Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Shine on Brightly

A friend called, recently, asking what she should do with a relative’s ashes. She had found them in a closet in a Tupperware container, much to her surprise. I was reminded of Section 711.002 of the Texas Health & Safety Code, which sets out the priority for possessing a decedent’s remains and the duty to inter them. The Code also provides the form for appointing an agent to control disposition of remains. A handy and oft overlooked estate planning document that everyone needs and is particularly important if there is a family squabble about who controls the remains, what shall be done with them (cremation vs. burial), or where they shall be placed (an urn vs. burial with a spouse? If there is more than one spouse, then who should be interred with whom?).

Chatting at the proverbial water cooler with elder lawyers at the probate court, they chimed in, spinning yarns of potentially unlawful situations detailing the blow-back of ashes scattered from a chartered airplane to the payment made to a captain of an ocean-going vessel with instructions to cast the urn into the depths, hundreds of miles out to sea.

However, the most beautiful and creative use of ashes may be found at the online fine art gallery, “Shine on Brightly,” selling the newest variation on the theme of memento mori. But “Shine on Brightly” offers not just the memorial jewelry of old but memorial art—fine art, that is, including dichroic glass pendants, handmade textiles, custom books, memorial painting, and urns fashioned of wood, glass, and hand-made ceramics. See

Like other estate planning documents, the appointment of an agent to control disposition of remains provides certainty and peace of mind. Let your loved ones know what you want and what you don’t want. Be sure to write it down and leave your estate plans in a safe location where they can be accessed easily and timely.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Top Documents a Woman Ought to Have...or Know Where to Find

In some ways, it's a woman's world. Women live longer than men. It's a fact. In the US, the average woman can expect to live to be 80.93 years old (compared to the average man whose life expectancy is 75.92 years). For more facts, see the World Fact Book compiled by the Central Intelligence Agency.

What this means is that women, being women, are caring for others--whether they are caring for ailing spouses, serving as court-appointed legal guardians for disabled wards, or handling the probate of estates for family members whom they have out lived. Women, due to their longevity, are also depending upon others for assistance, often relying upon caregivers during their incapacity and later, after death, to distribute their assets according to their wishes.

Smart women plan ahead, for themselves and for others. Here are the top documents a woman ought to have...or know where to find:

• Will
• Letter of instruction
• Trust documents
• Housing, land, and cemetery deeds
• Escrow mortgage accounts
• Proof of loans made
• Proof of debts owed
• Vehicle titles
• Stock certificates and savings bonds
• Brokerage accounts
• Partnership and corporate operating agreements
• Tax returns
• List of bank accounts
• List of all user names and passwords
• List of safe-deposit boxes, location, and keys
• Durable health-care power of attorney
• Authorization to release health care information (aka HIPAA release)
• Living will
• Do-not-resuscitate order (aka DNR)
• Personal and family medical history
• Life insurance policies
• Individual retirement accounts
• 401(k) accounts
• Pension documents
• Annuity contracts
• Marriage license
• Divorce papers
• Child support information/QDRO
• Discharge papers for veterans (DD Form 214 & SF-180)
• Birth Date, Place of Birth, Social Security Number

Organize the documents; safeguard them; share their location with trusted family members, so that if they become necessary, they can be found easily.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

America’s Silver Tsunami

For the first time in human history, people aged 65 and older will soon outnumber children under the age of five. The Twenty-first Century will be known for population aging worldwide due to declining fertility, improved health and longevity, which has swelled older populations dramatically.

In 2009, the worldwide population of people aged 60 and older was 680 million people, which translates to 11 percent of the population, spanning the globe. This group increased by 10.4 million since 2007, increasing 30,000 new members to that age group daily.

The new aging population contains three groups: the “young old,” ages 65-74; the “old,” ages 74-84; and the “oldest-old.” This first wave of Baby Boomers will reach full retirement age in 2011. From 2011 to 2031, 74 million Boomers will retire, which means that 10,000 new retirees will be added to the Social Security and Medicare rolls each day. The “old” are expected to have increased life expectancy and their numbers are projected to steadily increase. The “oldest-old” has a growth rate that is twice that of those over 65 and almost 4 times that for the total population. In the US, this group now represents 10 percent of the older population and is thought to more than triple from 5.7 million in 2010 to over 19 million by 2050.

Look at these statistics in another way. Compare them. The US contains more people aged 65 and older than the total population of Canada. Americans aged 65 and older outnumber the general populations of New York, London, and Moscow—all rolled into one.

What does it mean? Researchers believe that tomorrow’s elder population will be radically different from elders in the past. They will enjoy longer lives, better health, and more active lifestyles. Baby Boomers are expected to “age in place,” opting to stay at home for as long as possible, preserving their independence. These seniors are expected to seek out services and products that accommodate, sympathize and appeal to individuals of all ages and abilities. For more statistics, see


About Lisa C Smith

Attorney Lisa C. Smith believes that many legal problems can be resolved by working out agreements, legal documents, and creative solutions for businesses and families. Her goal is to provide quality legal representation with personal service and respect.

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