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Resilience After Unimaginable Loss – An Interview with Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook

CunninghamLegal – The Living Trust Lawyers

Caring for a loved one can bring unimaginable joy as well as unparalleled despair. We do our best to try to comfort our clients and ask them to remember the good times, however that’s easier said than done. It takes more than words; it takes a certain level of resilience when coping with the loss of a loved one. It’s not easy. It never is, but we’re here to help you through the difficult times.

For Sheryl Sandberg, resilience helped her survive the shocking death of her husband while on vacation. Sheryl Sandberg is synonymous with Facebook and Silicon Valley success, and she’s the voice of Lean In. Together with the psychologist Adam Grant, his friendship — and his research on resilience — they share what they’ve learned about planting deep resilience in ourselves and our children, and even reclaiming joy.

Read the full article at: Resilience After Unimaginable Loss – Sheryl Sandberg Interview

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The 5 Golden Rules Of Lending Money To Your Adult Children

When you think about the price of having kids, the costs that come to mind may include things like child care, camp, braces and college tuition.

What probably doesn’t spring to mind are mortgages, car payments or personal loans.

The reality, however, is that your bank account will likely continue to be tapped long past the day your kids turn 21. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center report, six in 10 Americans with at least one adult child say they’ve provided their kids with some financial support within the past year.

And the dollar amounts they doled out were probably a bit steeper than $100 here or $500 there: A TD Ameritrade survey released in August found that parents supporting adult kids gave them an average of $10,000 over the past 12 months.

When dealing with an amount of that size, it’s very possible that parents expect to be paid back at some point. But entering into parent-child lending territory can be fraught with complications that could lead to big financial burdens and broken family ties.

So we rounded up some financial pros to provide tips on how to loan your adult children money in a way that helps minimize monetary strife and keep family drama at bay.

1. Only lend money you won’t miss.

Your child is just a few thousand dollars shy of a down payment on her dream home, and you’d really like to help her get into that three-bedroom Colonial. Before you reach for your checkbook, however, make sure it’s an amount you can stand to part with, rather than money you need for your own financial stability.

“The question I ask my clients [who are faced with lending to kids] is: ‘Are you willing to lose the money?’ If you can’t answer with a resounding yes, then I suggest you don’t loan the money,” says Tom Till, owner of APPS Financial Group, a financial advisory firm located near Houston.

And that advice doesn’t apply just to funds you use to pay your monthly bills; it’s also applicable to any money you’re setting aside for your future.

“If you don’t have enough in savings or retirement or haven’t reached your personal goals, then tell them you can’t help them at this time,” suggests Debbi King, a personal finance and life coach and author of “The ABC’s of Personal Finance: 26 Essential Keys to Winning With Your Money.” “Don’t mortgage your future and put it at risk.”

If you still get the pleading looks, explain your no in a way that shows why your financial stability can actually be a good thing for them. One client of Till’s used this approach to tell her daughter why she couldn’t lend her money for a home down payment: “She told her child that I had recommended against the loan because it would greatly affect her retirement income—even to the point where she might have to move in with the child at her new home.”

2. Be clear on how your kids will use the funds.

You think you’re lending your child money to help pay off a student loan, but you suddenly notice some sweet electronics and brand-new furniture popping up in his pad.

Coincidence? Perhaps not.

Consider that if your child is asking you for money, it may be a sign that he doesn’t have the firmest grasp on his finances to begin with. So if you’re not completely sure where those dollars are going, think about placing parameters on how you fork over the funds.

For starters, consider paying the lender directly, suggests ReKeithen Miller, a Certified Financial Planner™ with Palisades Hudson Financial Group who is based in Atlanta. “That way, the child can’t divert the funds for other purposes,” he says.

You could choose to disperse the loan in smaller amounts over time to help ensure that your child isn’t tempted to splurge with such a large amount, Miller adds. This also provides the option to refuse to release further funds if your child isn’t using them for their intended purpose.

Finally, if you feel your child needs to learn a serious money lesson, you can require that they get smarter about money management before you fork over any cash. “Parents have the option of making the loan conditional,” Miller says. “For example, if a child has issues with budgeting or credit card debt, you can require them to enroll in credit counseling before you agree to lend them the money.”

3. Set terms for late payments or defaults.

Your child likely has every intention of paying you back—but you can’t deposit good intentions in your bank account. To help keep your child accountable, lay out what happens if she is unable to pay you back in a timely manner.

“Treat [the situation] as if you were the bank giving the loan,” King says. “There have to be consequences, such as interest and fees for late payments and defaults, just like with a ‘real’ loan.”

There’s another potential benefit to charging interest: The IRS may be less likely to view your loan as a gift, says Miller, which means it won’t count toward your annual gift-tax exclusionamount. He suggests choosing an interest rate in line with the Applicable Federal Rate (AFR), an interest rate calculated by the IRS each month. Remember to consult with your tax advisor to be clear on how you report the interest to the IRS.

It’s also important to consider baking in how the payment terms might be adjusted if your family member’s financial circumstances change, either because of job loss or another income hardship. Could you, for example, reduce the payment amount temporarily, but raise the interest rate? Give them quarterly rather than monthly deadlines? Reduce the amount they’ll eventually inherit by the amount of the loan?

It may seem awkward at first, but not agreeing on those types of details up front only stands to heighten the tension later. King recalls one story about a colleague whose mother-in-law loaned her a few thousand dollars to buy a new car. They settled on a monthly repayment amount, but the colleague lost her job and was unable to make the payments. Even after finding a new job, the colleague was making much less and still couldn’t afford to the payments.

“She felt as if she were being judged by every purchase she made. She got the feeling that the mother-in-law was saying, ‘If you can afford that, you can pay me what you owe,’ ” King says. “And every time [her husband] sees his mom, he’s always waiting for her to bring it up—not knowing what to say if she does.”

4. Present a unified front.

Your child probably figured out pretty quickly that when Mom said no to cookies for breakfast, he might get a more favorable response from Dad.

That good-cop, bad-cop dynamic, however, can have much bigger consequences when you’re talking money. So before saying yes to a loan, make sure you and your spouse have agreed uponall of the loan terms. This will not only help avoid an argument later, but could also help protect one spouse in the unfortunate event that the other isn’t around to enforce the agreement.

“A common scenario I’ve seen is where Dad discusses the terms of the loan with the child without involving Mom. Dad dies without communicating the loan terms, and Mom is in a situation where she has to decide if her child is telling the truth—or trying to shirk responsibilities,” Miller says. Plus, “If Mom forgives one child’s debt, she may be obligated to do the same for the other children to avoid tension within the family—and she may not be in a financial position to do so.”

One other piece of advice? Consider getting input from a financial advisor, who may be able to help you and your spouse settle disagreements on loan terms, as well as help play bad cop to the kids, if necessary. “Inserting a third party into the mix may make the children more apt to abide by the terms of the agreement, since they know someone outside of the family is monitoring the situation,” Miller says.

5. Get *everything* in writing.

As with any other bank, the Bank of Mom and Dad should have a promissory note signed by both parties that lays out all of the loan terms, including the principal amount, the interest rate, the payment structure, and any other conditions you’re expecting your child to meet in order to be “approved” for the loan.

“Even though the money transaction is between family, it is best if it is treated like a business transaction. Be as clear as possible on the expectations, and it will cut down on family disputes down the road,” Till says. “[And] it’s important to stay firm to the agreement. This can be a learning opportunity for your adult child—no matter the age.”

Read the original article on LearnVest. Copyright 2016.

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Why Death Doesn’t Take a Holiday Break

Each winter, a strange phenomenon repeats itself as people gather to celebrate the holiday season: Deaths spike.

The surge was particularly extreme in early 2015, when nearly a third more senior citizens died than normal in the first two weeks of the New Year.

Researchers have known for some time that more people die in winter. But even when they adjust for the expected increase, an irrepressible bulge that begins to swell in December persists.
Experts aren’t quite sure what causes it, but it affects nearly every age and disease group. It fells both men and women. And, curiously, after researchers adjust for it, three days emerge as the deadliest for deaths of natural causes: Dec. 25, Dec. 26 and Jan. 1.

“These increases are above and beyond what you would expect for that season,” said David Phillips, a sociology professor at the University of California, San Diego, who has studied the phenomenon. “We did not find equivalent spikes on any other major holiday. There’s something about Christmas and New Year.”

Dr. Phillips examined 57.5 million U.S. death certificates from 1979 through 2004. He compared the actual number of deaths with the expected number and found that over two weeks beginning with Christmas, an excess of 42,325 deaths from natural causes occurred over the 25-year period.

“People have known forever that mortality from a wide variety of causes is higher in the winter, but nobody knew before we did about the spike above that hill, particularly on Dec. 25, Dec. 26 and Jan. 1,” he said.

Although Dr. Phillips appears to be the only researcher who has broken the trend down by day and factors such as demographics and type of disease, the others have documented the overall seasonal effect.

Legacy.com, which hosts obituaries for 1,500 newspapers around the world, noticed it a few years after it launched in 1998.

“If you have people reading literally millions of tributes a year, if it fluctuates by as much as 20% in one part of the year, you need to know that to have correct staffing to handle the volume,” said Stopher Bartol, Legacy’s founder and executive chairman.

Once the company noticed the variation, it used government data to model the trend and verify what it suspected. As Mr. Bartol reported on the company blog: “Yes, it’s true: More people die in January.”

To try and explain the holiday spikes, Dr. Phillips, who focused on deaths from natural causes, examined five major groups of disease, including circulatory ailments; diseases of the respiratory system; cancer; endocrine, nutritional and metabolic disorders; and diseases of the digestive system.

The spikes occurred in all but cancer.

By age, only children appeared to be exempt from the trend. The increases occurred in all settings combined, but were especially acute among patients who died in the emergency room or who were dead on arrival, suggesting, Dr. Phillips said, that overcrowded and understaffed emergency rooms might contribute or that patients delay seeking medical help this time of year until it’s too late. No single cause seems to bear full responsibility, he said, although actuaries at the Reinsurance Group of America believe flu played a part last year, when the U.S., U.K. and Japan reported spikes that were significantly higher than in any of the previous 10 years.

“By about week two of the year, they were 130% of what they have been on average for ages over 65 in the U.S.,” said Peter Banthorpe, the head of actuarial research for RGA Services UK who wrote the report. “In the U.K., we saw the number spike 120% over the average.” 14 other European countries, he said, reported similar increases.

Mr. Banthorpe suspected a strain of influenza not covered by the annual vaccine contributed to the increase, a theory supported in the U.S. by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recorded the highest rate of flu-associated hospitalizations among people 65 and older since it began tracking the numbers in 2005. That year’s vaccine, the CDC reported, did not protect against the strain of H3N2 flu that was predominant early that year.

Dr. Phillips couldn’t pin down what is responsible for the holiday spikes, but he did rule out several potential contributing factors. For example, stress, winter travel and substance abuse did not explain the increase, he said, nor did the coldness itself.

“We show the effect is slightly smaller in the cold states than in the warm states,” Dr. Phillips said.

More than likely, he concluded, a variety of circumstances, not merely foul weather or the strain of the holidays, are to blame.

“A lot of times researchers wave their arms in the air and say well, it’s cold, people are depressed, they’re stressed.” Dr. Phillips said. “Probably there are several explanations.”

So, to borrow from the Bard, with the wrathful, nipping cold of winter upon us–at least in some parts of the country–perhaps it’s best to take shelter in the warmth of another’s watchful gaze. And, if needed, seek the help of a trusted physician without delay.

Source: Wall Street Journal, December 31, 2015

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What could happen if you write your own living trust

Readers often ask me about do-it-yourself estate planning. Lawyers want to know how to discourage clients from using books or software and websites that spew out documents for free or for a fraction of what they charge. Meantime, consumers ask, “What’s wrong with that?”

The trouble with do-it-yourself planning is that even if your situation seems simple, there are many oddball things a layman wouldn’t think of that can go wrong, especially with wills and trusts. These mistakes can end up costing you or your heirs a lot more than you saved in legal fees.

Eileen Guerin Swicker, a lawyer with her own practice in Leesburg, VA, recently told me about a really doozy. It involved a client who set up his own living trust.

By way of background, both a will and a living trust can be used to transfer assets, and each has unique uses and features. For example, only a will can name guardians for children who are minors. (For how to choose a guardian, see my post, “Adam Yauch’s Will Reveals His Private Dilemma.”) And unlike a will, a living trust can take effect while you are alive, so it can be used to hold assets for your benefit if you become unable to manage them yourself.

The client who Swicker told me about set up his own trust in 1984, using a 3-page form that he bought at an office supply store. He recorded a deed to transfer his home into the trust, and absentmindedly dated that deed 1983 (in other words, one year before the trust was created).

Flash forward to 2009 when this fellow, who had paid off the mortgage on the house, wanted to borrow against it. He planned to give his adult daughter $300,000 in cash so she, in turn, could pay off the mortgage on her own house. Great strategy (see my posts, “5 Ways To Help Family Pay For Housing,” and “The Best Investment Advice I Ever Received”).

But at this point, his clerical error of 25 years earlier came back to haunt him. Why? Because the title company said he didn’t have a clear chain of title to his home, so the bank wouldn’t give him the loan. The man, who by then was 75, called Swicker’s previous law firm in tears, asking for help.

Fixing the problem was a convoluted process that took two weeks and wound up costing the client $2,000 in legal fees. That’s about twice what he would have had to pay back in 1984 if he had had the firm draw up the trust instead of doing it himself, Swicker says.

After that, Swicker hoped the client would call back and ask lawyers to help bring his estate-planning documents up to date. But by the time Swicker left the firm eight months later, he still hadn’t done that. Says she: “It was one of those classic cases of somebody who dug a hole, and kept digging it deeper.”

Source: Deborah L. Jacobs – Forbes, August, 2012

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Veteran’s Affairs (VA) maintains a list of U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships associated with military service in Vietnam and possible exposure to Agent Orange based on military records. This evolving list helps Veterans who served aboard ships, including “Blue Water Veterans,” find out if they may qualify for presumption of herbicide exposure. Veterans must meet VA’s criteria for service in Vietnam, which includes aboard boats on the inland waterways or brief visits ashore, to be presumed to have been exposed to herbicides. Veterans who qualify for presumption of herbicide exposure are not required to show they were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides when seeking VA compensation for diseases related to Agent Orange exposure.


Ships will be regularly added to the list based on information confirmed in official records of ship operations. Currently there are 344 ships on this list. A Veteran must file an Agent-Orange related disability claim before VA will conduct research on a specific ship not on VA’s ships list. This requirement also applies to survivors and children with birth defects.

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24 states where child care costs more than college

While the astronomical (and rising) cost of college seems to garner all the media attention, it’s the cost of child care that should be more worrying for many parents.

Nearly 11 million children under the age of five require child care at least weekly and spend an average of 36 hours a week in child care — and for the parents footing the bill, this can make a serious dent in their finances.

In roughly half the states in this country, child care costs more than college, according to a report released this year by the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank focused on conducting research around the economic status of working Americans. Indeed, in 24 states and Washington, D.C., the average cost to care for a four-year-old for one year exceeds the cost of tuition for a year at a public, in-state four-year college. And in 33 states and Washington, D.C., the average cost to care for an infant for a year exceeds the cost of tuition for a year at a public, in-state four-year college.

Annual child care costs for a four-year-old range from $4,128 in rural South Carolina to $17,664 in Washington, D.C. The average annual cost of tuition for an in-state full-time undergraduate student in a public college ranges from $3,756 in Wyoming to $14,469 in New Hampshire.

The cost of child care, as well as stagnant wage growth (average hourly earnings have risen just over 2% in the past year, which EPI notes is “in line with the same slow growth we’ve seen for the last six years), means that average families — as well as more affluent families who live in a city where care is very expensive — struggle to pay, says Elise Gould, a senior economist at EPI. The affordability threshold for child care is 10% of one’s income, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, and yet only in a “handful” of areas do child care costs come even close to that threshold, EPI notes. “This standard cannot be met by most families,” Gould says.

Indeed, in a two-parent household with an infant and a four-year-old, child care ranges from 19.3% to 28.7% of total family budgets. This compares with a range of 11.8% to 21.6% for families with a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old, thanks to the fact that infant care tends to be the priciest form of child care, EPI data reveals.

“The high cost of child care can be a crippling burden for families with young children,” according to the latest child care costs report by ChildCare Aware of America, a group that researches the quality and availability of child care.

It might seem baffling that child care is so expensive given the low pay of child care workers (the average child care worker makes only about $10 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). But this high cost is thanks in large part to the fact that child care (especially high quality child care) is “a labor-intensive industry, requiring a low student-to-teacher ratio,” the EPI report notes. Other large expenses for child care centers are rent/mortgage, food and insurance (business, liability, real estate and workers’ compensation), ChildCare Aware of America notes, and lesser costs include security, staff training, toys and supplies, and utilities.

Ideally, parents will start saving for child care even before they become parents. “Five years [ahead of the birth of a child] is ideal but tough to realistically plan that far ahead when the average couple isn’t married that long prior to having kids,” says mom-to-be Christina Lindsey Orta, a certified financial planner and vice president at Lindsey & Lindsey in Westlake Village, Calif.

If you’re one of the many parents who hasn’t yet saved for child care, there are a variety of ways to find cash. Orta says you should consider a mortgage refinance to yield some extra monthly cash. “As home values have appreciated and interest rates are low, often times a refinance of a mortgage may make sense,” she says.

You may also want to consolidate credit cards to cards with lower rates (look for cards you’re paying more than 12% on) and look at where you can make cuts in your budget, she adds. “Look at your budget and identify where the small things add up, such as Starbucks lattes every day at $6 a pop, add a muffin to that and you’re at $10,” she says.

Source: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/child-care-costs-more-than-college-in-these-24-states-2015-10-07