Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Lynda Faye had always looked forward to retirement. Time for gardening and her backyard art studio in Amherst, MA. She wanted to spend time with her grandchildren. To catch up on her reading, to slow down and enjoy life at a slower pace. One thing she never put on her bucket list was caring for an elderly parent.

Faye is 75, and that frail elderly parent is her mother, 99

Yetta Meisel just turned 99. Faye now helps care for her mother, including preparing her meals. She picks up her meds, schedules home aides and transports a wheelchair for excursions. “We never expected her to live this long. She was never particularly healthy, but besides difficulty walking and some cognitive impairment, she is doing better than anyone could have ever expected! Our whole family makes an effort to spend time with her—even if it’s just an hour or so to check in and see how she’s feeling.”
Faye and her mother are part of a growing phenomenon: Seniors spending their retirement years caring for parents who are in their 90s and beyond. Because of longer life spans, many adult children and their parents are now “aging together,” said Kathrin Boerner, an associate professor of gerontology at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Faye has abandoned her own retirement dreams

Her mother’s longevity has taken a financial toll. Faye has dipped into her nest egg to pay for her mother’s expenses. She put her home with her fabulous garden and art studio on the market. She cares for her mother three days each week and pays for part of her mother’s care out of her own pension. As difficult as her responsibilities are, she considers herself lucky to have a mother with a good sense of humor who appreciates her efforts.

Study finds these senior caregivers suffering from failing health, stress and isolation

Dr. Boerner found that many of these late-life caregivers, typically daughters, suffer from their own failing health, which worsens with the stress, depression, physical tasks and isolation. The financial picture often becomes dire. The adult children spend resources meant for their own later lives. It gets worse when there were toxic relationships between parent and child. Old resentments bubble up, and the quality of caregiving suffers.
Getting exercise and taking much-needed personal time could depend on the family’s ability to pay for home aides, adult daycare and other respite programs.
There are resources that may provide help: 
  • Medicaid picks up some costs for those with limited assets, but the number of hours varies.
  • An accountant will calculate tax breaks for home care and other services.
  • Local senior programs may offer guidance on free and reduced-cost programs.
But children who are draining their own retirement savings should consider a nursing home that accepts Medicaid, and then pay for restaurant outings and other extras.
Even when they do not pay for care, many older caregivers make financial sacrifices. In some cases, children, particularly women, are retiring earlier than they planned or are cutting back on their hours to care for their parents.

The growing problem of caring for our seniors

Most of us these days know someone who is caring for an aging family member. With 10,000 baby boomers turning 70 every day, caring for this demographic is a growing health care issue. It’s only a matter of time before it becomes a political issue.

The need to prepare life-planning documents

If you or someone you know is caring for someone or are part of a caregiver team, it’s important to create a Living Trust. Our comprehensive Trust portfolio includes a Power of Attorney and an Advance Healthcare Directive. It’s important to sign these legal documents while someone still has testamentary capacity. With a Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive, you or a member of your team will be able to make important healthcare and financial decisions in the event your family member becomes incapacitated.

Our dedicated team has assisted hundreds of families in creating their Living Trusts

We’re responsive and available throughout the process. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable. Schedule an appointment today at one of our three Bay Area offices.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

AB-5 Signed into Law: But What Happens Next?

California’s Assembly Bill 5 (AB-5) took effect on January 1, 2020. The bill is an effort to curtail the hiring of independent contractors that leaves many workers without the stability that comes with employee status—healthcare benefits, a retirement account and accrued vacation time.

AB-5 is an effort to force companies to hire their contractors as employees with benefits

Assembly Bill 5 is designed to cut down on the number of contractors in the workforce, known as the gig economy. The gig economy is based on short-term engagements, temporary contracts and independent contracting. A total of 36% of workers, or 57 million Americans, now work in the gig economy, which means they’re missing out on employee benefits.
The law implements a California Supreme Court decision that imposes a three-pronged test to identify those workers who are still free to be contract workers and those who must be a hired as employees.
  • A worker can be an independent contractor only if he or she is free from the control and direction of the hirer
  • A worker must perform work that falls outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.
Under the requirement, janitors could work as independent contractors only when they have contracts with companies not in the business of cleaning. Companies that outsource their cleaning or janitorial services would be exempt from the law. Or a rideshare driver could work under a contract with Uber or Lyft only if those companies were primarily in the business of, say, selling vacuum cleaners.
It’s a rigid framework, says labor law firm Fisher Phillips, that will appear, in “the nightmares of your average gig economy business executives.”

Contractors are starting the New Year with a lot of uncertainty

Many contractors and freelancers choose to work as contractors for a wide range of reasons. Says one Uber-driving mom, “I have to pick my kids up or drop them off. I do that and come back to work, which is driving. What shift or employer is going to let me do that other than this?”

Creating pathways to form (stronger) unions

Yet Gov. Newsom’s next step “is creating pathways for more workers to form a union, collectively bargain to earn more, and have a stronger voice at work.” Newsom’s plan includes persuading political, labor, and business leaders to support an effort in which “workers excluded from the National Labor Relations Act” would have “the right to organize and collectively bargain.”

Unions have done a lot that is right

A lot of courageous people struggled and died so that we could have a 40-hour work week, safe working conditions and benefits. We’ve watched as those benefits have continued to dwindle.

Yet AB-5 may hurt many part-time workers

  • Seniors who may be picking up contract jobs to supplement their social security incomes.
  • Churches with declining congregations that can’t afford full-time staff.
  • Seasonal businesses and others who rely on part-time workers in the off-season.
Opponents believe that AB-5 will rob workers of the freedom and flexibility they want and often need from freelance work. For thousands of workers, freelancing work is attractive for its flexibility. Workers may have a spouse or partner with a full-time job, and they’re the ones who need the flex time to care for the kids while continuing to have careers.

Independent contractors may not feel exploited

According to The Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton, “there are tens of thousands of independent contractors who apparently don’t feel the slightest bit exploited. And they don’t want anything to do with formal employment or unions.” On the other hand, many employees who wish they had protections such as unemployment insurance and overtime pay may appreciate the new protections.

There are some exemptions from AB-5

Prior to its passage, AB-5 was the subject of major lobbying efforts on both sides of the issue. The result is that more than 50 professions or types of businesses are exempt from the bill. Exemptions include doctors, dentists, insurance agents, lawyers, real estate agents, hairstylists, and a variety of creative professionals.
AB5 also exempts business-to-business contractors who meet 12 specific requirements and referral agencies that meet ten specific requirements.

The “exemptions” and their consequences

The bill will make it illegal for contractors who reside in California to create more than 35 pieces of content in a year for a single company, unless the outlet hires them as employees. A nonprofit legal foundation is suing California on behalf of freelance workers who say that AB-5 will destroy their livelihoods. Thousands of California female freelancer writers, single moms and minorities stand to lose their livelihoods due to this bill,” said one freelance writer. “I was told by a client that because I live in California they can’t use me.” They’re blackballing California writers. For those who are competing for national writing gigs, AB-5 is a direct threat to their income.

What’s next for AB-5?

We can likely expect to see some lengthy legal battles over enforcement. AB-5 enables the California attorney general, city attorneys and local prosecutors to sue companies over violations. Large companies with deep pockets (Uber and Lyft, where this whole thing started) would likely fight their cases for years.  There’s a lot at stake when people’s jobs are on the line. Expect years of lobbying efforts for industry-related exemptions at the legislative level.

Living Trusts are an important parts of estate planning

When it comes to financial planning, a Living Trust is an important part of the process. Our Trust package includes a Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive. Our dedicated team has assisted hundreds of families in creating and updating their Trusts. We’re responsive and available throughout the process. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable. Schedule an appointment today at one of our three Bay Area offices.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Remember the Peace Corps? Look for a Peace Corps Of Caregivers

Who remembers the Peace Corps? It was a government program, a way for mostly young volunteers to help others while expanding their own world views that goes back to the Kennedy administration. Volunteers served two years in foreign countries. But no one was assigned to Paris or London; rather, they went to developing countries they’d never heard of—Djibouti, Nicaragua or Niger.

The Peace Corps was a successful program

Those I knew who participated in the Peace Corps learned so much from this experience. One colleague helped build irrigation systems in rural Guatemala. He knew nothing about irrigation when he graduated from college. He’d lived a pretty pampered life, and being thrown into this situation was startling for him. He was suddenly the project manager with absolutely no idea what to do. Yet he rolled up his sleeves and got to work. The experience was a difference-maker in his life. He developed self-reliance and problem-solving skills that he’d never had before. He fell in love with Guatemala and its warm, generous people. The experience shaped his career and his life.

Using the Peace Corps model to help seniors age in place

So what would happen if we used that model and created a national program that mobilized volunteers to help seniors age in place? One is on the way.

Look for the emergence of the National Volunteer Care Corps

The Administration for Community Living, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, is taking steps to establish a National Volunteer Care Corps.
If this program is successful, healthy retirees and young adults would check in on seniors, take them to appointments, shop for groceries, shovel sidewalks, or just come for a visit to relieve them from isolation. They would be giving family caregivers a much-needed break. Younger volunteers might get class credit at a community college or small stipends. Older volunteers could enjoy a satisfying sense of purpose.

The need is immediate and growing

The need is dramatic and growing as the ranks of the oldest Americans ― those age 85 and up, who tend to have multiple chronic illnesses and difficulty performing daily tasks ― are set to swell to 14.6M in 2040, up from more than 6M now.

Who will care for these seniors?

  • More than 34M unpaid family caregivers currently shoulder that responsibility, along with 3.3M paid personal care and home health aides.
  • Remember that most of these family caregivers are stretched thin, working full time, caring for their kids as they care for their parents or other elderly family members.
  • Filling those jobs is difficult due to low pay, difficult work conditions, limited opportunities for professional advancement and high turnover.

Four organizations will spearhead the Care Corps project

Oasis Institute, which runs the nation’s largest volunteer intergenerational tutoring program; the Caregiver Action Network; the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging; and the Altarum Institute, which works to improve care for vulnerable older adults.
The initial grant is $3.8M; total funding for the five-year project is expected to be $19M.

It starts with small grants to develop innovative programs

Up to 30 organizations will get 18-month grants of $30,000 to $250,000. The goal is to discover innovative, effective programs that offer services to diverse communities. “We’re aiming to create a volunteer infrastructure that can last and be sustainable.”
  • All volunteers will undergo background checks and training, with an emphasis on evaluating program results.
  • Services could include preparing meals, taking seniors to church or home-based tech support for computer users, among many other possibilities.

Care Corps faces big challenges

The grant is tiny, compared with the trillions of dollars spent on health care.
  • It could take a long time to build it into a national effort that attracts more investment.
  • Recruiting volunteers could be another challenge. This is the biggest issue we face,” said executive director Elaine Whitford. “We get a lot of interest,” Whitford said, “then people realize that this just isn’t going to fit into their schedules.”

Small amounts of volunteer caregiving can make big differences in people’s lives

“Volunteer caregiving can make the difference between someone having quality of life and not having any at all,” said Inez Russell, board chair of the organization. She’s also the founder of Friends for Life, a Texas program that offers volunteer aid to seniors trying to live independently and that reaches out to seniors who don’t have family members on birthdays and holidays, among other services. Altogether, the two programs reach about 4,000 people a year.

Another creative way to stay connected and create community: A time bank

In Montpelier, VT, Joan Black, who’s 88 and lives alone in a one-bedroom apartment, has been a member of a time bank for ten years. Members contribute goods and services (a ride to the airport, a homemade casserole, a newly knit baby sweater) to the time bank and receive goods and services in exchange. Black gives out information about the program at farmers markets and other community events–her way of banking credits.

An important part of the life-planning process is creating a Living Trust

Our comprehensive Trust portfolio includes a Power of Attorney and an Advance Healthcare Directive. It’s important to sign these documents while someone still has testamentary capacity. With a Power of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directive, you or a member of your team will be able to make important healthcare and financial decisions in the event your family member becomes incapacitated.
Our dedicated team has assisted hundreds of families in creating their Living Trusts. We guide our clients through the process. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable. Schedule an appointment today at one of our three Bay Area offices.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

A new year is the time to see what’s trending and what’s fallen from favor. There is nothing scientific about this list. It’s gathered from a range of publications that claims to be in the know about what’s hot or not across a wide range of topics.

Consumers are embracing sustainability

Happily, consumers are getting serious about environmental issues on a number of levels. The Trump administration may choose to ignore it, but Americans clearly understand the urgency of protecting our environment.


Low-fat diets

Manufacturers have tricked us by coming up with low-fat versions of our favorite foods—specifically yummy things like cookies, cereals, muffins, etc. The problem is that Americans never quite got that low-fat doesn’t mean low-calorie. When fat was removed from these products, it was replaced with refined carbohydrates, which many health experts blame for the country’s obesity epidemic. The result? People are getting fat on low-fat food!

The growing health problem of vaping

When electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) were first introduced, they were promoted as a smoking cessation tool and a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes. Now vaping has been linked to more than 2,500 hospitalizations and 54 deaths for lung injury, as per the CDC. Tragically, it has also hooked a new generation on nicotine.

Plastic straws

A big shoutout to local lawmakers and big businesses, including Starbucks, for leading the way on this one. Plastic straws are being phased out in many areas of the country. Straws are just one component of a bigger push to cut down on all of the plastic that’s piling up in landfills and polluting wildlife and waterways. Many cafes now offer compostable straws as an alternative; others have turned to metal options. To think about: Do you really need a straw?

Kale: It’s finally over

Kale may pack a wallop of vitamins and nutrients, but so do other dark leafy greens, including collard and mustard greens, bok choy, spinach and dark, leafy lettuce. It’s also time for Swiss chard to have its moment in the sun.

Food waste

Between 30-40% percent of the country’s food supply gets wasted each year. The best way to reduce food waste is not to create it in the first place. Shop smart, plan out meals and buy only what is needed. If you have a fridge full of limp vegetables, throw them into a pot of stock for a quick and easy soup or whip up a frittata.

Sugar-sweetened beverages

Sugar-sweetened beverages are full of empty calories and pack on unwanted pounds. I used to share office space with a colleague who drank one of those 67-oz. bottles of coke every day. That’s a full day’s worth of empty calories! Look for substitutes. The sparkling water industry is doing interesting things with carbonated options, and they’re infusing natural fruit into water.

Processed plant-based foods

The new impossible burgers, thick, juicy, meat-like (but meat-free) patties, are showing up on fast-food and restaurant menus. But these wannabe burgers and other highly processed foods are loaded with sodium.


Telemedicine. Changing the way doctors and patients interact

I lived in San Francisco for a long time and my health care providers are still in the City. Yet I live in Napa. When I have a question for my doctor of 20+ years, she makes me schlep all the way to San Francisco for a five-minute consultation. This is old medicine. More hospitals and physicians are meeting with their patients over video calls. Some are monitoring patients’ blood pressure, sleep and activity levels through wearable devices. More than 75% of U.S. hospitals are connecting with patients and consulting physicians through technology, the American Hospital Association reports.

Youth activists who inspire us; leading the fight for a better world

It’s not just Greta Thunberg, the courageous 16-year-old Swedish climate activist and Time’s 2019 Person of the Year. Helena Gualinga, a teen Indigenous activist from the Ecuadorian Amazon, took world leaders to task at the COP 25 climate summit and accused oil companies of violating our human rights. University students in India are protesting a new citizenship law that excludes Muslim migrants. The students at Parkland High School mobilized after the shooting that slaughtered their classmates. These brave young people are raising the bar for all of us.

A boom in college access

More and more people are going to college. Access to higher education has expanded rapidly across the globe over the last five years, says Michael Green, CEO of Social Progress Imperative, and he expects this trend to continue in 2020.

The Internet of things

The Internet of things is a phrase we’ll be hearing more of. It’s about the pervasiveness of the internet, how it is integrated into every part of our lives. As we embrace 2020, experts estimate that more than 30 billion devices will be connected. Advanced technology translates to huge development opportunities in well, everything we do–politics, education, media, health, commerce and leisure.

Weconomics: Crowdfunding takes off

Look for crowdfunding to explode. The US leads the trend, but crowdfunding is also flourishing across the Eurozone. We could see a radical change in the funding landscape for entrepreneurs and SMEs. Here’s where it gets interesting–people will want to own a share in these startups–becoming respected partners rather than just generous consumers.

Food: Cooking as a craft

From food industry pros to home cooks, it’s time to get back to cooking as a craft, cooking that’s soulful. In-house, scratch preparation of foods is gaining momentum for foods such as mustards, jams and preserves, pickles, mayonnaise, breads and stocks. Home cooks are interested in learning techniques such as breaking down a whole chicken, canning, making gravies and sauces and fermenting foods.

Eco-friendly home design

Sustainability surfaces again in home design as Americans gravitate toward more eco-friendly lifestyles. It shows up in overall design sensibility as well as in a desire to bring warm, earthy elements into our interior spaces.

We look forward to assisting our clients with their uncontested legal matters

As we embrace another year, we look forward to assisting our clients with their uncontested legal matters. Whether it’s a DivorceLiving TrustProbate or Business Formation, we guide our clients through the process. We prepare the legal documents and file them with the courts. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable. Schedule an appointment today at one of our three Bay Area offices.