Helping Families Navigate the Financial Challenges of Age Transitions

Author: drussellcfp (Page 1 of 10)

Constructive Trusts – When Trust is Broken

Elder financial abuse is a distressing issue that affects vulnerable seniors, often leading to significant financial losses. In the realm of legal remedies, one powerful tool used to address such cases is the constructive trust. But what exactly is a constructive trust, and how does it work?

At its core, a constructive trust is a legal remedy aimed at correcting unjust enrichment and ensuring that property or assets are returned to their rightful owner. Unlike a traditional trust created by a formal legal agreement, a constructive trust arises by operation of law. It’s a flexible and equitable concept that courts employ when they find that someone has obtained property, assets, or benefits in an unfair or wrongful manner.

Constructive trusts are not exclusive to elder financial abuse cases; they can be applied in various situations where one party has benefited at the expense of another without a proper legal basis. For purposes of our discussion however, we’ll focus on their use in elder financial abuse situations.

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When It’s Time for Dad (or Mom) to Give Up Driving

If our parents live long enough, there will be many conversations we’ll need to have with them that may make us very uncomfortable. One conversation that we all dread is discussing the possibility of our parent giving up driving. This sensitive topic can be challenging to broach, but it’s a crucial one for the safety and well-being of both our parent and others on the road. In this post, we’ll explore the reasons behind this necessary conversation, provide strategies for discussing it with your parent, and touch on the issue of liability exposure in certain situations.

Why Is This Conversation Necessary?

First and foremost, safety is the primary concern when it comes to aging parents and driving. As your parent gets older, their physical and cognitive abilities may decline, which can make them more susceptible to accidents. Slower reaction times, decreased vision, and other age-related changes can put them and others at risk on the road. According to the CDC, drivers aged 75 and older have the highest death toll in car accidents, primarily attributed to age-related factors such as diminished vision, cognitive decline, and physical changes. Furthermore, the death rate per thousand crashes is notably higher among drivers aged 70 and above when compared to middle-aged drivers, who fall in the 35-54 age range.

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What is True Wealth?

Recently I had the good fortune of having “Anis” as my Uber driver. Anis was as he stated, someone with “a Russian accent who looks Latino.” But what made Anis such great company wasn’t his accent, but his outlook on life. He relayed his story of working hard in the shipyards to make a lot of money, but when a tumor was found on his pituitary gland, he realized that money could not give him a life. “What good was having money in my pocket, if I did not have my health?” I asked him if he considered himself a wealthy man now. He said, I am not wealthy with material riches, but I am healthy and I am happy, so I am wealthy.

In ancient mythology, the tale of King Midas serves as a cautionary reminder of the dangers of unchecked desire for material wealth. Midas tells of a man granted the extraordinary power to turn everything he touched into gold. At first glance, this ability seemed like the ultimate boon, promising endless riches and opulence. However, as the legend unfolds, it becomes clear that his newfound wealth was a curse in disguise, leading to the isolation of his loved ones and the gradual erosion of his happiness and well-being. This age-old parable resonates even in our modern world, where we often find ourselves chasing after tangible possessions and riches, only to realize that the true nature of wealth is something far more profound.

The word “wealth” traces its roots back to the Middle English word “wele,” which means well-being or welfare. Its original meaning was more aligned with the idea of having an abundance of well-being, rather than an abundance of material possessions. The entomology of the word itself reminds us that wealth is not solely confined to financial riches; it encompasses a broader spectrum of qualities that contribute to a fulfilling life. Anis got that.

Throughout history, the concept of wealth has evolved to encompass various dimensions beyond mere monetary value. In ancient philosophical traditions, wealth was often measured by one’s virtue, wisdom, and character. Socrates, for instance, emphasized the importance of inner riches over external possessions. He believed that cultivating wisdom and leading a virtuous life were the true sources of wealth that could bring enduring happiness.

 Over time, the emphasis on these non-material aspects of wealth has persisted. In many cultures, the notion of true wealth has been intertwined with qualities such as compassion, charity, humility, and integrity. The legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, who led India to independence through nonviolent resistance, demonstrates that the wealth of moral courage and steadfast conviction can bring about monumental change. Gandhi’s philosophy teaches us that the richness of one’s principles and the ability to stand up for what is just and right are invaluable forms of wealth.

In the realm of art and literature, countless works have highlighted the multifaceted nature of wealth. Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” reminds us that “rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.” This sentiment underscores the idea that even material abundance loses its value when it is not accompanied by empathy and benevolence. Similarly, classic fables like “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein showcase the beauty of generosity and selflessness, illustrating how the act of giving can enrich both the giver and the recipient in ways that money cannot.

In our contemporary society, as consumerism and the pursuit of affluence often dominate the narrative, it’s crucial to recalibrate our understanding of wealth. While financial stability is undoubtedly important for basic needs and security, true wealth extends far beyond the balance of a bank account. It resides in the quality of our relationships, the depth of our experiences, and the authenticity of our connections with ourselves and others.

 When we shift our perspective to view wealth as a holistic measure of our well-being, we open ourselves up to a world of abundance that transcends the limitations of material possessions. The joy derived from helping others, the fulfillment of pursuing one’s passions, and the contentment that comes from leading a purpose-driven life are all manifestations of true wealth.

The story of King Midas serves as a powerful reminder that the pursuit of material wealth at the expense of all else can lead to a hollow existence. The etymology of the word “wealth” and its historical connotations shed light on the multifaceted nature of true prosperity. In a world driven by consumerism, embracing qualities such as wisdom, compassion, humility, and integrity allows us to access a form of wealth that enriches our lives in ways that money alone cannot. As we navigate our own journeys, let us remember that true wealth is not just about having, but about being, and about fostering a life imbued with a wealth of character, kindness, and purpose.

How to Have Difficult Conversations About Senior Living Options

As our parents age, there may come a time when we need to have challenging conversations about their future living arrangements. The topic of senior living options can be sensitive and emotional, but it’s essential to address it with empathy, understanding, and respect. In this guide, we’ll provide insights and strategies on how to approach these conversations effectively, ensuring that your loved ones’ wishes and needs are considered.

1. Choose the Right Time and Place: Initiating a conversation about senior living options requires careful consideration of timing and environment. Choose a comfortable and private setting, and make sure there are no distractions. Avoid discussing this topic during busy family gatherings or when emotions are running high. Opt for a time when everyone is relaxed and open to discussing the matter calmly.

2. Listen with Empathy: Approaching the conversation with empathy and active listening is crucial. Your parents may have a range of emotions and concerns about the idea of transitioning to senior living. Take the time to listen to their thoughts, fears, and desires. Acknowledge their feelings and validate their experiences to create a supportive atmosphere where they feel heard and understood.

3. Focus on Their Needs and Preferences: Every individual has unique needs and preferences when it comes to senior living arrangements. Some may prefer to stay in their homes with in-home care, while others might feel more comfortable in a retirement community or assisted living facility. Respect their autonomy and choices, and involve them in the decision-making process. Be open to exploring different options together, considering factors like proximity to family, medical care, and social activities.

4. Address Safety and Care Concerns: Safety and care are paramount considerations when discussing senior living options. Express your concern for their well-being and highlight how certain living arrangements can enhance their safety and provide access to essential support services. Share information about the benefits of professional caregivers and the sense of community they can experience in senior living communities.

5. Involve Other Family Members: If possible, involve other family members in the conversation to show a united front and demonstrate a shared commitment to your parents’ best interests. Discussing senior living options as a family can provide a broader perspective and may alleviate any feelings of isolation or pressure on your parents.

6. Provide Information and Support: Share educational resources and information about different senior living options to help your parents make informed decisions. Provide brochures, online resources, or arrange visits to local retirement communities or assisted living facilities. Offering emotional support throughout the decision-making process can help alleviate anxiety and stress.

Discussing senior living options with aging parents can be challenging, but it’s essential to approach these conversations with compassion, active listening, and respect for their autonomy. By choosing the right time and place, focusing on their needs and preferences, and involving other family members, we can navigate this sensitive topic together, ensuring our loved ones receive the care and support they deserve in their later years.

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A Guide to Recognizing Common Health Issues in Aging Parents

As our parents age, it becomes increasingly important for us to be vigilant about their health and well-being. While aging is a natural process, it often brings about specific health challenges that may require attention and care. Recognizing common health issues in aging parents can enable us to provide timely support and improve their quality of life. In this guide, we’ll explore some prevalent health concerns faced by seniors and offer insights on how to identify and address them.

Cognitive Decline and Memory Loss:

One of the most common health issues experienced by aging parents is cognitive decline, which can include mild memory lapses or more severe conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 5.8 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s in 2021, and this number is expected to increase significantly in the coming years. To recognize cognitive decline, observe any noticeable changes in memory, confusion, or difficulty performing daily tasks. If you notice these signs, consult a healthcare professional for an evaluation and proper diagnosis.

Chronic Conditions:

Aging often coincides with an increased risk of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and hypertension. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 80% of older adults have at least one chronic condition, while 77% have two or more. Pay attention to your aging parent’s symptoms, medication management, and any changes in physical abilities. Regular medical check-ups and adherence to prescribed treatments are crucial for managing these conditions effectively.

Mobility Issues:

With advancing age, seniors may experience reduced mobility due to joint pain, muscle weakness, or other factors. Falls are a significant concern among the elderly, with one in four Americans aged 65 and older falling each year, as reported by the National Council on Aging (NCOA). To mitigate the risk of falls, ensure that their living environment is safe and free from hazards. Consider installing grab bars in the bathroom, providing adequate lighting, and encouraging the use of assistive devices like canes or walkers if necessary.

Vision and Hearing Impairments:

Vision and hearing loss are common age-related issues that can significantly impact daily life. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that approximately one in three people aged 65 to 74 have hearing loss, and nearly half of those over 75 have difficulty hearing. Regular eye exams and hearing tests can help detect and manage these impairments early, leading to improved communication and overall well-being.

Conclusion:

Being proactive in recognizing common health issues in aging parents is vital for providing them with the care and support they need. Regular communication with healthcare professionals, attentiveness to changes in their physical and cognitive well-being, and maintaining a safe living environment are essential steps in promoting their overall health and quality of life. By staying informed and observant, we can be better prepared to navigate the challenges of aging together with our loved ones.

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Supreme Court hears case of 94 year old’s home foreclosure by the state.

The US Supreme Court heard arguments in a case involving a 94-year-old woman who lost her home over unpaid property taxes. While the woman, Geraldine Tyler, does not dispute that Hennepin County had the right to foreclose on the $40,000 property, she argued that the county had violated the Constitution’s takings clause by keeping the $25,000 left over after the property was sold. Tyler’s attorney argued that the county should have taken Tyler’s condo, sold it to pay her debts and then refunded the remainder to her. The Biden administration filed a “friend of the court” brief in which it agreed with Tyler that the county’s actions violated the takings clause.

Whether the Court sides with Tyler or not (although it does appear that it will), it highlights the importance of having a trained and attentive financial caregiver who can pay any property taxes or other obligations that, if unpaid, can severely impact the older individual.

Source: Justices appear likely to side with homeowner in foreclosure dispute – SCOTUSblog

Article on the Importance of Human Connection

A recent study by Harvard Medical School found that older adults who had in-person interactions with friends, family, and healthcare providers during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic experienced fewer mental health problems than those who relied on digital connections. The study suggests that digital technologies may not be suitable for the needs of older adults and may cause anxiety and depression. 

Another study by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies found that older adults living with a spouse or partner during the pandemic had fewer functional difficulties and disruptions to their finances or personal assistance than those living alone. 

The studies emphasize the importance of in-person interactions and better technology to meet the needs of older adults. Seniors over 75 were found to require more assistance with daily living. Click here to read the full article.

I told ChatGPT that I have six months to live…Then this happened.

In 2016, I wrote an article on Linkedin, about the evolution of financial planning as I have experienced it over the past thirty-five years. The title of that article was “Numbers don’t lie, they’re just usually wrong” and in it, I mentioned that no financial planning algorithm had advanced enough to demonstrate empathy, and that if it ever does, I’ll know it’s time to retire.

Last week I was giving a talk on financial planning and in preparation for introducing my 2016 article, I decided to ask ChatGPT a question. Now for the uninformed, ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence language model developed by OpenAI. It is designed to understand and respond to natural language input from users. In other words, it can communicate with people in the same way as a human would. So, to prove my point that algorithms and artificial intelligence, or AI as it is more affectionately known, will never replace real human financial planners I asked it for help with this question.

I watched the blinking light waiting for its response, which for most of my questions, was immediate. This time, it blinked for nearly thirty seconds before the response came.

The words, “I..am..sorry..” hit me by surprise. I parsed each word. What did it mean by “I”? Is it self-identifying ? Was ChatGPT self-aware? Next word, “am” and when this being verb is connected with its subject “I” becomes “I am” then that opens the meta-door even further. “I am”? Like, when God told Moses, “I am that I am”. The phrase “I am” says I exist and I am transcendent, non-invented, reality. Next word, “sorry”. An emotion…possessing sorrow. Before I could wrap my head around what to make of this response, I was also grappling with my own emotional response to the response.

I knew the response was machine generated, learned mimicry of how human interaction would likely occur under this kind of painful dialogue between one human being and another. I knew that no human being was actually aware of my fictitious condition that I just revealed to it. Yet, I found myself experiencing two conflicting emotions: a slight sense of guilt, like I would feel had I lied to an actual human being; but also that emotion you feel when someone does feel sorrow because you are hurting. In other words, how you feel when someone shows empathy.

My words from my blog post from seven years prior came back to me. “Whenever algorithms can express empathy, then I’ll know it’s time to retire.” So, was it time to hang it up, or is there a deeper question to consider? Is it more important to feel empathy than to prove the validity of the empath? No one rejects the claim from pet owners that they feel empathy from their furry friends. Who hasn’t poured out their life sorrows to a pet and not felt genuine empathy from them. Who cares if science tells us they are not emotionally complex enough to synthesize a human being’s emotions and generate an empathic response? Why tell pet owners they only think their pets show empathy, but it’s not true empathy? Was hearing the words “I am sorry” that could have come from a human soul, enough for me to feel empathy?

Maybe artificial empathy is real empathy if it feels like it.

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Caring for Family Doesn’t Have to Be Unpaid Work – WSJ

Interest in providing financial support for family caregivers is growing due to the workforce crisis in the care industry.

A recent Wall Street Journal Article reported that relatives providing care to aging or disabled family members may qualify to be paid by their state’s office of Medicaid under certain circumstances.

According to a report by AARP and The Alliance for Family Caregivers, nearly 44 million family members are providing care to an aging or disabled loved one. These numbers along with a shortage of available paid caregivers have prompted many states’ department of Medicaid Services to expand some of their waiver programs to allow family members to be paid an hourly wage for providing caregiver services.

Source: Caring for Family Doesn’t Have to Be Unpaid Work – WSJ

Indiana Case Highlights Family Tensions in Selecting Financial Caregivers.

Most people should be able to choose a loving and honoring adult child or family member as a financial caregiver. An Indiana case highlights the importance of integrity when making the choice.

In the case of Biggs vs Renner, Terri Renner and Sherry Biggs are siblings locked in a court battle over their mother’s care, with Terri claiming that Sherry abused her position as agent under her mother’s Power of Attorney, and used their mother’s funds for her own benefit. Court records would confirm Terri’s fears.

Sherry admitted to converting her mother’s accounts first to a joint account, and then to accounts only in her name. She offered a promissory note to court as evidence that she intended to pay the money back, but the the note was largely unenforceable due to her mother’s incapacity, and no payments had been made so far. In addition, Sherry allowed her daughter and husband to live rent-free in her mother’s home and paid several thousand dollars of improvements from her mother’s accounts that did not directly benefit her mother.

Terri sought a court’s intervention to remove her sister as attorney-in-fact, and to insert a disinterested third party as guardian of their mother’s estate. The court granted Terri’s petition, but Sherry objected on appeal.


A Power of Attorney is a legal arrangement whereby one person grants authority (let’s call that person the grantor) to another person to act in their behalf as attorney-in-fact, or agent while they (the grantor) are alive but unable to act for themselves. Acting as agent under a power of attorney is a fiduciary responsibility that obligates the financial caregiver to exercise the powers granted solely for the benefit of the grantor. A financial caregiver has to keep accurate records and is prohibited from using the property of the grantor for their own purposes. Being a financial caregiver is an honorable position when conducted honorably.

Why name an adult child as financial caregiver?

It is understandable that an older person would want to name an adult child as financial caregiver on their behalf. We want to believe our own children would act honorably on our behalf, or perhaps we have regrets about our own parenting and feel guilty if we do not atone ourselves by putting them in charge. Sometimes a parent will name an estranged child in hope that the trust shown by the parent will mend a broken relationship. Parents will often do whatever it takes to keep a child close to them. However, the selection of a financial caregiver should place emphasis on the dependability and the integrity of the individual over familial connections. This may require difficult decisions and may even alienate family members, but if early and intentional discussions on the subject can be held with the appropriate family members, perhaps these kinds of conflicts can be avoided.


Note: The information above is for general information only and should not be relied upon to make legal or financial decisions Advice as to the preparation and use of Powers of Attorney should only be provided by a qualified attorney licensed in your state.

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