A Trust

SeasonsMy dad’s financial ideas were good as gold – and carried him well in his older years.

When I left home for college, he told me, “Have a savings account. Treat it like a bill and put money into it every month just like every other bill.”

I did. He was right. Whenever I needed a new tire or a root canal, I always had funds.

But the best financial legacy he left his family was his trust fund. He and Mom set up a simple revocable trust about 10 years before he passed away.

They changed their checking account, their deed to the farm, and their vehicle titles to the name of the trust.

When Dad died, there were plenty of difficulties but one we didn’t have was with his finances. The trust has provided for Mom since he passed – and without probate or any complications.

Some parents are slow to face their mortality so I’m glad my dad set things in place to make the transition a smooth one.

If you can’t convince your parents to make plans, do it for your children. They will rise up to bless you in yet another way.

Advertisements

Those “after” details

Rosalie pushed her fork into a chunk of chicken and raised it as a pointer. Or a weapon.

“I like it here,” she told me as she popped the chicken in her mouth. “I kept falling and I knew I needed help. So I checked myself in. I like it fine.”

She sliced more chicken.

Seasons“It’s not fair to my family,” she said. “I’ve always been single so I don’t have a husband or kids. My sister and brother don’t need to worry about me.”

She surveyed the nursing home dining room. “Some of these people don’t have a choice. Well, maybe I didn’t either. But I thought I needed to make these decisions while I could.”

I sipped the glass of water before me and waited. Rosalie liked company and the conversation seldom lagged.

“I bought my burial plot already,” she said, sliding her fork under the mound of mashed potatoes. “And I picked out the headstone, too. Those are all paid for. I didn’t want my family to worry about that stuff.”

I wondered if she’d planned her own funeral service.

“No, not really. That’s not a big deal to me. I won’t be there so I don’t care what they decide to do.” Rosalie dipped her spoon into the cup of pudding at side of her plate.

Rosalie might have been the only resident in the room without children but other residents had absent children for one reason or another.

Sometimes children lived in another state and visited when they could. Sometimes they lived across town and visited when they had to.

Either way, some residents weren’t so different from Rosalie.  They might not have someone prepared to take care of after-death details.

But they should.

I’m not sure how to help that situation but I’m  thinking about solutions. Suggestions?

Good as gold

SeasonsMy dad’s financial ideas were good as gold – and carried him well in his older years.

When I left home for college, he told me, “Have a savings account. Treat it like a bill and put money into it every month just like every other bill.”

I did. He was right. Whenever I needed a new tire or a root canal, I always had funds.

But the best financial legacy he left his family was his trust fund. He and Mom set up a simple revocable trust about 10 years before he passed away.

They changed their checking account, their deed on the farm, and their vehicle titles to the name of the trust.

When Dad died, there were plenty of difficulties but one we didn’t have was with his finances. The trust has provided for Mom since he passed – and without probate or any complications.

Some parents are slow to face their mortality so I’m glad my dad set things in place to make the transition a smooth one.

Over dinner

Chuck pushed the baked beans around his plate, stalling.Seasons

“Are you feeling all right?” Chuck’s mother reached across the table to press her palm against his forehead.

“I’m fine. Really.  I’m 55 years old. I can tell if I have a fever.”

“I know, dear.  Of course. Is something wrong?”

Chuck dropped his fork.  “Here’s the thing. What do you want for your funeral?” He cringed. This was blunt even for him. “I mean, we should talk about–   Well, have you thought–” He stopped himself before the hole got deeper.  “It’s just something we should talk about.  Sometime.”

He began shoveling the baked beans into his mouth before any more words flew out. What did they think? He didn’t look up.

His father spoke first. “I suppose a regular funeral.  With a casket. Nothing fancy, of course. A funeral at the church and a burial at a cemetery. It’d be nice to have lunch for the family.  I don’t want anything to be hard on Mom.”

Chuck looked up.  His mother had leaned into the discussion.  “That’s what I would like, too.  Nothing fancy.”

Chuck swallowed hard. “I’ve learned some things since Mary’s dad died.  Do you know what a casket costs?”

His dad shook his head.

“From $1500 up to $8000.  The funeral home costs were about $5000. A plot at the cemetery was about $1000. And then there’s the headstone.  Maybe a couple of thousand.  Those are the simple ones.”

“Well.” His dad shook his head. “Things have certainly gotten expensive.” He looked up to the ceiling and Chuck knew he was calculating numbers although he could have been praying for insight.

“So you’re saying a simple funeral might be around $8000?”

Chuck nodded.  “Have you thought about how to pay for that?”

“I have a life insurance policy that I thought would pay for burying me.  It’s worth $5000.  That isn’t enough.”

“Nope.” Chuck finished dinner. Mom’s baked beans were superb, like usual. “Do you have anything for Mom?”

cemetery“My policy is about $3000,” she said. “We didn’t know.”

What Chuck knew was that they had no savings and barely got by with monthly Social Security checks.

“I wonder if the VA could help,” Dad said.  He had regular medical check ups through the Veterans Administration, a perk from his military service.

After many phone calls , Chuck’s father learned that being a veteran helped. Both he and his wife could be buried in a military cemetery with the cost of burial and headstone paid.

“That cuts funeral costs in half,“ Chuck’s dad said.

It was a start. Chuck knew there would be discussion with siblings. But it was a start.

Not really covered

I helped my dad shuffle up the steps into his house and I laid his mail on the kitchen counter. He slowly worked his way to his recliner and dropped in.

SeasonsMom was in the hospital following heart valve replacement surgery. Dad and I had made the 60-mile trek every day to visit her in her recovery. At 88, he couldn’t drive anymore. To be honest, we were a little nervous leaving him alone while Mom was gone.

“Do you need anything before I go home?” I shuffled through the stack of envelopes. “Uh, what is this bill?” I handed him the envelope.

“Our health insurance,” he said. “I’ll get it.”

“We don’t want to miss any payments with Mom in the hospital.” It was a joke when I said it, but then I saw an envelope attached to his refrigerator.

A stamped return envelope to his health insurance company.

“What’s this?” I handed it to him.

He squinted and leaned forward. “I haven’t mailed that yet. I’ll get it.”

“Let’s open this,” I held the new bill and sliced it open. “Dad, this is the current bill. Is that envelope on the refrigerator last month’s payment?”

“I can’t remember.” He shifted his weight, looking for his TV remote. “I’ll get it out to the mail.”

“How about if I pay this bill today?”  I could sign their checks so that I was able to make this payment immediately.

“Sure, if you want to.”

reminderI wrote the check for the current month and then took both payments home where I mailed them from my house.

And held my breath, hoping the insurance company wouldn’t balk at the coming hospital bills for Mom’s surgery.

They didn’t but that was the month I switched their insurance payment to an automatic debit from the bank.

Who wants to take chances like that, even if Dad did think he had it covered?