What every boomer needs to know, part VIII | VailDaily.com
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What every boomer needs to know, part VIII

In Parts I through VII of this series we have covered: Social Security, “delayed retirement credits,” “representative payees,” Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), reverse mortgages, senior health care issues and health benefits, various aspects of “forward planning” (including wills, living wills, powers of attorney, estate planning, estate taxes, financial planning and inheritance), debt and how to deal with debt, bankruptcy, working past retirement age, elder abuse, scams affecting seniors and identity theft. Included in the series have been a variety of contact numbers and websites dealing with these matters. If you care to read any of the first six parts of the series, they may be found on line at [ http://www.vaildaily.dom/ ]www.vaildaily.com under the “archives” section, drop down, “columnists,” keyword “Robbins.”This week’s the focus will be domestic issues, including the possibility of raising grandkids, divorce and remarriage and what to do (in a business sense at least) when you suffer the loss of a loved one. We will conclude the series next week with some comments on nursing care and legal assistance for seniors.Raising grandkids! You’ve got to be kidding! But nearly 5 million kids in this country are being raised by their grandparents. Family violence, poverty, death and illness, as well as the scourges of drugs and alcohol contribute to this grim statistic.Taking care of a child is one thing, taking legal responsibility for them is quite another. If you are not the child’s parent, in order to have legal custody you must become the child’s legal guardian. A legal guardian has the right to make many decisions for the child, including those relating to medical and educational matters, as well as determining the child’s place of residence. Becoming the legal guardian of your child’s child does not, however, eliminate the rights and obligations of the parent. To a large extent, whether or not you attempt to become the child’s legal guardian depends upon the anticipated length of time you may be caring for the child as well a reasoned calculation as to whether the parent may present a threat to the child’s welfare.In order to become a child’s legal guardian, you must involve the courts. In very broad terms, after hearing all the facts, the court must determine if appointing you as the legal guardian even in circumstances where the parent of the child objects is in the best interests of the child. Clearly, as the facts of each case are unique, whether or not the court will grant the petition appointing you as legal guardian will vary from one circumstance to the next.While divorce may be emotionally devastating when you are young, it generally does not fall with the same financial blow as divorce in later life. Not only may the emotional blow be exacerbated in a longer marriage by such issues as grown children taking sides, fears of being far-removed from dating, and just plain fear of being alone in later life, but, too cleavage of the marriage may have profound financial effects. In reality, much of the private wealth in this nation owned by seniors. Accordingly, when the assets must be divided in divorce, oftentimes the assets are not only more substantial but, too, you may have settled into a comfortable way of life you may be wont, after all these years, to forfeit. There is also the undeniable reality that you have less time to regain your losses, both financial and emotional.If your ex-spouse is receiving Social Security benefits or is deceased, you were married at least ten years and you remain single, you can still receive Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work record. Further, if both you and your ex are at least 62 years old and you ex has not applied for benefits, you may apply for and receive benefits based on your ex’s work record so long as you have been divorced and single for at least two years.If you are a widow or widower and at least 60 years old when you remarry, you can continue to receive Social Security benefits as widow or widower. Alternatively, if the benefits are higher, you could apply to receive benefits based on your new spouse’s work record. Unless your will has an automatic revocation clause which removes your spouse as a beneficiary should you divorce, upon divorce, you will likely want to amend your will. Similarly, you will likely want to change the beneficiaries under both your life insurance and any individual retirement accounts which you may own.A key phrase which is bantered about, usually during election cycles, is the “marriage penalty.” Unlike Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster, however, the myth of the marriage penalty is true. Married people do, in fact, pay higher taxes than those footloose singles. Social Security benefits and the marriage tax are at least two leading reasons why Grandma and her new beau (or vice versa), often live together in unwedded bliss rather than tying what, financially at least, can amount to a Gordian knot.Losing a loved one applies both to the surviving spouse and grown children who can be of tremendous help to a parent who has lost a long time partner. Things which need to be attended to promptly include:Making arrangements for memorial services, interment or cremation;• Securing death certificates (yes, certificates with an “s”, several copies at the least);• Consolidating important papers (the will, insurance policies, deeds, trust instruments, stocks, annuities, bank accounts and any similar such documents);• Contacting the Social Security Administration (only if the deceased was an eligible recipient);• Notifying the life insurance companies with whom the deceased was insured;• Contacting the trustee named as such in any trust or/and the attorney who prepared the trust;• Contacting the executor or “executrix” named in the will (an “executrix” is the female counterpart of an executor – if you see “executrix” in a will, it means the same thing as an executor, only, in this instance, the executor is woman);• Contacting the administrator of any pension plans in which the deceased participated;• Notifying the banks and other financial institutions (credit unions, stock brokerages, etc) with which the deceased’s accounts are located;• Contacting credit card companies; and• Contacting health insurance providers to make sure that the expenses of the deceased’s last illness have been paid.This is, of course, only a partial list which may be modified or expanded depending upon the particular circumstances of the deceased. It is important to know, too, that most states have laws that provide for unclaimed property (for example, the contents of a safe deposit box or a bank account which has remained inactive) to be forfeited to the state. The length of time the property is abandoned before it is claimed by the state varies from state to state. In many cases there are, however, means by which such property can be reclaimed.In the last part of this series, nursing care, legal resources of seniors and a few last observations. Until then, be well and thrive.Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the Bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley.He is a member of the Colorado State Bar Association Legal Ethics Committee and is a former adjunct professor of law. Robbins lectures for Continuing Legal Education for attorneys in the areas of real estate, business law and legal ethics. He may be heard 7 p.m. Wednesdays on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) as host of “Community Focus.” Reach Robbins at 926-4461 or e-mail address: robbins@colorado.net.Vail, Colorado


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