Writing your own will – once it’s written, how do you make sure the court follows through with your wishes?

The weekend trip I just enjoyed has brought me back to thinking about my will – the idea that my husband and I  would die suddenly, say, on a road trip,  and my kids would be left to haggle with the bank and the government over our “legacy” is sickening, it keeps me up at night.

I turn to my copy of “Nolo’s Simple Will Book,” which I bought at Barnes and Noble about 10 years ago to write our first wills. It has examples of various types of wills, and a CD so you can just download the will you want and fill in the blanks.  I get updates online, and check other websites for re-assurance. I also have my mom’s and father-in-law’s wills, drawn up by their lawyers, and it’s all the same stuff.

Maybe you think I’m crazy to try it without a lawyer, but as I’ve said before, my previous experiences with lawyers made me feel like I needed a lawyer to deal with my lawyer. I’m not recommending writing your will alone – if you know a lawyer you feel comfortable with and you don’t mind paying for stuff you can do yourself, that is the way for you to go. I’ll admit, I was not confident in our first wills, I just committed myself to staying alive until my kids were 18. 

The will for a person with no minor children is simple –  eliminates pages and pages of instructions, decisions, decisions, decisions. You just have to identify yourself, heirs and executor – which could be one of your heirs. The language might be a little lawyery at times, but it’s all understandable.  With the page for witnesses’ signatures, it’s only three pages. And I used big print!

Right now, my husband and I are pondering over the next step – getting it signed. By law, you only need to have a couple of witnesses to make this document legal – but that’s trickier than it sounds. For one thing, these people have to be alive and available when you die, because they might have to testify to the signing. What if the witnesses die or can’t be found by the court? What if the court just doesn’t like your witnesses?  That drags out probate – the process by which the court decides whether your will is legitimate and approves your executor/heir, allowing this person to deal with your business and distribute your property.

I would prefer having it signed in front of a notary public – Nolo says this will speed up the probate. Probate costs your heirs money, and can lead to bad consequences for your estate.

The court appointed an idiot to execute my mother in law’s estate when she died in a car accident without a will. My husband and sister-in-law had to get a lawyer to deal  with that guy – he didn’t care about the heirs, he got a percentage of what the estate was originally assessed at, no matter what the heirs got in the end.  He wanted to deal with it as quickly as he could. For one thing, he wanted to fold up her successful business (along with my sister in law’s job?) and  “short sell” all of her real estate, some of which she owned outright, including a piece of land that had been in the family for a long time.   My husband and sister in law had to deal with it, it was almost physical, the phone calls, the trips out of town, to argue with this man over stuff he admittedly didn’t know anything about.  You don’t want a person like that selling your kids  down the river, believe me.

So, right now, to insure that our wishes will be respected by the court, I’m trying to find out all about notaries public. There are several in the local phone book, but I think I’ll get a recommendation from somebody who knows, like my realtor, or my banker. 

I also have the Nolo Press Probate book, that’s an interesting read, I’ll get back to that later.  

 

 

What is “normal weather” in Northern California?

I think we may have pushed Mother Nature over the edge with our complaints about the drought. I am not ready to say “Uncle” yet – Kris Kuyper and Mike Krueger keep insisting we still need a lot of rain to get back to “normal” water levels. Frankly, I don’t know whether they mean, “normal” rain totals, or “normal” levels for the reservoirs out of which water transfers are made, you tell  me. They act as though Shasta and Oroville are pristine natural lakes, they’re not. They were installed to steal water from local residents and ship it off to places where subdivisions have been built without ground water. 

Of course, it’s nice to see a good snowstorm.

http://www.sugarbowl.com/webcams#stream

When I looked at Sugar Bowl’s live stream this morning, there were icicles hanging over the camera lens, and the snow was coming down pretty steady. 

At Mammoth Lakes in Southern California, it’s been coming down steadily for a couple of weeks.

http://www.mammothmountain.com/winter/ski-ride/mountain-information/cams

Snow is like money in the bank – water for Summer. Of course, it’s good to have fun in, as long as you stay safe.

I checked the weather at Butte Meadows – it says ice rain, with a 90 % chance of snow. Oooooo! Butte Meadows is fun, but there’s this stretch of road right near the turn off Hwy 32 – if it’s icy, you should give it up and go home. One winter we parked along that stretch – there’s a meadow there, good for sledding. There is a sudden steep rise in the road, and we watched one car after another spin out of control. One man in an old Dodge pick-up made a run for it, and ended up skidding sideways toward the pines. He managed to pull out of it, but his truck suddenly pulled over to the side of the road – his woman had enough, she got out and yelled at him to “Turn around! I’m not going!” And she walked down the side of the road toward us as her husband eeked a u-turn and came sliding back down toward our car. They had been out to get a Christmas tree, but this, she fumed, “wasn’t worth any stupid tree!”   She was probably right – we played in that meadow for over an hour, and didn’t see anybody make it past that stretch of road. One small car full of young people got stuck because the driver was terrified – a bunch of locals had to help him turn the car around and get out. The road got icier as the sun disappeared, and we headed back to Chico with snow in our britches. 

One year they got so much snow at Butte Meadows, camp grounds were just about destroyed. Snow crushed picnic tables and Spring melt washed out campsites and roads. You just can’t predict what Mother Nature will dish out, but you can bet she will be generous with it. 

Remember the sudden snowstorm that crushed rooftops all over Paradise? I can’t believe people would build with flat roofs there, but they don’t get snow often enough to know better, I guess. A couple of years ago, an early snow brought down trees all over the hills – the snow had come before the trees had lost their leaves. It sticks to the leaves and rips off branches, or brings down the whole thing. 

One year there was so much  snow at Lassen, we boarded the peak in October of the following year. Hey, old snow, new snow, it’s alllllll gooooood!

Just what do you suppose is “normal” in Northern California? 

 

 

 

Ohhh, Winter is depressing! Good time to update your will!

Oh, Winter makes me feel MORBID! The cold gets in my bones, and makes me feel like I’m going to die. So, recently it occurred to me, I should update my will. Ya never know!

I’m no lawyer, but I’d say anybody with minor children should have a will. You have to specify legally where your kids will go and who will take care of them, this is not a slam-dunk. Years ago I read a story in the ER about a Paradise couple who died in a car accident, leaving a 13 year old boy and a mortgaged home. There was no will, and the neighbors had to step in to keep the boy from being sent to social services and keep the home off the auction block.

That was tough, took me months. For one thing, we only had my mother and my father-in-law for guardians, and they were both beyond over the hill, and had/have major health concerns. Just wondering if they would outlive us, we decided to name a friend as guardian, and another friend as executor. We had long chats with these two, describing our assets and debts and what exactly they would need to do in the event of our untimely demise. None of us were comfortable with the situation, I just held my breath and hoped to live until at least one of the kids was 18. The worst part is, the court can decide they don’t like your arrangements and do whatever they want, and if your appointees can’t get a good enough lawyer, that’s the way it goes.

 

I’m so relieved my kids are now adults. But, when your kids are adults, you still need a will to identify them as your heirs, or as far as I know, the state collects your property(ies) and bank account(s) and your heirs have to get a lawyer and  go to court to sort it all out.  I’ve had close friends who have been through this, and it was like watching them try to keep vultures off a dead body. The lawyer gets a certain percentage off the top, even  if he or she doesn’t do anything.

The Chico lawyer I hired to help with my mom’s estate took over $8,000, and I had to do all the legwork, including drive to other towns to collect large amounts of money owed to my mother by people who tried to cheat me. I’d call other professionals for information or advice and they’d say, “your lawyer is supposed to be doing this for you…”  I’m still not sure what he did, if anything, but his legal aid quit halfway through – she apologized to me, saying her boss was abusive and she was taking a pay cut to work elsewhere.  I was left to do all the rest by myself. I won’t mention this man’s name, he’s with the biggest law firm in town, and connected to the biggest accounting firm in town. When he told me to take my mom’s unfinished taxes to his accountant friend, I thought it was worth the money to get it done right. I won’t mention this man’s name either – but he manages the campaign of one of our sitting council members. He handed the taxes over to a 23 year old assistant, who cried to me she didn’t know what she was doing, needed my help!  Three weeks went by and I had nothing, so I called in and told them I wanted my tax work back, paid for the time the little gal had spent – $150 for NOTHING – and took them to my regular accountant,  John Burge. Burge had them done in three days, and only charged me about $300. 

After that experience, and a similar experience with my mother-in-law’s death, I don’t want my kids to have to deal with a lawyer. So, I’ve written my own will using Nolo Press, websites, and wills I have  from my mother and father-in-law that were written by high-priced lawyers. I’ve found  Nolo covers all the same bases that these wills cover. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get a lawyer, but lawyers have never worked out very well for me. 

So, I’m going to be spending the next weeks going over my will, using my Nolo Press book and whatever other information I can gather up. I’ll keep you posted! 

Welcome to Northern California – hope you brought your raincoat!

Listen – I think it just stopped raining…nope, still coming down.

I am looking for a chance to take the dogs for a walk, without getting soaked through, but may not get it. Yesterday we went for a ride in the car, picked up the mail, etc. We saw a family walking their old labs in the rain, trying to hold on to an oversize umbrella  in that wind – we could feel that wind tugging at our F-150!

I wish I had  taken my camera, there were streets flooding all around the Vallombrosa post office and the Safeway shopping center, just because of leaves piled in the gutters.  Of course, the Safeway parking lot is laid out really well, and kept very clean, so there was no flooding there, just out on Mangrove and Vallombrosa and Palmetto. People have put their leaves out in messy piles in the gutter, leaves from trees located well off the street, and now the piles are spreading out in every direction. Driveways are flooded just 10 feet from a drain, blocked by a pile of leaves from somebody’s back yard. I saw a leaf pick-up crew in front of my house yesterday, in the dumping rain, but I haven’t seen them anywhere else. Little too little, a little too late – don’t they listen to the weather report? This storm was heralded by the press, and right on time, there’s no excuse for the streets not having been swept, except the usual, “we’re short of staff…”

I’ve lived here all my life, but these storms always take me by surprise – the force is just awesome, I’ll use that word appropriately for a change. Watching an enormous tree being bent and shaken like a doll is impressive. There is debris from our sycamore trees laying all over our driveway. The enormous cedars in front of my neighbors’ house do the hoochee-coochee – they shake, like Santa laughing. And the leaves fly like flocks of little birds. 

At the post office, the music teacher had put out those straw ropes, it looked like water had been coming in the door of the post office too. When it starts coming off the roof of a building that quick and hard, it just bounces right back at the door. The water from the gutters needs to be re-directed away from the building in a storm like that. Once when we had a problem with rain water building up around the base of our house, my husband used an old hose from a discarded shop vac to make an extension of the rain spout – end of problem. Now we have hoses on water barrels under our fastest downspouts, and that has been working pretty good – a puddle that usually develops right in front of our front door is now moved away to the lawn. 

I got plenty of chores to keep me busy, but every  now and then I look out a window and am just hypnotized by the power of nature, standing, watching the rain pound the neighbor’s roof, while a flock of blackbirds parties away in another neighbor’s neglected persimmon  tree. Every now and then they leave the tree en masse and swoop around as one big bird, then disappear into the storm. A lone buzzard rides the wind over our neighborhood, searching for a snack. Once in a while I see a crane or a heron, flapping along to or from the park.

Sure, I’m glad to get the rain, but you know, it gets old getting soaked every time you go out, your clothes still hanging wet from the last outing. A couple of days to open the windows and do some laundry would be much appreciated. We’ll see what happens.  I’m so glad we knew this storm was coming, got the gutters cleaned and the yard cleaned up, ready for Winter, which is coming right around the bend. Time to bring in your porch plants and tighten up the doors and windows, Jack Frost will ride in after this storm.  

I get my weather report, of course, from my good friend and constant companion Arthur Itis – that guy can feel cold weather! 

At this time of year, it is nice to have traditions – fun to decorate the house, wrap the gifts, make cookies and other special treats. While I hate the commercial frenzy of this season, I like the idea that, outside the malls anyway, life slows down, people come to visit, children, even grown ones, get excited. The ghosts of Christmas’ past come to visit too, and it’s good to tell stories, shed a tear, have a laugh. 

To the kitchen!

 

 

 

 

Obamacare forces us to pay the premiums so public workers can have their insane healthcare packages

Yesterday I did some grousing about Obamacare, this morning I did some research – how many people are still uninsured? Last year they predicted over 30 million people would fall through the numerous cracks in the American Healthcare Act.

Here’s why – according to the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, “Over the past 25 years, with the exception of several years in the mid-1990s, increases in health insurance premiums have been substantially larger than increases in both workers’ earnings and in overall inflation.”

In the very beginning of the ACA discussion, Obama promised to make healthcare and insurance more affordable – those promises have gone along the wayside. Both are going up at an alarming rate. 

In 2009 the Social Security Advisory Board warned that ” the rising cost of health care represents perhaps the most significant threat to the long-term economic security of workers and retirees,” urging the government to ” take action to restrain the rising cost of health care. ”   Last spring, another report warned that even while prices for medical services had somewhat “flattened” over the past 5 years, with an average .5 percent increase,  more Americans were seeking healthcare, and government costs were going to be higher than expected.

I don’t know about any “flattening” of rates.  When I took a patient to the ER at Enloe, the bill showed $7,000/hour for the ER. When my husband got sick, Enloe told us his room would be $7,500/day. I’m assuming those prices have gone up – telling me the increase has slowed somewhat is not very comforting.  Let’s do the math – 10 years, at .5 percent per year – so now they’re only charging about $7500/hour in the ER, and maybe $8,000/day for a room? Oh, well, that’s so much better, I don’t know what I was so worried about! 

That would be why, again, according to the RWJF, “nearly a fifth of insured Americans report skipping a trip to the doctor when they’re sick or injured to save money, and only 36 percent are confident they can pay for a major, unexpected medical expense.”

That’s me – the Bronze Plan has me paying $800/month, there goes the money I would have spent seeing a reasonably priced provider. I see my dentist regularly, I’ve kept my kids going in all these years, and I’ve paid at the time of service, because dentistry is priced more reasonably. I won’t say I haven’t complained, but at least it’s doable.

When I tried to get in to see a doctor a few years ago, I was asked what insurance I had over the phone. When I told the receptionist I was “self pay,” she made the appointment. I drove all he way up to Paradise to see a doctor, who left me in the waiting room and skipped out the back door. I sat and sat, the receptionist tried to pretend she didn’t notice me. At 5pm I got up and reminded her I had a 4:30 appointment. She acted very flustered, then told me the doctor had left. I was astounded that a grown man would pull a stunt like that – I asked her if it was because I was uninsured, she assured me, oh no!, but when she looked in her appointment book, she couldn’t find anything for over a month. I had been told I had a serious condition, and had told her that when I’d made the first appointment. She suggested I go to the ER at Feather River Hospital. 

Okay, so I pay my $800 a month – that should at least entitle me to a doctor visit. Not necessarily – have you seen the ad in the News and Review – I featured it in a previous post – a woman doctor here in Chico who says, “I’m sorry, I don’t accept Covered California,” right in her ad! 

Obamacare is a failure, Covered California is a failure. The real intent behind this scam, and it has worked somewhat, was to get more people signed up for insurance to pay the rising healthcare costs of the already insured – mostly public workers. Public workers’ health policies have driven up the cost of everything for everybody,  and now they want to force healthy people to sign up but they want to exclude older people whose health and earnings are naturally decreasing. 

This is what we’ve walked into, along with the contracts that guarantee defined pension benefits. 

 

 

Hello from the Death Machine!

 I woke up this morning to find my constant companion, Arthur Itis, throwing a bitch fit about getting the lid off the dog food bucket.  You know, when your bones are rotting, the stupidest little task can be completely confounding.

When I went to the doctor about it, he handed me a bag of painkillers that would eat the hull off Old Ironsides, and a card for his chiropractor friend. I have tried chiropractic, I’ve tried massage – those treatments felt great while I was getting them, but wore off over the car trip home. I had to laugh – I had a regular 3 pm appointment with my massage therapist, I’d get out of there at 5pm.  She’s right next to the freeway, by the time I got out of the car I felt like somebody had folded me into a pretzel. 

I also have compression in my lower back and neck – I didn’t need an x-ray to know that – I can turn in this chair and it sounds like somebody’s shuffling a deck of cards. 

I whine about this on my blog because there’s nothing else I can do about it. The one trip to the doctor for a bag of pills I have been afraid to use cost me about $200. The nurse didn’t speak very good English and kept writing stuff down wrong. I had to look over her shoulder and correct her several times, and after that she wouldn’t be corrected, she just wrote down what she wanted. I looked at her report later and she’d gotten it completely screwed  up – for one thing, I had told her a long history of my problems and she’d written that the symptoms had just appeared that day, stuff like that. 

I’ll tell you what, giving my SSN to the kind of people that run doctor’s offices and ER’s these days is nothing short of alarming. Right now LifeLock is running a commercial about a person whose SSN is stolen by the receptionist at her doctor’s office. Should I be doing background checks before I go to the doctor’s office? Probably.

Obama promised us rainbows, we got a load of bullshit. Hello from the Death Machine. Don’t believe me? Well, why don’t you call the finance office at Enloe today and ask them what kind of Obamacare they accept? Ask them if they accept the Bronze Plan, let me know what they say. I’m guessing if you tried to check in on Covered California you’d find yourself on the way to Oroville. 

So, me and Arthur are headed for a hot tub. We let it run until it is just about scalding, and then we get our rubber duckies and we get in there up to our necks. We do our arm exercises, we make big circles and little circles, we do the same with every finger. The thumbs hurt like Holy Hell. Then we try to stretch from our hips – not our backs! – and touch our toes. That’s funny, I struggle to touch my toes now, what a hoot. 

Today I’m going to try to get on an aspirin regimen – remembering to do it is the main thing, right after a meal. Aspirin has been good to me in the past, I even like the taste, go figure. It’s supposed to be an anti-inflammatory, I’ll keep you posted.

Of course I exercise – there’s the conundrum for you – exercise is what did this to me, how can they say it’s good for you? But it is – I know, only because if I don’t exercise, it hurts more. I ride my bike alot, I do yardwork, even hanging laundry is a good workout, because it means carrying weight about 100 feet and lifting stuff over my head. But, I’ll admit, I don’t get alot of aerobic exercise, where you get your heart rate up, and I think that’s important because it releases good chemicals in your blood  stream. I might try fast walking, because of course running too high impact. I’ll keep you posted on that.

I try to stay positive, but sometimes I just need to gripe. Thanks for listening!

Shut up Arthur, you talk too much. 

 

Don’t throw out those old apples – make new apple juice!

I found a sweet surprise when I cleaned out my refrigerator yesterday – in that bottom drawer, a couple dozen Fuji apples from our little trees, still firm and good. I ate one – still crisp and sweet, but starting to get soft – time to make one last batch of apple juice.

I had to trim out some wormy spots, but if I can get a colander full of fruit, it's worth dragging out the juicer.

I had to trim out some wormy spots, but if I can get a colander full of fruit, it’s worth dragging out the juicer.

I got my Breville juicer years back, with some online gift certificates my father-in-law had given me for my birthday and Christmas. They had piled up, I didn’t like online shopping back then, so my husband sat down and ordered me a juicer I would not have bought for myself.  It was expensive by my standards, but the price had come down about $100 since I’d first become interested. Juicers have become a lot less expensive, there’s a lot of different kinds now.  They’re easy to use, and clean, which is nice. 

I’ve certainly got my father-in-law’s money’s worth out of it since then. In summer, I like to juice tomatoes, carrots and celery, maybe a bell pepper, for a nice V-4 cocktail, throw in a little worcestorshire sauce. One summer we had so many peaches, I made peach juice – nectar of the gods. Last year we had a lot of grapes, and I just found the last pint of grape juice in the freezer.  This juicer has turned out to be one of my husband’s best ideas. 

I was surprised how moist and sweet these months-old apples still tasted. Out of that colander of fruit I got two pints of juice, one of which we drank while having breakfast. 

That rich amber color doesn't lie - this was a good batch of juice.

That rich amber color doesn’t lie – this was a good batch of juice.  The juicer pitcher has a separator to turn back the foam. 

If my husband doesn’t drink it all, I’ll use it in my smoothies. To think, I was going to throw those old apples out, they didn’t look so good. Only one turned out to be too wormy to save, the rest went in the machine. 

I have to admit, I might put off using my juicer because it seems like a big mess – and has to be cleaned immediately to avoid having fruit pulp build up on the screen. But, I’m always surprised how fast I can have the whole thing taken apart – 5 Easy Pieces! – and a little warm soapy water and the provided plastic brush are all it takes for a quick clean-up. 

I used to save the pulp for baking, as suggested, but the resulting muffins tasted, well, pulpy, so now it just goes right into the compost bucket.  It’s not like it will go to waste in there. 

Bon Dia!