‘Diane’ examines the life unexamined

‘Diane’ examines the life unexamined

“Diane” (2018 production, 2019 release). Cast: Mary Kay Place, Jake Lacy, Estelle Parsons, Andrea Martin, Deirdre O’Connell, Glynnis O’Connor, Joyce Van Patten, Kerry Flanagan, Phyllis Somerville, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Ray Iannicelli, Marcia Haufrecht, Gabriella Rhodeen, Charles Weldon, Mary Fuller. Director: Kent Jones. Screenplay: Kent Jones. Web site. Trailer.

How often do we take stock of our lives? In many cases, we don’t even ask the question, let alone engage in the act of doing so. But, if our lives seem empty or missing something, we might consider evaluating who we are, what we’re doing and where we’re headed while we still have time to do something about it. The process may be difficult, even painful, but the solution may involve something as simple as just changing our outlook. So it is with an unstoppable caregiver in the thoughtful, profound new character study, “Diane.”

Living Her Legacy

Living Her Legacy

As Henry Ford famously proclaimed, “Whether you think you can or whether think you can’t, you’re right.” Throughout my life, I have learned that it is the mindset and determination which decides a person’s success or failure.

I share with you my humble story. I was a refugee child, who with the help of a brave, confident, and hardworking mother, I was able to realize my dream.

My name is Damyanti Gupta. I was born on May 10, 1942 in a very small village of Sindh, British India. In 1947, India became independent from Great Britain. This was not an easy accomplishment, as India was divided in two parts – India and Pakistan. The bloodiest partition in the world’s history happened in my country. The part of India where my family lived became Pakistan. There were riots everywhere, and my family had to flee in the middle of night to the coastal city of Karachi where we were loaded on the cargo ships.

We floated for several days before finally reaching Bombay. When we got off the ship, we were labelled as refugees. We couldn’t communicate with anyone because we spoke different languages. We wandered around from city to city looking for work, and we finally settled in Baroda, Gujrat where I was admitted into a refugee school. We used to sit on the floor in the classroom because there was no furniture in the school. I began learning three languages. One I had to write from right to left and two from left to right.

My mother, who had only a fourth-grade education, told me that by going to school, I would get something that nobody could take away from me – a good education. She promised to help me, but said that I would need to my part by being a good student. She reminded me of this every day and kept her promise until the end.

When I was 13 years old, our prime minister, Jawaharlal “Pandit” Nehru, visited our city. I was very excited to see him in person and to listen to his message. I  found a place on the ground near the podium where he was to speak. Nehru said that after 200 years of British rule, India had no industry and that India needed industry. He looked at us and said that India needed engineers. Surveying the crowd, he said that he wasn’t just talking to the boys. He urged the girls to also consider this profession. This was the first time I had ever heard the word – engineer. I went home and told my mother that I want to become an engineer, so I began taking subjects to prepare me for engineering college.

After completing high school with very good grades, I was admitted into college for mechanical engineering. I was the first female to get into the engineering college. If being the only girl in the college wasn’t difficult enough, there wasn’t even a women’s restroom! I had to ride my bike over one and a half miles each way to use restroom. When the college’s Dean realized that I was there to stay, they built a beautiful ladies room just for me.

When I was 19 years old, I came across the biography of Henry Ford. In this book, Ford mentioned how he was successful in making cars affordable for the average-income family through his assembly-line concept. I began dreaming about one day working for Ford.

When I graduated from engineering college in my country, I applied to few universities in the United States for my master’s degree. I chose to attend Oklahoma State University because it was the least expensive of the universities I’d gained admission.

Sending their daughter to study in the United States was an incredibly big decision for my parents. This was going to cost them their life’s savings, and they still had three younger children at home. If sending their daughter to engineering college was not hard enough, sending her to the United States  was unheard of. Even family and friends made fun of my parents at the idea.

My father was not 100% sure, but my mother kept her promise. I will never forget the conversation my mother had with my father while trying to convince him to let me study in the United States. My mother asked my father if he had ever seen her waste any money? She asked, “Do I go out to eat or go to the movies? Have you ever seen me gamble even one rupee?”  My father asked why she was asking such silly questions. This is when my mother said, “Today, I am ready to gamble. She is going, and that is final.” There was no more discussion on the matter. This was her final verdict. No one said even one word after that.

I began my studies at Oklahoma State University inf January, 1966 where I was the first female engineer to be admitted. I graduated in January, 1967, and without hesitation, I headed to Dearborn, Michigan. I had no car, no boots – just my dream.

I became the first female engineer with an advanced degree at Ford Motor Company.

Damyanti “Rani” Gupta was born and raised during a very volatile time in India. Forced to leave everything they had worked so hard to achieve, Rani’s family fled to Mumbai. Her mother, who had only a fourth grade education, informed Rani the only thing that couldn’t be taken away was an education. And with those wise words, her mother promised that she would ensure Rani received an education. Rani first heard of engineering when she was 13 years old. It was at this time that Rani declared her desire to become an engineer. Rani was the first female to study engineering at her Indian college, and after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, she began work in Germany. Rani later moved to Oklahoma where she was the first female to receive a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Oklahoma State University. After graduation, she moved to Detroit where she became Ford Motor Company’s first female engineer. Rani is the mother of two prominent sons, neurosurgeon and CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, and attorney, Suneel Gupta.

Living and Leaving Your Legacy

Living and Leaving Your Legacy

When most people hear the word legacy, they immediately think of money or something passed from one generation to the next.  But legacy is actually more about how we live our lives and how we are remembered. This idea seems to be shared by poet, Linda Ellis in the last line of her poem, The Dash:

So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash,
would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?

With the end of 2018 quickly approaching, I feel it’s the perfect opportunity to discuss one of my favorite topics – legacy. December is often when we contemplate not only what we have accomplished during the year, but what we hope to achieve in the new year. It’s usually a time to be with family when we celebrate our values, food, and cherished traditions.

It’s also an ideal moment to ask our loved ones about their lives and what’s important to them especially our elders.  Listen to their stories, experiences, and lessons they have learned. I spent a week with my sister-in-law, Marilyn, last winter when my husband, Mark, was on his sabbatical. Each night over cocktail hour, the three of us would sit down together when Marilyn would share her life’s journey. We laughed and cried for hours together, and I captured all of it on my iPhone.

We received a call this fall that Marilyn had passed away.  What if I hadn’t recorded those stories?  These recordings are now being combined with photographs to create a Legacy Video for Mark’s family so these memories will live over time for our children and future generations. You too can do this, too!

This month, we have two interesting interviews for you on Smart Women Talk Radio.  Our first show this month features the inspirational Damyanti “Rani” Gupta, who has been creating her legacy through many “Firsts.”  Rani was the first woman to study engineering at her Indian college, receiving a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.  She was the first female to receive a Master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Oklahoma State University.  After graduation, she moved to Detroit where she became Ford Motor Company’s first female engineer with an advanced degree. Her story was recently featured in TIME Magazine’s FIRSTS:  Women Who are Changing the World.  I’ve already had in-depth conversations with Rani, and you won’t want to miss this inspiring interview!  And if you are wondering about her name … yes, she is the mother of CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta.

Our second interview is on Christmas Day, and it’s an encore interview I did with author, Robb Lucy, where we talked about his book, How Will You Be Remembered?  The Definitive Guide to Creating and Sharing Your Life Stories.

In addition, you are invited to listen to my 25-Minute Legacy Story Master Class where I share how I combined the legacy planning process with traditional estate planning for my own parents and also share a powerful exercise you can immediately do to get more clarity about your life purpose and the meaning of your personal Dash. Have a wonderful holiday season with your loved ones. And don’t miss this opportunity to listen to their many stories. Happy New Year!

Katana Abbott, CFP® practitioner, is a Wealth Coach™, host of the Smart Women Talk Radio™, founder of the Smart Women Companies with over 1 million subscribers globally, inspirational speaker and author of several books. She began her financial planning career in 1987 and became a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner. In 2003, Katana created Smart Women’s Coaching® to offer financial coaching and educational workshops for women in transition who are dealing with caregiving, death of a loved one, divorce, retirement or looking to create or grow a business.  She founded Smart Women’s Empowerment in 2008 to bring free financial empowerment resources and programs to women around the world through her team of Contributing Experts. To learn more about Katana Abbott visit www.katanaabbott.com.

The Life You Lead is the Legacy You Leave

The Life You Lead is the Legacy You Leave

Legacy is one of the most difficult and important issues we all face because it has to do with our existence and answers these three important questions:

  • Who am I?
  • Why am I here?
  • Have I made a difference?

I believe legacy begins in the heart and moves to the head. Planning should begin with vision, values, and your goals rather than the more traditional method that revolves around strategies, tactics, and tools that, when finished, often leaves loved ones confused and never knowing the story and meaning behind the legacy. In addition, I think it’s important for each of us to pass on our stories, heritage, and wisdom along with our wealth and treasures. How do you do this? Let me share a story with you.

My mother and step-father married when he was 74 and she was 58. My step-father wanted to ensure my mother would be taken care of when he passed away, so he told me he was putting everything in joint ownership with her. I suggested there may be a better way that would not only take care of my mother, but also his children (who were almost her age). How many times have you heard of children losing their inheritance after a second marriage?  It can easily be avoided with proper planning.

We met with an estate planning attorney who created and funded a trust that would keep everything private. In addition, this planning included very important living benefits. You see, before my step-father died, he was diagnosed with lung cancer at age 86. At that same time, my mother was diagnosed with Dementia.

The planning we had done 15 years earlier now created a smooth and seamless process that allowed us to handle their affairs without going to court. This included:

  • paying their bills;
  • filing tax returns;
  • accessing medical records and speaking doctors on their behalf;
  • managing investments;
  • selling their home and moving them to assisted living;
  • making sure his estate not only took care of my mom during her lifetime, but passed free of probate to his two children at my mother’s death.

One of the biggest benefits is that we were able to focus on his quality of life and quality of care during that last year of his life. What I did not share is that as part of the financial and legal planning, I created a “legacy video” of my step-father for his children, grandchildren, and friends  I presented this video to his family after his death. In this legacy video, he was able to share in the most beautiful way:

  • stories about his life and where he grew up;
  • what he wanted them to remember;
  • the lessons he had learned;
  • and the wisdom he had gained.

What if you could tell your story and share your vision, values, and lessons in a form that your loved ones would not only understand, but could cherish for many generations to come?  You can do this with a letter, an audio, or a video. This can accompany the traditional planning and be presented at death, or better yet, while you’re alive!

I suggest doing this today because none of us know when our time will come. My birth father died accidentally at 32. Thank goodness my mother was the great archivist, so I have so much of his story preserved. For most, however, those stories and history are lost.

I want to leave you with this key idea: Legacy is more than money, it’s what people think,
feel and remember when they hear or say your name, because the life you lead is the legacy you leave!

I invite you to listen to my 25 minute Legacy Life Story audio presentation in full where I share several exercises to help you get clarity about your purpose and your legacy. Prefer to talk with me privately?  Then schedule a complementary Discovery Coaching session by visiting my online calendar.

Katana Abbott, CFP® practitioner, is a Wealth Coach™, host of the Smart Women Talk Radio™, founder of the Smart Women Companies with over 1 million subscribers globally, inspirational speaker and author of several books. She began her financial planning career in 1987 and became a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner. In 2003, Katana created Smart Women’s Coaching® to offer financial coaching and educational workshops for women in transition who are dealing with caregiving, death of a loved one, divorce, retirement or looking to create or grow a business.  She founded Smart Women’s Empowerment in 2008 to bring free financial empowerment resources and programs to women around the world through her team of Contributing Experts. To learn more about Katana Abbott visit www.katanaabbott.com.


Compensating the Caregiver

Compensating the Caregiver

Of all the problems that arise when an elder needs personal assistance with daily matters, perhaps the least recognized are those that arise when a caregiver is compensated. In this article we will review the legal issues arising from compensation of private and family caregivers. These issues become more complex when the caregiver handles the elder’s finances and compensates herself.

Employer & Employee: Under the laws of most states when a person is paid for caregiver services, an employer employee relationship is created. Being an employer creates a host of legal duties and responsibilities. These are not avoided by claiming the caregiver is an “independent contractor.” The employer-employee relationship is defined and controlled by law.

How does the law determine whether the caregiver is an employee or an independent contractor? Perhaps the best guide is found in IRS Publication 15a. It lists some 20 factors to consider. In general in-home personal services are presumed to be supervised. Examples of unsupervised in-home services include the work of tradesmen such as a plumber or electrician.

Is the child the employer if she hires someone to take care of her parent? If a child acts for the by oral authority or a power of attorney and directly hires the person, then the elder is the employer. If the child chooses, hires and pays a person to perform caregiving service for a parent, then the child is the employer. If an agency is hired then the agency is the employer.

Duties of the Employer

Legal Employee: You must have proof the person you employ is legally able to work. You need to have a completed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification in your file.

Employment Discrimination Laws: Employment Discrimination laws commonly ban discrimination based on race, age, sex and other factors. While the federal law only applies to employers over a minimum number of employees, you may be subject to state or city anti-discrimination laws.

Minimum Wage: Check and see what the minimum wage is in your area.

Employment Taxes: If you pay any one person more than $2,100 per year, you are responsible for FICA taxes and those are Social Security and Medicare taxes. The employer is also responsible for withholding the employee’s share of those taxes. Currently the total tax rate is 15.3%. If the employer does not withhold and pay the tax the IRS will impose penalties, interest and proceed to collect from the employer.

The employer is responsible for withholding income tax from the employee. The employer may
be relieved of this duty if the employee fills out a “W9″ form indicating the number of dependent deductions results in no tax due. You should check your state income tax requirements.

Federal and State Unemployment Compensation: An employer is also responsible for paying unemployment taxes. A terminated or laid off employee may be able to collect unemployment compensation on the employer’s account.

Failure to Pay Taxes: An employer who fails to pay required taxes may find that the penalties and interest equal the amount of taxes owed.

Workers Compensation: What if the caregiver injures her back or knee helping lift the elder? What if she falls down the stairs and fractures a bone? She can file for workers compensation to cover her medical expense and her wage loss. Your homeowners’ insurance will likely not cover employees. You should have workers compensation insurance.

While the list of employer requirements looks formidable it can be easily met if you consult an accountant use a payroll service.

Other Issues:

Completing the duties of an employer is not the end of considerations when compensating caregivers.

Government Benefits: If the care recipient is a wartime veteran or a surviving spouse of an eligible vet then caregiver payments will be a factor in eligibility for VA “Aid and Attendance” pension benefits. The VA considers such payments to be “unreimbursed medical expense” where the need for services are caused by a medical condition, which must be supported by medical evidence.

Unlike the VA, many state long term care Medicaid programs presume that payments to caregivers were made to qualify for benefits. The Medicaid program only allows an applicant to have $2,000 of cash assets and has a five year “look back” or review of financial transactions made within time period. In many states the payments are deemed “divestment of assets” which means the payments were transfers of assets for less than fair market value, made for the purpose of qualifying for Medicaid benefits. This conclusion can be avoided with advance planning. For example the Michigan Medicaid program requires a certification of need for the services by a doctor and a personal service contract that conforms to the Medicaid agency’s requirements.

Child Caregiver Compensation Issues: Compensating a child brings additional legal issues. This compensation includes not only pay for service, but can include gifts of cash or property to the child.
It helps to understand the issues concerning child caregivers if one keeps foremost in mind the legal presumption that children should not be paid for helping parents. Under the general law
children are presumed to provide commercially valuable services for free, for “love and affection.” It does not matter how valuable the services are or how much a parent was paying for the same service before the child began to help.

Even if the child is not paid, any unaccounted loss or use of the parent’s money may be presumed to have been taken by the child. A parent may have agreed to the child’s taking of the money as a gift. However, if the parent suffers from cognitive decline or memory problems she may not remember making the gift and the child will face legal consequences.. There must be evidence that the parent understood what the payment was for and that the parent freely consented to the payment. Oral consent is not enough.

Child is a “Fiduciary”: In short a “fiduciary” is a person trusted to handle the affairs of another and in this article we address the caregiver’s handling the financial affairs of the elder. An elder may have very haphazard record keeping of finances. But, when a child is trusted to take care of all the parent’s business, the child is a “fiduciary.” The child is held to a high standard of conduct such that all actions may only benefit the parent. If the caregiver fails to meet the standard he or she will be responsible for any harm or loss the parent suffers. How does a person meet the high standard?

When the child handles the parent’s finances, complete and detailed records must be kept. For example many elders still like to have cash in the home to make payments. It saves them trips to the bank. If the caregiver is managing the finances the practice is risky unless the monthly cash withdrawals are modest. Otherwise the caregiver may have no record of where the money went and as a fiduciary be responsible for any loss. It may be presumed that the caregiver took the money.

Mom Leaves the Nursing Home: A hypothetical may provide a useful context to show how problems can develop. Suppose a parent is in a nursing home, is paying $8,000 a month and receives horrible care. Suppose a daughter steps up and provides 24 hour care for her mother in her home and Mom does much better. By any commercial measure the daughter is providing care worth more than $8,000 a month. After six months the daughter is exhausted and her mother, who has memory problems, agrees that daughter should have a nice vacation. Daughter arranges for mom’s care in the home and goes on a great Las Vegas vacation at a cost of $10,00 out of mom’s bank account. Mom does fine, daughter comes back and brother who never offers to help finds out about the expensive vacation. Mom does not remember agreeing or the payment. What could happen?

Elder Financial Abuse: The brother could file an elder abuse charge. If a child has control of the parent’s finances and takes payment out of the account, without proof of informed consent by the elder, then the child may be accused of theft or elder abuse. This can result in criminal charges.

Control of Parent: The brother may hire an attorney and file a guardianship petition for control of the parent and the parent’s money. This can be a whole article in itself, but in short it can be very expensive and the elder may end up footing the bill. If the court grants the petition it may not appoint either child as guardian. The court may take the elder under its continuing supervision with an attorney or professional guardian managing the parent’s affairs. That guardian may remove Mother from the home, place her in a nursing home and demand a full accounting from the daughter. That can start a series of court expensive actions.

Inheritance: What if the mother makes a Will favoring the daughter for providing care for her? Major court battles can erupt after a parent dies. If a child receives more than the others, through the Will or a joint bank account, expect the “knives to come out.” The siblings will hire attorneys and begin court action. Where a child has had significant time alone with the parent and control of the parent’s finances, the favored gift may be overturned by the court.

The Will: can be contested on grounds of “undue influence” which means the child used his or her position to make the parent decide to give the caregiver a larger share of the estate. The greater the need for a full-time caregiver the easier it is to prove undue influence or elder abuse. If the will contest is successful the caregiver will not get the gift and could end up with an even smaller share of the estate.

Even without charges of undue influence, lifetime payments or gifts may result in a probate court contest. A court may rule that the money is an advance on inheritance leaving the caregiver with a diminished share of the estate and no recognition for the years of service that the child may have rendered.

Recommendation: This article has not exhausted the “What if” scenarios that can occur in the caregiver – elder context.

When the caregiver – elder relationship is begun there must be an agreement on the terms and conditions of the caregiving relationship. What about compensation? Even if government benefits are not contemplated a legal contract is a good idea.

And finally, while the parent’s “business” is her own private affair, when a child is a caregiver a family meeting at the outset is simply wise.

Be prudent, be safe. Talk to an elder law attorney and make sure you “do it right.”

Jim Schuster has been licensed as an attorney since 1978 and has focused his practice in Elder Law since 1996. Jim has been a member of the State Bar Elder Law and Advocacy Section since 1996 and served on the Section Council in all capacities, finally being Chair of the Section in 2003 – 2004.
Jim has had articles on Elder Law published in the Michigan Bar Journal, Michigan Lawyers Weekly, the Detroit Legal News and Laches, the publication of the Oakland County Bar Association. He has also presented course material for the Institute for Continuing Legal Education. To learn more about Jim, visit www.jimschuster.com

How to Be Prepared for that Call in the Night

How to Be Prepared for that Call in the Night

Watching our parents age is not always easy. We all dread the idea of that “call in the night” – the one that means we must step into the Designated Caregiver™ role to manage our parents’ lives and make tough decisions about their care, finances, and welfare.

According to the Society of Certified Senior Advisors:

  • When Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid were designed, life expectancy was 63.
  • Our fastest growing population is age 85 and 50% of this population may have some form of Alzheimer’s.
  • By 2030, 70 million people in the US, or 1-in-5 people, will be age 65.

For the last three decades, I have helped clients create financial plans for their “golden years” and address issues of aging and remaining independent. Learn how to be prepared, how to have this discussion with your parents, what you and they should do to ensure your lives continue to run smoothly, and how to avoid costly mistakes.

My Designated Caregiver™ five-step-process enables you to make smart choices now that can benefit everyone involved in the future.

Step 1 – Get Organized

Before attempting to discuss financial, tax, and estate planning issues with your loved ones, be sure to sit down with a financial advisor and get your own plan in order.

Step 2 – Initiate “The Discovery Conversation” with Your Parents

One way to initiate this conversation is to ask them what they would do if something happened to you.

  • Do they know the names and contact information of your advisors?
  • Are they able to access your medical records, doctors and prescriptions?
  • Do they know where to find documents such as your will, or medical forms?

These questions may help lead the conversation into what your role would be for them – will you be needed as a caregiver, a trustee, or a personal representative? Knowing this information will help you plan your own future. The worse time to start dealing with these issues is after a triggering event when options may be limited, or you may end up in court to ask for permission to make medical, legal, and financial decisions.

Step 3 – Start Planning as Early as Possible

Don’t wait until the triggering event happens. It’s never too early to start planning for the unexpected. Meeting with an attorney, financial planner, and an insurance agent to create the proper planning may be all it takes to make sure your needs and the needs of your loved ones are met. Plan early while you have the most options available – be proactive rather than reactive.

Step 4 – Consider Purchasing Long-Term Care Insurance

Start the conversation about long-term care insurance when your parents or loved ones are young and healthy. In fact, consider purchasing your own policy now while the premiums are affordable!

Long-term care insurance costs have gone up, so explore new innovative long-term care solutions through products like life insurance where there are dual benefits. Also explore homecare-only policies which may be less expensive.

We are living much longer, and the need for healthcare and health-related services is exploding. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College estimates that 44% of men and 58% of women will specifically need nursing home care at or after age 65. The annual Cost of Care Survey from Genworth puts the median annual costs in the United States for an assisted living facility at $43,200 and $91,250 for a private nursing home room.

Step 5 – Create a Team of Trusted Advisors

This is not the time for-do-it-yourself-planning. Find a key advisor who is an eldercare expert and have them manage the team with you based on your loved ones’ goals, values, and objectives. The final product should enable your loved ones to maintain their dignity, lifestyle, and assets. It should also meet the needs of the caregiver. The result is that everyone involved should be able to sleep better at night knowing that all concerns have been addressed and that a team and a plan are in place to meet the unexpected.

If you are currently a caregiver or better yet, want to learn how to plan for care – either as a care giver or care receiver, and want to talk with me about your situation, then feel free to book a complementary 30 minute discovery session with me at www.talkwithkatana.com

Katana Abbott, CFP® practitioner, is a Wealth Coach™, host of the Smart Women Talk Radio™, founder of the Smart Women Companies with over 1 million subscribers globally, inspirational speaker and author of several books.

She began her financial planning career in 1987 and became a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner. In 2003, Katana created Smart Women’s Coaching® to offer financial coaching and educational workshops for women in transition who are dealing with caregiving, death of a loved one, divorce, retirement or looking to create or grow a business.  She founded Smart Women’s Empowerment in 2008 to bring free financial empowerment resources and programs to women around the world through her team of Contributing Experts. To learn more about Katana Abbott visit www.katanaabbott.com.

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