover.

moderntechoptionsFor those of us who use online services, email accounts and enjoy the online bill-pay services provided by our banks, what we don’t know can hurt us. If you haven’t stopped to read the “terms and conditions” you accepted, they typically state you can’t share the account and the provider basically dictates the rules. If you are incapacitated, the only way a loved one can get access is if you share your username and passcode.

The Uniform Law Commission helps standardize state laws and recently endorsed a plan that would give loved ones access to — but not control of — the deceased’s digital accounts, unless specified otherwise in a will. Given that at the age of 65, 7 out of 10 American’s will need 3 or more years of long-term care, we must recognize that most people will need someone to have access to these accounts while we are alive.

If you don’t have a list that documents this information for your own benefit and that can provide loved ones with needed information, click here to download a free chapter called “Taming the Internet” from the Amazon best-seller MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life that includes worksheets and details on how you can provide loved ones with the information they may need to help you.

 

Worried about Mom’s Health and Safety

Many adult children start to notice changes in mom or dad. Depending on your family dynamic, you may know a lot or very little about what they have planned for the rest of their lives.  Many of us want to be able to help our parents if they needed it, and most of our parents are resistant to even consider asking for help from their children.

My suggestion is to start by sharing with your parents your plans. Do you have an estate plan in place? Have you named them as a guardian or executor? I’m surprised by how many people who think estate plans should be secret. Secret estate plans won’t help you when you need it. I sent copies of my completed estate plans to my three siblings and sat down and discussed it at length with my brother who would be guardian to my children along with my children one Saturday afternoon this winter. I could see the comfort on my 12-year old daughter’s face as we talked through the plan.

My children have watched as I’ve been the primary adult caregiver for my parents which I have been blogging about for several years on DealingwithDementia.org.  Had my parents not told me their plans and shared their wishes for retirement with me, my job would be so much more difficult and stressful. I know that I’ve been fulfilling their wishes to the best of my abilities.

It’s particularly important to do more than the estate lawyer, financial planner and insurance advisor recommend. You need to talk about your choices, leave a roadmap to your documents, accounts, and assets and repeat these conversations as time and circumstances allow.

I recommend you get your own house in order and use it to share with mom and dad what you are doing and even ask for their advice. It’s a great way to start a conversation.

Four products to help you navigate these choices include:

Five Wishes  is legally binding in 42 states and lets your family and doctors know:

  • Who you want to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them.
  • The kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want.
  • How comfortable you want to be.
  • How you want people to treat you.
  • What you want your loved ones to know.

The Conversation Project is dedicated to helping people start the discussion about their wishes for end-of-life care.

The Roadmap to the Rest of Your Life by Bart Astor will help you hone in on the options and the choices that you need to consider.

MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life is a practical system to help couples share account numbers, usernames, and medical and household details so that they can stay on the same page; it also provides individuals a solution to easily share this information should they ever need a loved one to step in and help them.

What the Death of Robin Williams Can Teach Us

By all accounts, Robin Williams had his estate plan zipped-up. He had a will and trust and even named professional trustees, so why is the family at odds over things after his death?

Grief impacts everyone very differently. As a suicide, it’s not just sudden but the nature of the death can complicate the grieving process.

From the latest reports, there is disagreement about how items are defined. A colleague of mine who is a professional appraiser has shared how contentious items with personal meaning but little value can wreak on a family. She commented that it’s interesting that so many parents who raised kids that argued over the last cookie expect their adult children to behave any better when it comes to settling their estate.

robinwilliams
photo credit: nbc.com

 

It seems Robin Williams put immense thought into his plan, but it sounds like there is some ambiguity and now both his wife and children who are still grieving are arguing over his things.

What Robin Williams Can Teach Us: It’s not enough to create the perfect estate plan. You have to tell those people who are impacted about your plan. Make it a part of normal conversations and allow your loved ones to ask questions and understand your wishes. You might not be around to appreciate it, but they will.