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What Families Should Know: “What is Probate?”

 Posted by D'Lynn VanValkenburgh on April 7, 2015 at 8:00 AM

What Families Should Know: “What is Probate?”

About

As the nation’s largest professional resource for household relocation and estate liquidation, Caring Transitions is often hired by attorneys, banks and family members to help support the probate process. We are often asked questions about probate and in all cases we recommend our clients seek proper legal advice, as probate laws vary a great deal from state to state. Caring Transitions® is pleased to provide general information that follows and our local office can also recommend other resources to help you manage a loved one’s estate.

Probate is

Probate is a court-supervised process of distributing assets when a deceased individual (decedent), has not established a living trust.  When the distribution of assets is not clearly defined prior to death, families and heirs are left to sort things out through probate courts. The probate process involves locating, defining and determining the value of assets owned by the decedent. It also includes payment of bills and taxes and eventually, the process results in the distribution of remaining assets.

Probate Pros and Cons

Probate can be a lengthy, frustrating and expensive process for families, however establishing a living trust may be equally as costly and complex for those with a number of valuable assets. Probate fees may include the attorney, the executor, filing fees and court costs. The cost for a living trust includes legal and filing fees. Some individuals opt to purchase software or work on the basics through internet companies to reduce their overall costs. It is still recommended you consult an attorney at some point in the process.

Smaller estates may meet the state requirements for “summary” proceedings, which are a simplified and less costly form of probate. Refer to your county court website for more information on applications, forms and Summary Probate restrictions and requirements.

Probate is required

When the decedent does not designate new owners in advance, property typically has to be probated to remove the decedent’s name and legally name the beneficiaries. This applies to property owned solely in the decedent’s name and also when property is held ‘in common” with another owner. As mentioned above, if property was titled to a living trust before the individual died, probate is not necessary.

Bank accounts, insurance policies, IRAs and other such accounts that are “payable on death” may also need to be probated if the decedent never named beneficiaries for the accounts or if the beneficiaries have already died. This is referred to “predeceased beneficiaries.”

Even if the decedent has a Last Will and Testament, probate may be required if any of the property has not been designated or if living beneficiaries were not named.

©Caring Transitions 2015. Not for reprint without permission.

What Families Should Know About: Exceptional Resources

 Posted by D'Lynn VanValkenburgh on April 5, 2015 at 8:00 AM

What Families Should Know About: Exceptional Resources

Without a comprehensive plan, families often have to scramble to identify and qualify the various resources needed to manage an entire home transition. They must locate and hire trusted realtors, movers, downsizing experts, estate sale professionals, consignment shops, packing  material suppliers, junk haulers or dumpster companies, housekeepers, repairmen, home stagers, financial advisors,  attorneys, caregivers, pet sitters, and more!

On the other hand, when families work with a “total solution” organization like Caring Transitions®, they need search no further.  As the comprehensive plan is developed, all resources are identified and included in project communications. And while no company can guarantee another company’s service, all professional partners are vetted and deemed reliable.

Caring Transitions® has taken additional steps to train and screen every employee and has developed estate sale standards that far exceed the rest of the industry. Since many of our clients are older adults moving to assisted living communities, every Caring Transitions® office is also independently certified to support a “senior move” and help mitigate the effects of stress, health and cognitive issues which are common to late life relocations.

In today’s world, however, it is often the technological advances that make a company truly exceptional.  And within the senior relocation and home transition industry, Caring Transitions® is that company.  Caring Transitions® is the only national service provider that offers an in-house online auction platform, as well as electronic estimates for every project, whether that includes sorting, downsizing, organizing, packing, unpacking, pricing, photographing, merchandising, managing a sale, or all of the above.

 

©Caring Transitions 2015. Not for reprint in part or entirety.

What Families Should Know About: Relocation Support

 Posted by D'Lynn VanValkenburgh on April 2, 2015 at 8:00 AM

What Families Should Know About:  Relocation Support

Truly comprehensive relocation solutions look and feel similar to corporate “relo” services.  Think of how a corporation helps support a valued executive. They provide resources, information and services begins well before moving day. Some of the principles that “relo” companies use to govern large projects include:

  1. Planning and logistical arrangements
  2. Use of technology  to promote the exchange of information
  3. Education for the client and their families
  4. Assessment of client goals and preferences
  5. Follow up
  6. Service, standards, measurements and reporting

In much the same way, Caring Transitions® is your personal “relo” company. We provide all the necessary labor, information and services to plan a relocation, evaluate costs, organize, pack, unpack and provide move management and oversight, from start to finish. We also offer in-house professional liquidation services including estate sale, donations and online auction. Professionally licensed services such as transporting household goods and selling real estate are outsourced to vetted partners, and those resources are often managed by your Caring Transitions® team.

As the nation’s largest professional resource for residential relocation, we also have offices in most major markets to help manage your long distance transitions.

©Caring Transitions 2015. Not for reprint in part or entirety.

 

 

What Families Should Know About: Asset Management

 Posted by D'Lynn VanValkenburgh on March 31, 2015 at 4:33 PM

What Families Should Know About: Asset Management

Few if any home transitions occur without changing the volume of personal possessions, or personal assets. Moving to a larger house typically triggers an increase in personal property and moving to a smaller one typically generates a decrease.

Increasing the quantity of personal possessions is fairly simple and “shopping” is the usual solution. Downsizing, or decreasing property, can be a bit more challenging. Today there are many options for reducing the volume of one’s tangible assets. Families may opt for a garage sale, tag sale, yard sale, estate sale, auction, online auction, whole house liquidation, junk removal, charitable donation or they may choose to give items as gifts or inheritances.

Based on national experience, Caring Transitions® knows it is important for families to take the time to evaluate their goals when downsizing and decluttering. It is also critical to hire the most vetted and qualified resources who understand and are sensitive to sentimental attachments, schedules and budgets. There are a number of liquidation options and one may in fact be better than another, depending on the value of inventory to be sold, personal timetables, a pending home sale or any number of other factors. In addition, the liquidation industry is not well regulated and families who hire unreliable resources or those who don’t understand the financial nuances of the business may fall victim to thieves and scam artists.

©Caring Transitions 2015. Not for reprint in part or entirety.

Tips for Transitioning Senior with Cognitive Disorders

 Posted by D'Lynn VanValkenburgh on March 2, 2015 at 1:01 PM

Tips for Transitioning Senior with Cognitive Disorders

By Chris Seman, President, Caring Transitions (as seen on The Caregiver’s Voice)

There comes a time when our elder loved ones need to consider a home transition–whether it’s relocating to a smaller home or downsizing to an independent assisted living community. Late-life transitions are often perceived as a negative aspect of aging and can be rather stressful on relocating seniors and their loved ones.

Transitioning seniors experiencing cognitive disorders, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, will experience even greater stress than those without an illness. This is because removing a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s from a familiar place can cause feelings of disorientation and confusion.

In general, our homes are our most recognized places. As the caregivers of seniors in transition, especially those with cognitive disorders, it’s important to understand how moving or making a major change to a home environment can cause seniors to lose not only their sense of place, but also their sense of self.

By following the tips below, caregivers can make the transitioning process easier for their loved one and for themselves.

  1. Reinstate a sense of control.
    People often experience stress when they feel things are out of control.
    Caregivers can lessen the stress of transitioning by reinstating a sense of order and control to the events their loved ones find stressful. Offering choices helps the senior maintain his/her sense of self in the midst of chaos.
    It’s important to understand that when we remove someone’s ability to make decisions on his or her own behalf, we also remove an essential practice that would otherwise help a senior maintain a sense of control over unfamiliar situations.
  1. Give seniors a voice.
    With cognitive issues present, it becomes difficult for older adults to voice their fears and opinions.
    Caregivers can give their loved one a voice by offering a few simple options with outcomes that are always acceptable.
    For example, asking something as simple as, “Would you like to explore three assisted living communities or just two?” presents an outcome favorable to both parties, while allowing the older adult to make his/her voice heard.
    When caregivers present options for discussion, their loved one develops a sense of being important to the relocation process.
  1. Use outside resources.
    Caregivers and their elders should not feel they have to handle every detail of a late-life transition, alone.
    Using dedicated professional resources helps relieve the stress of dealing with the nitty gritty details of relocating and instead, allows caregivers to focus on their loved ones. For instance, Caring Transitions gives families peace of mind by managing and supporting transitions; initially, with sorting personal belongings, and then packing, shipping, and selling items to the final clearing and cleaning of the property.
  1. Practice “Mirror Placement™.”
    As seniors settle into a new home or an assisted living community, it’s important to help them maintain or regain their sense of place as well as their sense of self.
    Surrounding loved ones with familiar things helps them to assimilate to a new environment more quickly. Caregivers can create familiarity by practicing “Mirror Placement™,” thus duplicating the furniture arrangement and location of objects to mimic that of the original home setting. Caring Transitions uses specially designed technology to ensure their new space is mirrored as closely as possible.

By establishing processes where transitioning seniors, even those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s,  can express their concerns, regain some control and focus on the road ahead, caregivers can help their loved ones and themselves turn a late-life home transition into a meaningful life experience with less stress and more positive outcomes.

Care Transitions and Caring Transitions®

 Posted by D'Lynn VanValkenburgh on February 4, 2015 at 6:30 PM

Care Transitions and Caring Transitions®

By Nan Hayes

Individuals with chronic health conditions often require a variety of care services provided by multiple practitioners. Typically, each provider of services operates in a unique setting. For instance, as a patient’s needs change, they may transfer from their home setting to a hospital, then from hospital to a rehabilitation center or nursing facility, then perhaps return home where they receive additional care. The patient may also schedule office visits with primary care and specialty care physicians.

Each of these changes in practitioner or healthcare setting is called a “Care Transition.”  Traditionally, providers in each of the care settings operate individually, with little or no knowledge of what services or information was given to the patient by any of the other providers. Among providers it is known that poorly managed transitions can diminish health and increase healthcare costs. The lack of coordination among care services may also lead to poor clinical outcomes, dissatisfaction by patients and their families and even readmissions to the hospital.

According to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) nearly one in five Medicare patients discharged from a hospital, or 2.6 million seniors, are readmitted within 30 days, at a cost of over $26 billion every year. Clearly this indicates room for improvement in care transitions. In addition to readmission, patients may suffer other complications due to unclear discharge instructions, conflicting instructions from different providers and medication errors, such as dangerous drug interactions or overdose due to duplication of prescriptions.

On the other hand, when care transitions are managed optimally, quality of care is increased and readmission of a patient can be reduced. According to the American Geriatrics Society, good transitional care is based on a comprehensive plan of care, as well as the availability of health care practitioners who are trained in chronic care and have current information about the patient’s goals, preferences, and clinical status.

Good transitional care will also include these 6 principles:

  1. Planning and logistical arrangements
  2. Use of technology to promote the exchange of information
  3. Education for the patients, their families and caregivers
  4. Support assessments and service referrals
  5. Patient follow up
  6. Performance standards, measurements and reporting

At Caring Transitions®, we understand the value of these care transition principles and apply them to other areas of late life transition, such as “home transition.”   While clearly different from health transitions, “home transitions” encompass the changes to an individual’s living environment. In later life, home transitions typically include a move from the family residence to an assisted living community, nursing care or a rehabilitation center.  Additional changes to home environment may include downsizing, decluttering or modification to an existing residence to improve comfort and safety.  And lastly, a home transition may be the transfer of an estate to a trustee, who is then responsible for the management or liquidation of the estate.  In all cases, Caring Transitions® provides the necessary transitional planning and services to help assure the best possible outcomes for the client.

Please join our blog and newsletter over upcoming weeks as we explain “What Families Should Know” when it comes to transition services and standards.

©Caring Transitions 2015. No reprint in part or entirety without permission.

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Assessing Parents’ Well-Being

 Posted by D'Lynn VanValkenburgh on December 23, 2014 at 10:21 AM

Assessing Parents’ Well-Being

When you visit family this year, you may notice some changes in mom and dad’s home and environment. The following is a list of significant changes which may indicate your parents may need additional support such as home care, companion or financial services or assisted living:

  • Difficulty keeping up with finances. Observe stacks of unpaid bills or late notices.
  • Changes in personal hygiene or housekeeping that indicate parents are having trouble with personal grooming or housework.
  • Your parent repeats themselves often in the same conversation, seems confused, highly emotional or exhibits unusual paranoia. This could be caused by medications or other more serious cognitive issues.
  • Excessive shopping through TV or online outlets, or an unusual interest in online sweepstakes that require their personal information, phone numbers, addresses, social security or banking information.
  • Your parent is extremely isolated due to loss of a spouse or loss of personal mobility.
  • Numerous safety concerns in the home, such as heat, air conditioning, leaks, crumbling plaster, trip and fall hazards, steep stairways, loose carpeting and outdated electrical.
  • Health concerns: disorganized medications, spoiled food in the home, lack of healthy food items, infestations or mold

Even when concerns about your parents’ lifestyle are minor, you can still provide support during the holidays in a number of ways such as:

  • Give useful gifts such as gift certificates for needed services such as home delivery for groceries, transportation, housekeeping, laundry pick up, exterminators or lawn service.
  • Purchase a few hours of time from a downsizing expert or professional organizer to help with clutter and disorganization.
  • Help mom decide which items may make great holiday gifts for children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. If she has been holding on to jewelry, china or collectables, this may be the year she can enjoy gifting them to others.  Help her pack and ship items. Be sure to include a note with each that describes origin or significance of the item within the family.
  • Research the value of family heirlooms online
  • Purchase photo digitizing services that allow parents manage old photographs, slides or movie reels and share them with the entire family.

Most importantly, take this time to improve communications. Taking the time to call or visit more often isn’t always possible, but try your best. Frequent communication promotes honest conversation and can help you adjust to the many changes that take place as our parents grow older.

Home for the Holidays

 Posted by D'Lynn VanValkenburgh on December 8, 2014 at 10:09 AM

Home for the Holidays

Going home for a holiday visit can provide an opportunity to observe what may be changing in our parents’ lives. Sometimes the changes are good: dad has started a low sodium diet, mom is having her eyesight addressed and the roof is being replaced after 30 years. Other times, we may be dismayed by what we find:  dad can no longer keep up the yard work, furnishings and flooring look stained, dingy and dusty, food is in the pantry or refrigerator is outdated and the furnace does not seem to be working properly.

Once we notice things that make us worry or uncomfortable, we have a tendency to step in and immediately tell our parents what we think they should do. Sometimes that advice is not entirely welcome. Our parents may perceive our advice as criticism and productive conversation may shut down. Of course, if you feel there are immediate health and safety issues in the home, the only responsible action is to try and open a dialogue with your parents regardless of how difficult. However, if you find you are truly uncomfortable with the changes you notice in your parents’ home, a more thoughtful, more respectful approach will yield better results.

During your visit, make a private list of concerns, but do not address them during your holiday weekend. Instead, use the holiday time to enjoy your family and continue observing their overall health, physical and mental abilities. Chances are mom and dad may even raise some concerns on their own.  Like most of their generation, aging parents want to appear capable and independent and often have difficulty letting us know when they need help.

Once the holidays are over, review your list of concerns with siblings, friends, a social worker or care manager.  This may serve as a “reality check” for your own level of concern. Remember, just because our parents have changed the way they live, it does not mean they are incapable of living on their own.

Eventually discuss your more serious concerns with your parents, not as criticism, but as observations. The “Parent Care Conversation”  by Dan Taylor, is one of many books that may help you talk to your parents.

“Do’s” and “Don’ts” of an Estate Sale

 Posted by D'Lynn VanValkenburgh on November 3, 2014 at 6:24 PM

“Do’s” and “Don’ts” of an Estate Sale

One of the challenges consumers face when moving to a smaller space is trying to determine what to do with their downsized possessions.  Today there are more options than ever, including charitable donations, live auctions, online auction sites, tag sales, traditional garage sales and Estate Sales.

For people who have a fair amount of valuable inventory but not a lot of time, an Estate Sale can be a very positive experience.  Estate Sales are run by professionals, who, for an administrative fee and/or a percent of total sales, manage everything for you, including decluttering, home inventory, heavy lifting, pricing, advertising, marketing, and set up. After the sale, qualified experts such as Caring Transitions can also help with move management or help organize clean up, donations, transport or shipping and reconciliation of sales receipts.

DO follow these guidelines

  • Ask for references from any company you employ. You may even want to attend another sale they are holding and see how smoothly it runs. Always use a professional company who is in the business of running Estate Sales.
  • Ask if the company carries liability insurance for business operations and the merchandise they sell, as well as personal injury liability coverage and importantly, workers compensation for employees.
  • Hire the specialist you feel you can trust and discuss payment methods before the contract is signed. Some specialists charge an administrative fee or “minimum” to prepare the sale and others include those same fees in their commissions.
  • Understand that choosing a lower commission percentage does not necessarily mean you will make more money. A skilled professional, with a list of buyers, may make you more money even while charging a higher percentage.
  • Understand it can take days or even a couple weeks to prepare for a sale. Preparation includes, sorting, cleaning, pricing, tagging, merchandising the sale, advertising, arranging for labor and security and selling.
  • Be sure you receive an itemized list of the items in the sale and items sold, after the sale.
  • Discuss the specialist’s process for turning over hidden valuables or personal items found during the sorting process.
  • Allow the specialist to clean the items. Some items are delicate and cleaning may result in damage to valuables.
  • Understand that age does not always equal value in an item. Authenticity is the true guide to value and the item also has to hold its value in today’s market. Your specialist has many resources to help them determine value of special items.
  • Be sure to reserve the items your family wishes to keep and make sure everyone has a list of those items so they are not included in the sale or sales contract.
  • DON’T allow inexperienced or unprofessional people run your sale. This rarely, if ever, produces optimal results and may cost more in the long run as they will have to purchase materials and displays, buy extra advertising, purchase signage and take the time to research prices. The result is usually something like a failed garage sale, leaving you with a lot of unsold items and very little to show for the items that did sell.
  • DON’T be discouraged if an Estate Sale isn’t right for you! Caring Transitions can offer many options to help liquidate, sell, and auction your belongings!

You may also like: Decluttering: Let it Go!

Decluttering: How to “Let it Go!”

 Posted by D'Lynn VanValkenburgh on October 3, 2014 at 2:20 PM

Decluttering: How to “Let it Go!”

At Caring Transitions, we believe “Rightsizing is the art of downsizing with a purpose™”

When you “rightsize” before you move to a new residence, your entire move will progress more smoothly. Your new home will be less cluttered and your current home is more likely to sell.

The point of Rightsizing is to create a new living environment that reflects a meaningful, comfortable lifestyle for the years ahead. Personal possessions that have purpose and meaning are honored and preserved for the new home, while those that have lost their purpose or meaning are respectfully disposed of via sale or donation.

The steps to effective Rightsizing are as follows:

  • Determine the space requirements (via floor plan) for the new residence.
  • Decide what items are actually NEEDED for living safely or comfortably. This includes necessary items such as a bed, place for clothes, eating utensils, and so forth.
  • Add items that we LOVE to the space plan. These are meaningful items that define us as individuals.
  • Choose from what we WANT from the remaining possessions and decide which are most important. Make sure they will fit into the space plan.
  • Review and revise the space plan as necessary.
  • Establish action for selling items of monetary value, gifting those of sentimental value, then donating or disposing of the rest.

The following is a list of items to typically “let go” when you are Rightsizing.

  • Dispose of broken, outdated electronics
  • Reduce items that have too many “multiples.” For example, if you have four 1-quart casserole dishes, release 3. If you have 6 umbrellas, release 4. If you have 3 pair of worn out red wool gloves, you may choose to release them all!
  • Get rid of things that belong to others. For instance, your 40-year old son’s high school project or the heirloom desk you agreed to store for your cousin…10 years ago.
  • Release items you have kept out of guilt or fear. For example, you may have that box of multi-colored knitted scarves that you never wore, but your grandma made, so you just cannot bring yourself to let them go. Now is the time.  Or perhaps you are afraid your neighbor will notice the ant-shaped napkin holder she gave you 15 years ago is now included in the garage sale. In that situation you may wish to donate it instead, but either way, let it go.
  • Finally, donate all the cloths, shoes and coats that never fit, don’t fit or have simply been taking up space for years.
  • Find out of that “special collection” was really worth all the time and energy you once put into it and place it on the market.
  • Sort the linen closet and get rid of everything that doesn’t match, is worn or stained.
  • Give up the many books and magazines that you haven’ read in ages.  In most cases you can rely on digital options or the good old-fashioned library if you ever really wish to read them again.
  • Dump your outdated spices.
  • Do the same with all that accumulated junk mail or newspaper and magazine clippings. Again, the internet provides easy access to all of that information should you ever decide you need it.
  • Find safe outlets for your outdated medications and over the counter products. Most police stations and pharmacies sponsor “take-back” programs.
  • If moving to an apartment or condo, it’s time to sell or donate your lawn , garden and home maintenance items
  • Dump the entire contents of the “junk drawer” (none of it is worth paying a mover to move it!). Keep the car keys and money of course!
  • Reduce your inventory of seasonal décor items.  Try to keep only those that are space efficient or have tremendous sentimental value.

Sometimes “rightsizing” is easier said than done and in those instances, our professional staff is here to help; coast to coast!

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