Author Archives: Minna Vallentine

Pet cemeteries can now bury people…in NY

In 2011, the New York Division of Cemeteries ruled that human burials could not take place in pet cemeteries.  This left many people devastated because they wanted their ashes to be buried with their pets…but they couldn’t be.

According to Ed Marin, owner of the 117 year old Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester, NY, prior to the ban more than 700 people’s ashes had been interred at Hartsdale.  He said that he gets five or six requests per year for this service.

Now, New York state will once again allow animal lovers to be buried with their pets, if the cemeteries agree to two conditions:

1) They won’t charge a fee for the burial.

2) They won’t advertise human burial services.

For more information about burial options and other funeral related information, check out diesmart.com.

 

Bad mistake made by heiress Huguette Clark

Huguette Clark was an heiress who died in 2011 at age 104.  She left behind a $300 million estate.  The bulk of the money was inherited from her father, a copper tycoon in Montana.   She owned a 23-acre estate near Santa Barbara valued at $100 million, a $24 million house in Connecticut and a $100 million coop on Fifth Ave. in New York.  She was a painter and a collector of rare French and Japanese dolls.  She had no children, no close relatives and only limited contact with any of her distant relations.

She spent the last 20 years of her life living at Beth Israel Medical Center as a recluse, closer to her doctors and nurses than any family.

When she died, the only people who attended her burial were funeral home employees.

What did she do wrong?  She left behind two wills, written just six weeks apart.

The first one left  $5 million to her nurses and the balance of the estate to her distant relatives, even though 14 of the 19 involved said that they had never even met Huguette.

The second will left nothing to the relatives.  It specifically said” I intentionally make no provision…for  any members of my family…having had minimal contact with them over the years.”  Instead, charities are the largest beneficiaries, receiving over 80% of the estate.  Also named was her registered nurse, Hadassah Peri, who would receive $15.3 million after taxes, and a goddaughter who would get $7.9 million.  Lesser beneficiaries included Beth Israel Medical Center, her attorney, her personal assistant, her accountant, property managers and one of her doctors.

In addition to what she was given in the will, her registered nurse received more than $31 million in gifts before Clark died and the estate administrator is asking that the $31 million be returned to the estate.

Family members are claiming that the second will was written under duress when she was mentally ill and incompetent and the victim of fraud by her nurse, attorney and accountant.

Negotiations have been going on for a few years, with 60 attorneys involved in the case.  However, the chance of a settlement is not certain and a jury trial is scheduled to begin in Surrogate’s Court in Manhattan on September 17th.

Huguette Clark should have had better legal counsel when she decided what to do with her sizeable estate.  She should have prepared a trust, including directions on who had the right to make decisions on her behalf when she was unable to do so.  And she probably should have destroyed the first will.

It will be interesting to see what the probate court decides if a settled hasn’t been reached prior to September 17th.

For more information about Hugette Clark and her reclusive life, look for a book being released on September 10th titled “Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune.”

To learn more about how to plan for the end of your life, go to www.diesmart.com.

2/3 of all the people who ever lived to 65 are alive today!

Ken Dychtwald, Founder and CEO of AgeWave | JWT IntelligenceThis statistic comes from a presentation given by Ken Dychtwald, PhD, of Age Wave at the American Society on Aging 2013 conference that was held this spring.

This statistic is a part of what has caused the longevity revolution.  What he meant is that because people are living much longer than they used to, the definition of “old age” is changing.  People used to die before retiring so there was no need to worry much about what they would do.  But, now, people must figure out what they should do with their “longevity bonus” and how to spend all of this extra time that they now have on earth.

You might think that people are just tacking their bonus onto the end of their life and spending it in retirement.  However, it seems that they are redistributing it throughout their life.  They are going back to school in their 40′s and then starting a new career, retiring from that new career and then changing fields again.  This is unlike the past when people worked their whole life at one career and often retired after working at just one or two companies.

Retirement used to be considered an ending.  Now many people consider it a new beginning.  It’s a time that’s looked forward to with anticipation by most people.  In fact, 91% of people expect to be happy in retirement.   However, that expectation only lasts about a year.  After that, people begin to think about what they actually want to do with the rest of their life and whether they want a new post retirement career.  They also start to have growing concerns about health problems and insufficient savings.  And in their late 70′s and early 80′s they come to terms with who they are and what will come.

Finally, Dr. Dychtwald said that, unlike in the past, retirement is a time to build relationships, keep learning, re-career, live with purpose and leave a legacy.

The entire presentation can be seen here and is well worth watching.

For more information about retirement and end of life planning, go to www.diesmart.com.

Access to online bank accounts a problem after death

In the “old days”, a paper trail was usually very easy to follow when someone died.  You could find their bank account statements, credit card and utility bills and pension and brokerage account information all tucked away in a file cabinet or a drawer.  Then you  called the contact numbers provided to notify them about the death.

Today, it’s not so simple.

Many of us do our banking online.  All we do is log in, click on those merchants we wish to pay, insert the amount and we’re done.  If we want to transfer money or even deposit a check, no paper has to be used. Everything is done electronically.

Bill paying has also gone paperless.  I can’t remember the last time I received a bill in the mail.  Today I just receive an electronic notification that my bill has been processed for payment.

If I want to know how my portfolio is doing, I log into my brokerage account to check.  I no longer get huge stacks of paperwork every month detailing the value of each investment.  It’s the same with my pension – I just go online and review the numbers.

This is great except for one thing.  It leaves no paper trail for our loved ones to follow when we die.  If we don’t keep good records that list all of the accounts that we manage online as well as the passwords and other information needed to access them, they may never be found and some of our assets may be floating around in cyberspace forever.

For more information about how to plan for incapacity or death, go to www.diesmart.com.

DNR order – should your pet have one?

Half Moon Bay 11-29-10 011

Do you know what a DNR (do not resuscitate) order is?  It is a medical document that alerts doctors and other medical and rescue personnel about whether you want them to do anything they can to revive you if your heart stops.

I have been in the local hospital a few times for various medical procedures and am used to the questions that the staff asks before admitting you.  And I have a DNR (do not resuscitate) document that I  keep on file there.  If my heart stops and reviving me will negatively impact my quality of life, I want my loved ones to let me go.

Information for and against human DNRs is readily available on the web and in books; anyone you ask will have an opinion.

However, for pets it’s a different story.  Last week I had to take my dog, Suzi, to the veterinary hospital for a minor medical procedure and was given several forms to sign.  One of them caught me totally off guard.  I was asked to sign either a DNR or an “administer CPR” form for her.    I had never thought about a DNR in relation to my dog and didn’t know what to do.  I had no idea about how easily a dog’s heart stops beating during surgery and how quickly it’s quality of life will be impacted after that stoppage.

The vet told me that asking for a pet DNR is becoming common practice for many animal hospitals but would give me no recommendation on which form to sign.

When I got home, I got on the web and tried to research a pet DNR to see what the recommended practice is.  I could find very little helpful information.  I called friends with pets and they had no idea what to do either.

Luckily, the procedure went smoothly and Suzi was fine.  But what if there is a next time?  What should I do then?

We at Die Smart would love to hear from you with your opinions on this subject.  To write a comment or to find out more about end of life planning, including human DNRs, go to www.diesmart.com.