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Beware these Insurance Policies!

It is quite common for family members to feel the need to purchase insurance after the death of a family member or close friend. Often, they are motivated to protect other family members from the financial stresses that occurred after the recent loss. While the motive is noble, there is still reason to proceed with caution. Jay McDonald recently posted an article entitled “14 Useless Insurance Policies.” Included in that list are:
- Accidental death insurance
- Cancer/dreaded disease insurance
- Optional group life insurance.

Gail Hillebrand, senior attorney for Consumers Union says, “All of the single-purpose insurances turn out to be a bad deal.” MacDonald adds, “…on more than a dozen policies—especially narrowly focused single-purpose coverage on things like accidental death, cancer, credit card fraud and mortgages—we simply fall victim to fear and salesmanship…”

At SharedSorrows.com, we receive calls weekly from grieving families who are struggling to find a way to pay for the funeral services of a loved one. Rather than purchasing a pre-paid funeral plan, funeral insurance or accidental death insurance, we strongly recommend purchasing a term-life insurance policy from a reputable insurance company. Single-purpose policies (such as funeral insurance) restrict the ways in which insurance proceeds may be used. Thus, if you can only afford a $15,000 policy, is it more important to you to have an elaborate funeral—or to have a reasonable funeral, and have remaining funds that will allow a family member to travel to the services or funds to allow your spouse to pay off the mortgage? Make sure the policy will protect you and your loved ones—not enrich unethical funeral service providers!

 

It’s Never Too Late to Plan

This week we will look at a couple who have had fun, enjoyed life and yet they have not prepared for the future.  A turn of events in life brings them to the realization that their life style needs adjusting and they must think ahead.  Meet the Andersons, Samantha and Bill.

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Samantha and Bill truly loved life and everything in it.  They worked hard and played hard and just never concerned themselves with tomorrow.  The most popular couple in their upper middle class neighborhood, they were the life of every party and were always at the top of the invitation list. And they also liked to throw parties, inviting guests to evening cookouts and swimming at their tropically themed home in Central Florida.  Their happy go lucky nature was infectious and Bill could make a crowd laugh for hours.

Unfortunately, things at home weren’t nearly so much fun as they seemed to others.  Oh, they loved and were devoted to each other but they had never planned for life and were “living on borrowed time” as far as their finances were concerned.  Bill and Sam both worked and had good jobs; Bill was a construction superintendent and Sam was a successful real estate broker, yet they never saved money or planned for a rainy day.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, they had not completed an estate plan, had no will and they had not saved sufficiently for the future.  Funeral planning was out of the question and no evaluation of funeral costs and funeral expenses had been performed, nor had any funeral plans even been contemplated.   The two of them were a disaster waiting to happen should fate rear its ugly head.

Sam was a shopaholic, always picking up unneeded things while Bill was always planning short, yet expensive vacations that they could ill afford.  And, of course, their entertainment expenses were high.  But while Bill acted unconcerned outwardly, he had deep seated fears inside about what the future for his family might be.  His two children were grown and reasonably self-sufficient and Bill also worried that they had developed the same lifestyle habits that they learned from him when they lived at home.

Despite his nagging concerns, life went on in its usual fashion until tragedy struck in Bill’s family.  His older brother, Jack, a good and wise man was killed in a serious car accident.  Upon notification, Bill and Sam hurriedly got ready and were off on the eight hour drive to the old homestead.

Jack bought his parent’s home from their estate when they died and the extended family gathered there for most holidays.  Special birthdays, Christmas, and usually at least one long weekend in the summer brought these two brothers together with their families for fun and frolic, but Bill was always a little bit jealous of his big brother for having the finances to buy the place.  He always loved returning to the family homestead, however, and he was glad it had stayed in the family yet he knew it would never be the same again with Jack gone.

Arriving late in the afternoon, the house was ablaze with lights and a number of cars were parked out front indicating that friends were giving their condolences.  As they walked to the door, nephew Paul came and greeted them with a hug although there were tears in his eyes. He and his dad were extremely close.

Sister-in-law Jean excused herself from her visitors and came to the door, hugging them both.  She was holding up well and she dearly loved Bill and Sam.

“You know the drill, Bill,” she said. “Put your things in your guest room, wash up if you want and then come down and meet some of our friends. We can talk privately when everyone is gone.”

After freshening up, Bill and Sam came down to visit.  They knew some of the visitors and all reminisced about Jack and what a good man he was.  When the visitors left and the extended family was together, Jean asked them to come in the den. She had something she wanted to show them.

“Jack told me many times that he wanted you at my side in carrying out his wishes, Bill”, she offered.  “Here is his funeral plan and I’d like you to review it with me.  Sam, you’re welcome to participate if you wish.”

Sam just sat nearby listening while Jean went over things with Bill.  He was absolutely amazed at the detail of the plan.  Jack had prepared in advance a complete funeral plan, starting with the estimate of likely funeral costs and funeral expenses and the source of the funds to pay for his final rites.  The body already was on hold at the cremation services facility and would be cremated after Bill had the opportunity for a viewing.  The funeral would be in two days and Paul had served as the obituary writer since he was a literary agent.

“I’m really lucky, Bill”, Jean said.  “Jack had his estate plan in order with his attorney and probate will be easy.  I am fortunate that I will be able to live comfortably although it won’t be the same without him”.

Bill hugged her as tears began to flow, and Sam also patted her on the back.  Then, after she sighed, she told Bill that Jack had left a special envelope for him. She went to get it.

Returning with an impressive box and an envelope, he knew what it was.  The box contained his father’s coin collection and a gold ring he had received from his father when he was a little boy. Jean said that Jack wanted him to have it as he knew in his heart that Jack wished he had the family house.

Jack sobbed and didn’t know what to say.  After all, Jack didn’t have to show such generosity.  It was a very valuable assortment and the ring was also appraised at great value, but the sentimental value was priceless.  Jack had received it as was customary in families where the father was born in the Old Country, in this case Scotland.

The funeral went well and after a four day visit, Bill and Sam headed home.  While driving, Bill poured out his heart about how they needed to change their lifestyle.

“Sam, we have to learn from Jack and Jean,” he said.  “We’re in our late forties and we have to start saving money and stop living above our means.  I don’t want something to happen to me and leave you with a mess.”

“You’re right, Honey,” Sam replied. “I want to live a long time with you and I don’t want us to end up in our old age in poverty.  Let’s talk to John next door; he’s a great financial planner. Let’s make a plan and stick to it.”

When they got home, they went to work to solve their problem.  John helped them analyze their situation and offered suggestions for how to change their lifestyle and make up for lost time.  It was difficult at first, but once they got into the groove, they were surprised at how easy it was.  And for the first time in months, Bill’s nagging concerns were gone. He felt better than he had in years.

And every night when they turned in for bed, he said his prayers and he thanked God for using the tragedy of his big brother’s death to wake him up.  He promised to stay on course for the rest of his life.

“And Lord”, he asked. “Please take care of my big brother until I see him again.  And tell him I love him.”  Then he smiled as he drifted off to sleep.

James Dick

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book page: www.honeyweshouldaboughttheark.com

Author of Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark, a 2014 best read selection of American Pet Magazine

 

Things Can Change Quickly

In making a funeral plan, we generally consider funeral costs, determining whether burial or cremation services will be used, obituary writer and funeral clergy selection, and whether or not we need funeral insurance or some other funeral fund to help defray the costs which today can be quite high.  Finally, we also must review our probate and estate plan to insure that our loved ones can live reasonably well after we are gone.

The one thing we never think of when making plans, however, is the death of a child.  We always assume that our children will outlive us and generally that is a correct assumption.  But as we all well know, life doesn’t always work out the way we plan and death never takes a holiday.

Sadly, the warm weather which is here now and the activity of young people who naturally think they are immune from harm can combine to create a disastrous situation.  With school letting out and summer almost upon us, now is a good time to talk with your children, be they five or eighteen, about their need to act responsibly and safely in the many fun activities which summer brings.

Following is a true story which involves an acquaintance of my son while celebrating graduation from high school.  The names and location are changed to protect the privacy of the living relatives of the deceased and to respect his memory and peace.  I tell it not to frighten anyone but to make real for others the need to realize just how fleeting the gift of life can.  And since God has given us free will and with it the ability to make choices, poor choices can sometimes result in bad things happening to otherwise good people.

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Johnny was excited.  He was graduating from high school soon and was looking forward to going away to college in September.  He had a good summer job with a local hardware store and enjoyed helping the many customers who came by daily for needed supplies.  But he really looked forward to his free time in the summer since, living in a coastal town, fun in the sun at the beach or on the water was what he and his buddies would be enjoying.

Swimming, waterskiing and fishing were all in the game plan and, of course, whenever they were near the water there were also plenty of pretty girls.  Boys will be boys, but unfortunately they often do stupid things around pretty girls to hopefully impress them or at least gain their attention.  This would prove to be a big mistake for Johnny, one we’ll learn about shortly.

The final week of school went by and graduation was held outdoors at the school’s football stadium.  It was a great occasion and Johnny and his friends immediately left for the beach home of his best friend, Tom.  Tom’s father was well to do and had a beautiful beach home on the ocean about an hour’s drive from the school.  It was within walking distance of a marina, several nice restaurants and the shops and teen hangouts that are always found in beach towns.  A group of four of them had been invited to spend the weekend and relax and enjoy themselves.  Tom’s mom and dad would be in and out, but they trusted these boys they had known since they were children and it was a very close knit group.  Besides, they were warned that the party would abruptly end if any intemperate behavior was involved.

A considerable number of their friends were also spending the weekend at the beach and they made arrangements to meet after dinner the next night at the Rec Center, a group of businesses in a small shopping center beside the beach that catered to the weekend and vacationing set.  It included a fishing pier, ice skating rink, bowling alley and games center, a dance floor catering to teens and numerous eating establishments and shops. 

Linking up in the parking lot, they decided to check out the fishing pier and see if anything was biting.  They had brought their tackle with them and were dying to try their luck.  Besides, it was a beautiful moonlit night, and from the pier the moon shimmered in the water and looking back to shore the twinkling lights up and down the coast were clearly visible beneath the starry sky.

The girls who joined them really weren’t very keen on the fishing idea, so the boys promised if they didn’t have any luck within two hours they would take them dancing.  The girls smiled and were appeased and relented in their complaints.  After all, if they wanted to have a girls’ night out they would have been better off back home.

After an hour or so the boys were growing impatient.  They had only caught two fish and neither were “keepers”.  And this is when things went awry, for the boys started bragging about who could walk the railing from shore to the end and back the fastest.  Johnny’s friend, Tom went first and completed the circuit quickly with no problems. One of the other boys was next and then it was Johnny’s turn.

The railing was four feet high and it was eighteen feet above the water and while wide enough to navigate for someone with good balance, an occasional larger wave coming in would cause the pier to sway a small degree, enough to affect concentration.  Johnny took a deep breath, climbed up and gained his balance and composure and turned seaward.  Heading down the railing he looked strong and confident.  No one could tell he was nervous but he wasn’t about to “chicken out”.

As he made the turn at the end to return to complete his walk, one of the girls yelled that a big swell was coming.  As Johnny looked back and saw the six footer approach, large for an otherwise calm night, he began to lose balance and the passing wave delivered the finishing touch.  Johnny plunged the eighteen feet into the water and didn’t immediately surface.

Tom ran to the point where he fell, looked down, saw nothing and dove in to search for his friend.  It was pitch black in the water below the pier and Tom dove under several times, coming up empty handed and gasping for air before he finally found Johnny.  His body was limp and his head was at a funny tilt.  Using every ounce of strength that he had, he managed to swim with his lifeless friend toward shore, using the incoming waves to push him along.

Finally reaching the beach, he pulled Johnny out of the water and set him down in the damp sand.  One of the girls ran to the rec center to get help while Tom, a certified life guard with experience in CPR, worked on Johnny trying to get him to breathe.  His valiant attempts were unsuccessful and all he could do was wait helplessly for the rescue squad to arrive.

The arriving medic checked Johnny’s pulse and found none, and he noticed the angle of his head which indicated that his neck was broken.  There was nothing anyone could do.  Johnny’s unbalanced fall had resulted in his hitting the water at a bad angle, resulting in his immediate death.

Tom was devastated and blamed himself.  If only he hadn’t thought up the stupid challenge, everything would have been okay and Johnny would still be alive.  It took him the entire summer to return to any semblance of normalcy, despite Johnny’s parents telling him they knew it wasn’t his fault.  They knew the boys were subject to free will and, in this instance, they had made a bad decision and Johnny and Tom both paid the price. Johnny was dead and Tom would have to live with the memory of a horrible accident at a time when they both should have been enjoying their graduation celebration and a wonderful summer.

Death is unfortunately a fate that we all must face and we never know when it will come for each of us.  And I don’t tell this story to show the necessity of having a funeral plan made for someone in advance as young as Johnny, for even the best prepared of us is not likely to plan in advance for this type of occurrence.  But it is important for us to make arrangements much greater than a funeral plan for all of our loved ones, young and old, and it takes their buy in and their acceptance.

The plan I am talking about is one that can only come through individual faith. Having faith in God through His Son, who died for us, is the only way we can truly plan for our future.  For our ultimate future is not in this world, but rather an eternal one involving our life everlasting with the Father.  Teach your children wisely so that they have a plan in place whenever that fateful ending to life happens.  It is the only way to truly live.

God bless you all and have a safe and happy summer, but always put Him first. Your life depends on it.

James Dick

Hawthorne, Florida

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book page: www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark or

www.amazon.com/author/jamesdick

 

A Lack of Preparation

Ted Willis lived next door to a funeral home director, Bob Barrow.  They had been friends for many years and Ted always told Bob that when he was ready to make plans for his ultimate demise he would let Bob know.  Bob had even gone so far as to bring him a funeral planning kit, complete with a funeral checklist, information about probate and estate planning, analysis data on funeral costs and funeral expense plus a burial insurance brochure.  Ted thanked him, gave it a cursory look and then put it in his desk file for later reference.

Ted had been promising his wife, Susan that they would take a long overdue trip skiing as a second honeymoon. Ted worked hard as a Professional Engineer and he hadn’t done something special for just the two of them in a long time.  Besides, her parents, Mark and Emily Mears, lived in the same town and always wanted to keep their two girls so there was really no reason to delay any longer.

Ted kept the plans secret but he knew how much his wife enjoyed the mountains.  She had grown up in Fairbanks, Alaska and now living on the Gulf Coast she would love a change of scenery from seashore and flat land.  Some really cold weather would also be nice. He decided to take her to Colorado where they could enjoy the snow and do some skiing.  Both had been very good skiers when they were first married and they would just need to refresh their skills and limit their exercise to the moderate slopes.

Two weeks later, Ted and Susan said goodbye to their children Becky and Angela, thanked Susan’s parents for coming to stay, and headed for the airport.  The weatherman indicated good ski weather with some off and on snow and plenty of powder already on the ground.  They boarded their plane in Gulfport for the beginning of the flight to Denver via change of planes in Memphis. 

About six hours later they landed in Denver and caught the shuttle to the rental car pick-up point.  The driver asked where they were headed; he showed concern when they said Steamboat Springs.  He told them they might want to delay for a day since a surprise storm was brewing but they felt sure things would be okay.

About twenty minutes out of Denver it began lightly snowing.  By the time their exit point on I-70 to Highway 40 North toward Steamboat Springs the snow had become heavy, but there was no sign of road closure so they kept going, watching the storm further intensify.  Noticing that the traffic was almost non-existent, they began to become concerned but there was really nowhere to turn around due to the snow piling up everywhere along the curvy roadway.  Then suddenly, disaster struck.

The car hit an icy page and started spinning out of control.  It careened toward the shoulder and slipped over the side, dropping into a thirty foot ravine.  Flipping twice, it came to a stop at about a thirty degree angle on its side.  The seat belts had kept them safe but they were momentarily disoriented. 

He tried to get the door open but it was wedged into a snow bank which covered about two thirds of the front of the car.  There was no getting out and the vehicle was quickly becoming covered in near blizzard conditions. Their heavy cold weather gear was in the trunk with no way to get to it.

Ted hugged his wife close and tried to use his cell phone but there was no service.  He prayed that someone would find them in the cold because his engine wouldn’t start and it was now freezing inside the car.  As he slowly became numb he thought about his wife, his two precious girls and how difficult things would be for them if something miraculous didn’t happen.  And he wished that instead of this special trip he had taken Bob’s advice and used that funeral planning kit while he still could.  The last thing he did before falling unconscious was to scribble a note of love to his girls telling them to get help from their next door neighbor in what they would have to do.

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When Emily Mears had no word from her daughter of safe arrival by the next day, she called the inn in Steamboat Springs.  She was informed that the couple never checked in but they may have spent the night en route because of the bad weather.  The innkeeper said that if they weren’t there by nightfall he would notify the Highway Patrol.  At six p.m. sharp he did so.

The Highway Patrol was busy that night, there were a large number of cars stranded or missing and they were searching the roadway from Steamboat Springs all the way back to I-70, a long and grueling stretch of road with the conditions very poor.  They pulled out a number of stuck cars with many motorists suffering from frostbite and they even found a couple of cars that had left the roadway with occupants deceased, but no one found Ted and Susan Willis in the ravine under a snowbank.

Four days later, after a quick thaw and bright sunshine, the car was spotted and the unlucky couple was found dead, frozen to death while huddled together. They also found the note Ted had written still clutched in his stone cold hand.

When the phone rang after four days, the Mears’ knew the news wasn’t good. They were informed of the death and also told about the note.  Since they knew the neighbor, Bob Barrow, they called him immediately and told him of their sadness and about the note.  He had been very comforting to them in the past few days and they knew how fond he and his wife were of Ted and Susan.

Bob immediately came over and took the information very hard.  He asked if they would give permission for him to start looking into funeral arrangements since, as difficult as that was, it had to be done quickly. He told them that since he knew Ted never used his funeral planning kit he would need their help, but first he would have to talk with the Ted’s trust officer, who handled the trust for the children which was the guiding force for the will. They immediately concurred and he quickly got to work.

About a week later the bodies of Ted and Susan Willis were received at Barrow’s Funeral Home.  The arrangements were taken care of, the beautiful memorial service and burial were carried out masterfully and, with the help of their grandparents who were given custody of the two girls, life would go on.  The parents would certainly be missed, but they would be remembered forever and the family was able to attain closure.

But what if Ted and Susan didn’t have a good friend like Bob Barrow and grandparents nearby who loved, and were dearly loved by, the girls?  What would a grieving family do to face loss of both parents at once while also having to plan and carry out final arrangements quickly?  That is the reason for presenting this sad but realistic situation, many similar events happening all too often these days.  Life can throw some strange curve balls and it is certainly easier to handle them if we are prepared.  Be ready for all possibilities for we never know when it is our time to be called home. Act accordingly.

God bless you all and have a great week.  And keep the Holy Spirit in your soul and the love of your country in your heart always. God bless America.

James Dick

Hawthorne, Florida

www.northfloridawriter.com

www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

Author of Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark, a Best Read Selection for 2014 by American Pet Magazine

 

The Mind Needs Exercise, Too (Part 2 of 2)

This week we’ll stay on the subject of maintaining personal health by focusing on the mind.  Along with physical exercise, mental exercise is critical to keeping our overall health excellent so that we can live a longer and higher quality life.  This doesn’t mean that funeral planning and all of its factors, from probate and estate planning, to determining funeral costs, evaluating the value of burial insurance or funeral insurance, and even learning how to deal with grief and depression are not important. Rather, it means that good health will make us stronger and much more able to deal effectively with these and other tasks and challenges that life brings our way.  Each of them are important when the time comes, and whatever we can do physically and mentally to be better fit for them will be of great benefit.

Doing what we can to maintain mental fitness is every bit as important as the physical side.  One without the other leads to a partial existence, yet when combined together our capacity for accomplishment increases many fold.  Maintaining full functionality and alertness of mind is a never ending workout.  Mental exercise is a major force for a positive attitude and the provision of a long and meaningful life. It also makes a person better able to cope with problems and thereby avoid issues such as serious bouts with grief and depression in those times when your life might be in turmoil.  Additionally, it helps to ward off the incursion of negative thoughts.

My dear departed mother had a little saying that she used on me constantly when I was a boy.  It was simply this, “An idle mind is the Devil’s workshop”.  Some of you who are older like me may have heard it and it pretty well expressed her expectations that my daily life should be busy.

Mom was a very old fashioned girl and in those days children were expected to be busy.  School, chores, play and homework were all part of the daily routine, something which sadly is missing today with many young people.  The components of the day kept me well rounded and fit and by the end of each day I was tired and ready for bed.  Television was not part of the weekly schedule unless it was a special treat and it was at an early hour.

Mom spent most of her life being very active and this included her constant efforts to maintain her mental alertness even as she aged.  She maintained hand and eye coordination knitting quilts and making doll clothes for the local medical auxiliary charity drives.  Her work was always a hit and sold out quickly.  It’s too bad that we children didn’t appreciate her delicate handiwork as they would be collector’s items today.

She also loved crossword puzzles and I can remember her earnestly checking with her handy dictionary as she worked on them.  Her acuity was also seen when we had play a family game of Scrabble and her talent was formidable.  She just giggled as she won hands down.

Only when her physical pain from debilitating arthritis finally limited her physical mobility in her last years of life did her mental skills start to diminish.  By that time she wasn’t reading and working with words as much and watched more television.  The passivity of television in place of the active interface with the visual word took its toll and was markedly noted with the onset of dementia.   She died about two years later at the age of ninety-one.

I mention my mother’s situation to show just how important keeping the mind active is to good mental health and vitality.  Reading, writing, playing mind games and other such exercises are truly good for maintaining sound capacity.  And these things are also enjoyable and allow us to continue a useful life even when we become frail physically.  I even knew of an elderly blind man who despite his handicap continued writing actively in braille. He even kept copious notes from radio programs as a means of practice.

We can’t stop the process of aging entirely, but we certainly can impede it and thereby allow for a longer span of active life than we might experience otherwise.  So the next time your find yourself in a situation facing grief and depression, get busy.  Write that letter that you’ve been putting off, read a good book or write that book that you’ve always wanted to do.  It will enhance you and make the world look so much better.  And it will certainly fill that void where the idle mind opens you to negative factors.  Stay positive, use your mind productively and you will be richly rewarded by your results.

Until next time, have a wonderful week, God bless you and God bless America.

James Dick

Web page: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book pages: www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

                       www.amazon.com/author/jamesdick

 

Our Legacy is the Way We Live

As we get older and begin to face our mortality, we naturally think much about our families and how we want life to be for them after we are gone. Certainly funeral planning, with all of the associated actions such as probate and estate planning, funeral needs and associated funeral costs, and the possible need to select an obituary writer come to mind. I think, however, that most important is the legacy that we leave behind, a legacy which is honorable, tells our life story and which makes our remaining loved ones proud. If we are successful in doing so by the way we live our life, one issue that often requires professional help, grief care, can often be negated. Let me explain why.

If we live in an upstanding manner, earning the love and respect of our loved ones, our light will shine brightly for them and in them after we are long gone. The pride that they feel having been part of our life will help them avoid grief care, for they will rest easy knowing that we have gone to a better place and a long needed rest. Oh, they will still miss us and have some moments in solitude of sadness, but the joy of their memories and the strength that our example has given them will negate the need for special help. They will be able to provide their own independent grief care with the positive light that we have left behind of ourselves.

Now having said that, what do I mean by living in an upstanding manner? After all, that is a broad term and all I can do is explain it in the manner that my heart directs me. If you don’t agree, establish your own criteria to live by but this works for me. It means trying to live the remainder of my life with the following foremost in everything I do, and I place the important things in order: God, family, and country.

God is placed first for me because He is truly my Father. Everything about me and all that I have been blessed to have comes from Him. With Him I am everything, but without Him I am nothing. And by following His Son, Jesus Christ, I am offered the opportunity to live forever with Him after this life is done.

Family is placed second and it follows after God because if I love Him and do my best to live my life as He demands my family will be cared for. And if I love Him, I will bring His love and caring to bear on them and they will ultimately reach the same conclusion from His light. In my life I have been blessed that my wife and children have accompanied my growth into becoming strong and loving Christians. They have had their ups and downs as we all have but when all is said and done they know that God is with them and that His Son, Jesus Christ, died for our sins and has offered his grace through faith.
My love of my country comes next. I was blessed to serve her in uniform and I am grateful that I was born in the greatest country on earth. I must say that I am sometimes troubled these days with some of the things that are happening but I know that if I rest my cares with God He will do His will. If that means times have to be tough for mankind to understand His truth then so be it. And when I pray to Him he will direct my energies to do what is right and just for the land that I love.

So when I die I want to be remembered for my strong belief in these three things, the second and third of which are always dependent on the first. And I know that if I live my life in this fashion and my family understands where I am coming from and has accepted a similar viewpoint about life, they will thrive after I have gone.

They may suffer some hardships and sorrow, but they will be focused on what is really important in this world. It is living your life as He would have us do and in so doing, with the love of Christ and the forgiveness He has given, they will be secure and safe whatever the future might bring.

In the end, the strength that He provides us through the gift of free leads us to true freedom. And this freedom is infectious if we display it by the way we live with love. For God expects us to live our lives with love in our heart both for Him and for mankind, even those who don’t love us. If we love in this manner we cannot fail because He loves us and He rewards those who praise Him and His Son. And that reward is the ultimate security blanket, more precious than property, gold and power. It is the gift of eternal life.

So put God in the form of the Holy Trinity, family and country in your heart in that very order. He knows that America was given a special gift of freedom like no other country has ever seen and he wants to see it strengthened and returned in full force. He also wants us to enjoy life on earth while we have it, but that enjoyment puts many worthwhile responsibilities on our shoulders. Meeting that requirement will secure both your family and your country and, for playing your part in doing so, you will leave wonderful memories for your loved ones and both you and they will be truly blessed.

God bless you all and have a great week.

James Dick
Hawthorne, Florida
Northfloridawriter.com
Author of Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark, recognized as one of the
Best Reads of 2014 by American Pet Magazine
outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

 

How Will I Be Impacted By Probate?

Death is something we just don’t like to contemplate, but when we do we think about funeral planning and the associated funeral needs, funeral costs and the associated grief and depression cycle that we know our family is likely to face. But while not as visible but of even more importance, we must take great care to complete probate and estate planning to insure that our family’s inheritance is protected to the full allowance of the law.

For most of us laymen, whenever the subject of probate and estate planning comes up we think of great complexity and we often face many questions for which we have no answers. Will my estate be subject to probate? Is there a way to avoid it? It doesn’t have to be overly complex, nor should it be, and there are some relatively simple things to eliminate many of the potential problems.

Now before I get started I want to give one disclaimer. What I will be talking about here is primarily meant for those of us who have a relatively simple estate without any real complex issues. For those of us in that category, probate might not even be necessary and for the rest of us, the information provided should be at least of general value. This does not mean that we don’t need legal help to assess our probate and estate planning requirements, but often it need be only advisory in nature and not long drawn out document preparation. A good attorney can quickly assess your needs.

So what is probate and how does it affect us? The answer is really quite simple. It’s the process of making sure that the final affairs of someone are in order before final proceeds are dispersed. It is supervised by a court of law to insure legal sufficiency and it is not required of all of us. It is really designed for those who either have very complicated estates or have not properly specified the disposition of their effects and property. It can be a relatively short process or it can take months, sometimes years, depending on the particular situation. And it is also often quite expensive with significant legal fees and court costs, so anything you can do to avoid it is normally recommended.

So how can we avoid probate? Well, there are four ways and there is one important document which is critical to this, the last will and testament. It is the key to making probate and estate planning as simple as possible. Let’s talk about the will first before we look at the options to avoid probate.

The will is basically the decedent’s documentation of how property, assets and personal effects are to be distributed after death to heirs as designated after debts are first paid. In some cases, it can be handwritten but it is usually recorded as a typed document in a format which is deemed legally sufficient. To be considered valid, the will must be signed while the holder is deemed in control of mental capacity and legally of age and in front of witnesses of legal age who also sign. This is done in the presence of a notary and affixed with the notary stamp. It is important to review this with home state criteria since each state has its own law with minor variations.

Now let’s get back to the issue of avoiding probate. It really isn’t too difficult for most of us since the average American does not have an overly complex financial situation. The four things that will help you avoid probate include each of the following:

1. Joint property ownership. Our home is generally the largest investment that we have. If you are married and have it recorded as joint property (JTROS), meaning that you and your wife own it together, the property will pass automatically to the survivor. Most people do this and it makes a huge difference.

2. Declaring death beneficiaries. Here I am talking about Pay On Death (POD) accounts and retirement accounts where you name the beneficiary and a transfer takes place to the survivor upon official notification of death. These include stock, bond and brokerage accounts but remember, the decedent must declare this intention while still alive and in control of mental capacity. This is not something that gains anything from procrastination.

3. Revocable living trusts. This is a document that is made which while similar to a will also avoids probate while keeping financial affairs private after death. Like a will it can be changed at any time while alive and is usually handled directly by the maker of the trust. Since I am not an attorney, anyone interested in finding out all the pros and cons should consult counsel to see if it is right for them.

4. Lastly, gifts. Gifts left also are excluded by probate but they must be completed before death. Again, if we want to use this option, don’t procrastinate.

Just to be absolutely clear, it is imperative for each of us to review the ramifications of probate and how it works and then determine for ourselves the appropriate way to prepare our affairs so that our loved ones will be best protected. And as I have mentioned, some of us with complicated matters may have to look at more complex matters.

My purpose here is just to provide some basic information to get the thinking process cooking. By all means, refer your questions to qualified counsel to get all the answers you need and remember that each state has some variations in their state laws that apply to residents of that state. While you can find great sources of general information on line, remember that it is just that and it does not serve as the final word on legal sufficiency.

Protect your family while you gain the peace of mind knowing that you have done what is right for them. You won’t be sorry and it will pay tremendous dividends. Another important planning detail will be taken care of and we will be secure knowing that a legal nightmare will not be something they have to dread in their future.

Praise God and may He ever be with us. And God bless America.

James Dick, author of “Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark” now available on Amazon.com
Hawthorne, Florida
www.northfloridawriter.com

James Dick Book on Amazon

 

Do You Really Want to Get Your Affairs in Order?

Over the past few months we’ve been talking about getting things in order before we die so that our families will be able to handle the difficulty of a sad, but unavoidable life change. We’ve talked about such things as funeral planning, estate planning, handling grief and depression and even the benefits of hiring a eulogy writer. But there is another something that is more important than any of these issues. That something is love. Without love, our families will always be left wishing things could have been different. And the good feelings and security of knowing they were loved will be missing in their lives.

How many of us have spent much time and effort to earn a good living, save money religiously, and we have even taken care of those mundane and boring things such as probate and estate planning while at the same time missing out on that special baseball game or recital? Or how about all those times when we were late coming home from work just to find that the family already had dinner and had gone their separate ways for the evening? What about that special anniversary that we forgot and arrived home empty handed, leaving our better half crying?

It happens to all of us and it is important that we realize the sometimes devastating impact of these shortcomings since they can be indicative of not paying attention to the importance of showing our love. After all, we want a happy family because a happy and loving family makes each member more secure and better able to handle all of the curve balls that life sends our way.

So how do we make sure that we accomplish this? Let’s look at some of the things we can do to keep family front and center in our lives, for nothing else we can do in this world can help our loved ones weather an uncertain future like good memories of a loving and caring spouse, parent or head of household. Things disappear over time but memories last a lifetime.

I recommend making a list as a guide to keeping family happiness on track. Here are some of the items I think are important that might be useful. Of course, each of us has special considerations that we want to consider. Remember, each of us has different concerns, but I think each of these plays an important part. And the list is an ongoing work in progress.

1. Love God. This has to be first and foremost. God didn’t put us here just to get rich and have fun. He put us here to glorify Him. And guess what? When we do what he asks of us, the blessings just seem to miraculously flow our way. Oh, we may not get everything just the way we want, but we’ll find wonderful things happening in our lives that we likely never expected, things that give great joy and inner peace. God wants us to live a good life and have a loving family, but it is all in the context of his ultimate plan. Accordingly, make sure when looking ahead to make Him the central emphasis of life’s future plans.
2. Love of family requires both group and individual love. This will come naturally if we love God first because when we love God we also learn to love one’s self, our spouse and family and our fellow man. Love of God naturally leads to these things. With regard to our families, it must be shown both in group activities and individually with each member. Each member craves our love and wants a close relationship, but sometimes we just have to see through exterior barriers to find it and that’s when an individual relationship is so important. Live and breathe love; it is infectious and it is often surprising how positive the response will be to living this way.
3. Spend quality time with the children; they need much attention. It is not enough to just provide for them. How many times have we seen parents who shower their kids with “stuff” in lieu of quality personal time? It’s not an adequate replacement and they know; what they really want is personal attention. Each day take the time to talk with them, find out how their day has been and offer them personal advice and counsel. They seek it and want it desperately. And don’t forget the fun times. A day at the ball park, taking them to a good family movie, stopping with them for an ice cream cone, and even just playing catch in the back yard. Routine simple things mean much more to them than we often understand.
4. Show them through our behavior. Children learn by example. If we want them to live a clean and moral life, we must show them how. And remember, if we have God in our heart this will be much easier to do. Oh, we will make mistakes from time to time, but each time we strive not to repeat. Children understand that.
5. Never forget promises. How many times have we promised a loved one something special and reneged due to the unexpected? It is very important that we do everything in our power to avoid this. We all remember this happening on occasion and the memory of one’s own experience should help to avoid the same thing happening to those who love us. The best way to avoid such problems is to make definite plans, with the timing set in advance, so that we will not disappoint.
6. Involve them in doing good deeds together. As part of living, be an example and teach them what doing good works is all about. Maybe it’s a visit to a retirement community or to a children’s hospital. Perhaps it’s being involved in Christmas caroling presented to an infirm group. Many times groups such as this don’t get many visitors and they love the attention. Whatever it is, it will show children very directly how we live and that example will dramatically impact their direction in their own lives.
7. Stay involved in their school life. Children spend a lot of time in school and what they learn is critical to their future success in life. Stay involved, visit the school, ask questions and demand that classes include teaching of those skills that will be useful. If that is not possible, find another option, including home schooling, but never accept mediocrity in the area of education.
8. Keep a diary or daily ledger. I find keeping a daily diary with ledger notes as reminders important to keeping my family life on track. And it is has another benefit, when upon death it leaves behind a wealth of information which can be used by a eulogy writer to create a realistic portrait of life.
9. Plan for some special events. Big events leave big memories. Special attention to birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings; the list can go on and on. Make sure that proper attention is given to each and memories recorded. It doesn’t have to be big budget, just big in importance.
10. Make the big holidays special. Just like the above, make special holidays just that. Special dinners, visits with grandparents, the special Christmas shopping trips and the wonders of Christmas morning, New Year’s Eve and other occasions offer opportunities for fun and excitement in a wholesome family setting. Take advantage of these times to build great memories.
11. Never forget to tell them you love them. Last, but not least, never forget to tell the wife and children that they are loved. Do it every day. Personally, I make it a habit each day to always give my wife a kiss and a hug along with an “I love you”, of course, before she leaves for work. Sometimes I even put a special love note in her lunch. Little surprises and those special three words can’t be overused.

When I look back at those eleven points I can’t help but recognize the inter-relatedness of each to the Holy Trinity, including the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and it all has to do with the importance of love. And it reminds me of the simple way in which an early church leader of Protestantism described our responsibility to God. John Wesley, an Anglican priest who is the acknowledged founder of the Methodist Church, put it this way:
“Do no harm, do good, and never fall out of love with God.”

It is a very succinct statement, easy to remember but not so easy to carry out in our daily lives. It does, however, give us a simple guideline to live our lives by, and this is the critically important plan to provide the love we are talking about.

As I previously stated, the listing given is by no means all inclusive, it is just for starters. The idea is to make each of us think about the importance of our families and the commitment that we must make if we truly love them. After all, when we die our memories are the most important thing we leave behind. And the memories that we leave etched in the mind of those we leave creates a lasting mark much greater than anything produced by a eulogy writer. Oh, money and security of lifestyle is certainly important, but if we have instilled love and caring in their hearts, and they recognize it as being good, their adjustment will be less difficult and they will be secure in the pride they have when they remember us. They will be able to handle life’s travails knowing that they were raised into love.

Let’s keep God’s love in our hearts in each and every one of life’s undertakings. And may we carry this love forward in all that we do. Love Him and follow Him. It’s what He expects from us. God bless you all.

James Dick, author of “Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark” now available on Amazon.com
Hawthorne, Florida
www.northfloridawriter.com

James Dick Book on Amazon