Articles2019-01-08T12:55:38-08:00

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Protecting Your Assets

Great information from Council on Aging, Marin County Public Administrator and Seniors At Home, a division of Jewish Family and Children’s Services.

You’ve worked hard for what you own. Whether it is your property, your prized belongings or your savings, you want to make sure that it goes to the people you love or to the charitable organizations you trust upon your death.

However, a simple lack of planning or, in many cases, a lack of updating, can result in your wishes for your estate not being carried out.

There are several scenarios when a deceased person’s wishes may not be followed. These situations include when there is no will at all, no original copy of a will, or no executor either because that person has died, cannot be located or is not willing or able to act on the decedent’s behalf.

“Many people postpone their end of life decisions,” explains Brett Rhodes, Chief Deputy Public Administrator for the County of Marin. “We think, ‘I’ll get around to that later,’ but the reality is that many cases go to the court by default.” In some cases where heirs or beneficiaries cannot be located, someone’s assets are escheated to county and state unclaimed property accounts and if not claimed, eventually become public funds.

The Marin County Public Administrator provides professional estate management services to county residents, acting on the decedent’s behalf to manage and resolve the estate. The office functions in the same way as a private administrator would, and the County regularly utilizes an extensive network of professional contacts and well-developed resources. While costs for general estate administration are statutorily set for both private and public administrators, any extraordinary services default to an hourly rate, which in many cases are at a lower cost than privately hired services.

Public administrator services include:

  • Protecting the decedent’s property from waste, loss, fraud or theft
  • Making arrangements for the remains
  • Conducting an investigation to discover all assets
  • Paying decedent’s bills and taxes
  • Applying for and receiving all estate benefits
  • Locating estate beneficiaries and ensuring that they receive their inheritance

Another option is to use the services that a non-profit senior service organization such as Seniors At Home provides or Council on Aging.

Seniors At Home – As a division of Jewish Family and Children’s Services which was founded in 1850, Seniors At Home serves the entire community. Its mission is “to help older adults age with respect and dignity and to live safer, healthier, and more independent lives, we care deeply about our clients, their families, and our caregivers.”

“What is unique about us is that we are a one-stop shop for families,” says Michelle Dowds Javid, manager of business development for Seniors At Home. “Our team collaborates to provide the best services and the best overall plan for families.”

Those services cover health care and home care, but they also include:

  • Durable power of attorney for finance and healthcare
  • Trustee or Successor Trustee
  • Executor or Administrator of Estate
  • Conservator of Person and Estate

Additionally, the Seniors At Home team helps seniors and their families manage their financial responsibilities accurately and on time. The fiduciary services are available in San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin County, Sonoma County and the East Bay.

Rhodes recommends that everyone, but especially seniors, update their wills regularly, ensuring that their executors are still able to take on that task. “The reality is that there are a lot of estrangements in families,” he acknowledges. “And it can be a highly emotional time for your loved ones.”

Council on Aging has been serving seniors in Sonoma County since 1966. Connie Aust has worked with Council for 27 years and has served as its Licensed Fiduciary since 2008. She explained three reasons Council on Aging is an excellent source for financial services for seniors:

When you appoint Council on Aging Services for Seniors through it’s licensed fiduciary agent, you will be secure in the knowledge that should the current fiduciary leave the agency for some unforeseen reason, the verbiage used in the legal documents, Trust, Powers of Attorney or Will, give the Council On Aging’s CEO the ability to appoint another licensed fiduciary who works for Council on Aging, to step in to their place. This gives assurance of continuity and a feeling of security to those individuals who have no one else able to step in for them when the time comes.

Also, when you appoint Council on Aging, you are investing in the community while we are acting as your fiduciary. “The fees we charge go back in to the agency to help seniors in the future. This type of social consciousness investing is important to the many who have lived their whole lives this way.”

Lastly, Council on Aging’s fees are reasonable, are on a tiered rate structure and Council on Aging is fully insured and bonded.

When an individual considers Council on Aging, Aust discusses the many services Council on Aging provides such as case management and Meals on Wheels. She also discusses the fee structure and reviews the legal verbiage needed for their attorney to appoint Council on Aging as Successor Trustee, Power of Attorney, Advanced Health Care Directive Agent and Executor.

Naming the public administrator’s office or an organization such as Council on Aging or Seniors At Home as your executor or fiduciary can give you and your family valuable peace of mind. You won’t have to worry about an individual retiring or moving away, since the office or organization itself is reliable and not dependent on any one person.

For more information on the Public Administrator, call (415) 473-6151 or visit marincounty.org/pa

For information on Seniors At Home, call (844) 394-3468 or visit seniorsathome.jfcs.org.

For information on The Council On Aging, call (707) 525-0143 or visit councilonaging.com/services/financial-services/.

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