How to Pick a Medicare Advantage Plan


I'm approaching 65 and am interested in a Medicare Advantage plan to cover my healthcare and medications. What tips can you provide to help me pick a plan?
Medicare Advantage plans have become increasingly popular among retirees over the past 10 years, as more than 30% of Medicare participants are now enrolled in an Advantage plan. Here are some tips and tools to help you pick a plan that fits your needs.
First, let's start with a quick review. Medicare Advantage plans (also known as Medicare Part C) are government approved health plans sold by private insurance companies that you can choose in place of original Medicare. The vast majority of Advantage plans are managed-care policies such as HMOs or PPOs that require you to get your care within a network of doctors.
If you join an Advantage plan, the plan will provide all of your Part A (hospital insurance) and Part B (medical insurance) coverage. Some plans even offer extra benefits like vision, dental and hearing, and most plans include Part D prescription drug coverage too.
You also need to know that the monthly premiums for many Advantage plans are cheaper than if you got original Medicare, plus a separate Part D drug plan and a Medigap policy, but their deductibles and co-pays are usually higher. That makes these plans better suited for healthier retirees.

How to Pick

To help you pick a plan, a good first step is to call the office managers of the doctors you use and find out which Advantage plans they accept, and which ones they recommend. Then go to the Medicare Plan Finder tool at and type in your ZIP code or your personal information to compare health plans with drug coverage in your area.
This tool also provides a five-star rating system that evaluates each plan based on past customer satisfaction and quality of care the plan delivers. When comparing, here are some key points to consider:
Total costs: Look at the plan's entire pricing package, not just the premiums and deductibles. Compare the maximum out-of-pocket costs plus the copays and coinsurance charged for doctor office visits, hospital stays, visits to specialists, prescription drugs and other medical services. This is important because if you choose an Advantage plan, you're not allowed to purchase a Medigap policy, which means you'll be responsible for paying these expenses out of your own pocket.
Drug coverage: Check the plan's formulary - the list of prescription drugs covered - to be sure all the medications you take are covered without excessive co-pays or requirements that you try less expensive drugs first.
Dental, vision and hearing: Some Advantage plans come with dental, vision and hearing benefits, but are often limited. Get the details on what exactly is covered.
Coverage while traveling: Most Advantage plans limit you to using in-network doctors only within a service area or geographic region, so find out what's covered if you need medical care when you're away from home.
Out-of-network coverage: Check to see what's covered if you want to see a specialist in a hospital that is not in a plan's network. You can get a list of doctors and hospitals that take part in a plan on the plan's website.
Retiree benefits: If you have employer-based retiree health coverage, be sure you speak with the benefits manager, because signing up for Medicare Advantage may void your coverage.

How to Enroll

Once you've selected a plan you can enroll either on the website, over the phone at 1-800-MEDICARE, directly with your chosen plan or through an insurance broker.
If you need some help choosing a plan contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) at Also see the HealthMetrix Research Cost Share Report at that lists the best Advantage plans based on health status.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.
Published May 27, 2016">Email
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Washington County Community Foundation Announces Spring Grant Recipients

 Washington County Community Foundation Announces Spring Grant Recipients


Grants totaling over $7,900.00 were awarded to several Washington County organizations by the Washington County Community Foundation for the Spring 2016 grant cycle. Grants are awarded from the Foundation’s Touch Tomorrow funds.


Blue River Services is the recipient of a $406.00 grant from the Tony and Jeanette Nolan and Rachel Spaulding Davis Touch Tomorrow Funds. The grant will be used partially to match another grant Blue River Services received to install automatic doors in the two Washington County facilities so the public may have safe, unobstructed access to services.


The Burl and Carmelita Jean and Garland and Norma Sue White Touch Tomorrow Funds have awarded Hoosier Hills PACT a $5,575.00 grant to paint and repair the exterior of the Domestic Violence Shelter. The paint will help to offer a more welcoming appearance for clients and guests in the community.


The YMCA of Washington County is the recipient of a $2,000.00 grant from the Gene and Judy Hedrick and Brent and Lauren Elliott Touch Tomorrow Funds. The grant will be used for “Afterhours at the Y”, a program for students age 12 and older to come to the YMCA on two Friday nights in the summer.  The grant will be used for advertising, Sumo wrestling contest, and movie licensing.


Washington County Community Foundation is a nonprofit public charity established in 1993 to serve donors, award grants, and provide leadership to improve Washington County forever


Important Life Decisions

Important Life Decisions

"How can I plan?" asked Mary. "We just sold our home and bought a retirement condo. Our older child just moved across the country and our younger child will be getting married later this year. With so much change, how can we make plans?"

Life Changes Quickly

In each of our lives, change comes very quickly. You are going to face new circumstances every year.
Yet planning exists to prepare for life—and to give your family members better lives. It is essential to create goals that help your family live better in the midst of new circumstances.
Planning for the future is a key part of a successful life. Even if you or your family are going through major changes, there are several basic steps that will help you succeed in your plans.

Set Goals

Step one for a successful life is to have goals. It has been said, "If you don't know where you're going, you're not likely to get there." This is very true about goals for your family and for your estate.
Often, single persons or couples meet with a professional advisor and have not considered setting specific goals. Your advisor in this circumstance will try to be helpful and suggest "typical" goals.
However, think about goal-setting as though you are purchasing a birthday gift for a family member in a clothing store. You might look at many different shirts or pants for that person. A clothing store might have 20, 30, or even 50 different sizes. One size does not fit all in the area of clothing, and it also doesn't work for your family and estate plan.
How do you find the "right size?" That shirt or slacks for a family member must fit properly. In your planning for family, it's important to decide the right time and amounts for an inheritance to be most beneficial for your children, nephews and nieces. Your other goals may include the age for heirs to receive property and reducing costs and death taxes.

What Do You Own?

Can you write down a list of all the property you own? A single person will often own items outright, although there may be a mortgage or other debt obligation against real property. However, married couples have at least three different types of potential ownership. Property could be owned individually by spouses or owned jointly. In some states, the property could be held in a type of joint ownership called community property.
Understanding your property starts with listing all of your assets including your savings account, certificates of deposit, home, IRA, 401(k) and personal assets.

Children, Nephews and Nieces

Your plan to benefit family through your estate will vary greatly, depending upon the ages and circumstances of your children and their needs. For parents with minor children, a key decision is to select a guardian. Minor children also need to have property held in trust, so there is appropriate investment and expenditure of those funds. For adult children, it's important to think through the right time, right amount and right type of inheritance. Many families find that a trust that pays income for a number of years to adult children is also a very helpful method to provide added security for them.

Wills and Trusts

Do you have a will? Is it current? You should review your will periodically and discuss your plan with your attorney. If you have a substantial estate, a will with a trust may be appropriate. Because a will does not provide for your care in a medical emergency, you will want to make sure that your estate planning includes a will, a durable power of attorney for healthcare and a living will to handle end-of-life issues.

Planning for Probate

How can you avoid probate? Generally, most individuals can avoid probate for a large portion of their assets.
The probate process is important because when a person passes away, his or her property must first be used to pay bills, expenses and debts. An executor or personal representative is appointed to gather an inventory of all assets, conserve assets for all beneficiaries and make certain to carry out the decedent's intentions as written in his or her will.
The probate process specifically applies to assets transferred under your will. However, many types of assets are transferred through other means. Trusts, IRAs and insurance are subject to the terms of the agreement or beneficiary designation. Property held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship is transferred to the survivor whose name is on title.
Pay-on-death and other types of accounts can also avoid probate. However, all parts of your entire plan need to work together. When a plan has not been carefully developed to meet your goals, there may be an expensive and heart-rending fight over property by your heirs.
A good plan will give one of the best possible gifts to your family—the gift of peace.

Simplified Tablets Designed for Tech-Challenged Seniors

Simplified Tablets Designed for Tech-Challenged Seniors

I'm interested in getting my 78-year-old mother a tablet for video calls and email but want to get her one that's simple to use. What can you recommend?
There are several different ways you can go about getting your mom a simplified tablet that's easy for her to use. Depending on how much help she needs and how much you're willing to spend, here are some different options to consider.

Simplify a Tablet

If you or your mom already has a tablet, but it's too difficult for her to use, you can install a free senior-friendly software application on it like Oscar Senior (, which works on Apple iPads and Android tablets.
This app will change the appearance and performance of your tablet into a simplified device with big understandable icons for only commonly used features (video calls, photos, instant messages, Internet, news, weather, reminders, contacts, etc.) with no clutter. It even offers remote access capabilities so you can gain access to your mom's tablet from your smartphone, so you can see what she sees, and help her if she gets stuck.

Limited Tech Skills

If you're interested in purchasing your mom a new tablet that's specifically designed for seniors, you have options here too, depending on how simple it needs to be.
For seniors with some, but limited computer/tablet skills, there's AARP's RealPad, which is an Android Intel tablet with a 7.85-inch touchscreen that provides a simplified home page with large text icons for frequently used functions. It also comes with 24/7 phone support and a "Real QuickFix" tool that connects users to technology support agents over the Internet who can access the tablet and fix problems. Available at for only $60, AARP recently announced that the RealPad will be discontinued when inventory sells out in a few months, but they will continue offering customer/technical support throughout the life of the product.

No Tech Skills

If your mother is completely unfamiliar with technology, two simpler options are the GrandPad and Claris Companion.
GrandPad is a 7-inch touchscreen Android tablet that is designed for seniors, ages 75 and older. It comes with a stylus, charging stand and Verizon 4G LTE built-in so it works anywhere within the Verizon network - home Wi-Fi is not necessary.
This tablet provides a simplified menu of big colorful icons and large text for only essential features, giving your mom clutter-free, one-touch access to make phone calls and video calls, send voice emails, view photos and videos, listen to personalized music, check the weather, play games and more. To simplify usage and avoid confusion, it does not offer Web browsing.
GrandPad also has a "Help" button that offers 24/7 phone/tablet remote assistance to help your mom with any facet of her tablet and it provides damage and theft insurance so if your mom breaks or loses her tablet it will be replaced at no additional cost. It is available at or you can call 800-704-9412. The GrandPad leases for $60 per month, or $53/month if you pay one year in advance.
Another option is the Claris Companion (, 866-284-4939). It offers Wi-Fi and 4G tablets that cost $549 and $649 respectively, plus a $29 and $49 monthly subscription fee.
These tablets are designed specifically for elderly seniors living at home so their family can connect with them socially via video calls, email, text messages and photos. It also gives caregivers the ability to receive alerts and monitor compliance with medications, treatments and important appointments.
Claris Companions are 10-inch Android tablets that have big buttons and text to only essential functions. They come in a thick bamboo frame, with a charging stand that prop them up and can be customized to fit your mom's needs and abilities. Claris also offers a lower cost tablet option for $349 and an Android app for $29.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.
Published May 20, 2016">Email
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How to Replace Vital Documents that are Lost or Stolen

How to Replace Vital Documents that are Lost or Stolen

Can you tell me how to go about replacing important lost documents? My wife and I recently downsized to a retirement community, and somewhere in the move we lost our Social Security and Medicare cards, birth certificates, marriage license and passports.
Replacing important documents that are lost, stolen or damaged is pretty easy if you know where to turn. Here are the replacement resources for each document you mentioned, along with some tips to protect you from identity theft, which can happen if your documents end up in the wrong hands.
Birth certificate: If you were born in the United States, contact the vital records office in the state where you were born (see for contact information). This office will give you specific instructions that will explain how to order a certified copy and what it will cost you. Birth certificate fees range between $9 and $30.
Social Security card: You can replace a lost or stolen Social Security card for free. If you live in the District of Columbia, Michigan, Nebraska, Washington or Wisconsin, you can do it online at If you live outside these areas, you'll need to fill out Form SS-5 (see to print a copy) and take it in or mail it to your nearby Social Security office, along with either your U.S. driver's license, a state-issued non-driver ID card or a U.S. passport (photocopies are not accepted). Any documents you mail will be returned to you. To find the Social Security office that serves your area, call 800-772-1213 or see
You also need to be aware that losing your Social Security card puts you at risk for identity theft. If you find that someone uses your Social Security number to obtain credit, loans, telephone accounts, or other goods and services, report it immediately to the Federal Trade Commission at (or 877-438-4338). This website also provides specific steps that you'll need to take in order to handle this problem.
Medicare card: To replace your Medicare card for free, just call the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 or contact your local Social Security office. You can also request one online at Your card will arrive in the mail in about 30 days.
Since you lost your Medicare card, you also need to watch out for Medicare fraud. Check your Medicare Summary Notice for services you did not receive and, if you spot any, call the Inspector General's fraud hotline at 800-447-8477 to report them.
Marriage certificate: Contact your state's vital records office to order a copy (see You'll need to provide your full names for you and your spouse, the date of your wedding, and the city or town where the wedding was performed. Fees range from $10 to $30.
Note: Divorce certificates can also be ordered from your state's vital records office (fees range from $5 to $30), and divorce decree documents can be obtained from the county clerk's office in the city or county where the divorce was granted.
Passport: A lost passport also puts you at risk for identity theft, so you need to report this as soon as possible to the U.S. State Department. Go to and fill out Form DS-64. You'll receive an e-mail acknowledging that your report was received. Within a couple of days, you'll receive another e-mail (or letter, if you request that option) confirming that your passport has been entered into the Consular Lost or Stolen Database.
You can apply for a replacement passport at a Passport Application Acceptance Facility. Many post offices, public libraries and local government offices serve as such facilities. You can search for the nearest authorized facility at The fee for a replacement passport is $135.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Bypass the Estate Tax

Bypass the Estate Tax

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 created permanent rules for federal estate planning. These principles are helpful in creating estate plans, since there now is reasonable certainty.
Estate Exemption – There is an applicable exclusion amount of $5 million plus indexed increases. For 2016, the exclusion amount is $5.45 million. This amount also applies to gifts and to generation skipping transfer taxes.
Estate Tax Rate – Those estates over the exclusion amount will be taxed at 40%. Estate tax equals $345,800 on the first $1,000,000 and 40% of the excess over that amount, reduced by the applicable exclusion amount. This amount for 2016 is calculated based on a $5.45 million estate and will be $2,125,800. The $5.45 million number will be adjusted for inflation in future years.
Marital Portability – Under "marital portability," a surviving spouse may have both exclusion amounts available. The applicable exclusion amount for a surviving spouse will be the basic exclusion amount of $5 million with cost of living increment plus the "deceased spousal unused exclusion amount." The unused exclusion will be the exclusion amount of the deceased spouse in excess of the basic exclusion amount used in the estate of that spouse. The unused exclusion amount will not be adjusted further for inflation. In order to benefit from this provision, the deceased spouse must die after 2010 and the executor must make an irrevocable election on the federal estate tax return.
If the deceased spouse transfers all assets to the surviving spouse using the unlimited marital deduction, then the surviving spouse should have available the full value of both exclusions. The amount of exclusion cannot exceed twice the basic exclusion amount and only the remaining exclusion of the last deceased spouse may be utilized.
Gift Taxes – There are two exclusions for gifts during life. Present interest gifts qualify for a $14,000 (in 2016) annual exclusion. This gift exclusion is intended to cover birthday, holiday and other gifts. There is one exclusion for each donor and each donee. For example, a couple with two children may give up to $56,000 to their children in 2016 by using four gift exclusions.
Each person also has a lifetime gift exclusion amount equal to the estate exclusion amount for that year. If the gifts exceed annual exclusion amounts, the balance will be reported on the IRS Gift Tax Return Form 709. The amount of gifts reported on Form 709 will reduce the available estate exemption. Gifts in excess of both the annual exclusions and the lifetime gift applicable exclusion amount will be subject to a 40% gift tax.
Generation Skipping Tax – If a donor transfers property to a grandchild during life or through an estate, there is potentially another transfer tax. The generation skipping tax (GST) is 40% on transfers to grandchildren or great-grandchildren that exceed the GST applicable exclusion amount. This GST exclusion is the same as the estate exclusion for the year of the transfer.

Bypass Trusts

Because there is an estate tax with an exemption of $5.45 million in 2016, it will continue to be important for individuals with large estates to create "bypass trusts." The bypass trust is a trust created in the estate of the first spouse to die. It typically will benefit the surviving spouse and the trust principal may then be transferred to children without further estate taxation.
There are two general types of bypass trusts. The conventional bypass trust pays income to the surviving spouse. When he or she passes away, the trust is distributed to children. For individuals who have large IRAs, 401Ks or other qualified pension plans, another option is a "bypass charitable remainder trust."

Bypass Trust Potential Tax Savings

For a couple with larger assets, a bypass trust is created in the estate of the first spouse to pass away. It is typically funded at the amount of the estate exemption. The bypass trust saves future estate tax because the tax in the first estate is offset by the exemption of the first spouse. Because the bypass trust is subject to tax in the first estate (but covered by the estate exemption), it is not taxable in the second estate. While the portability of the marital deduction permits the first spouse to use a simple will and transfer assets to the surviving spouse, a bypass trust permits the appreciation of trust assets during the lifetime of surviving spouse to escape taxation. The savings on this appreciation could be quite substantial in a larger estate.
Assume that there is a $5.45 million exemption per person and Joe and Jane have a $10.9 million estate. They have a simple will with all to the survivor. Joe passes away and transfers his half of the estate to Jane. She then owns all $10.9 million in assets. There is no tax because of the unlimited marital deduction. Joe's executor elects to pass to Jane the $5.45 million "deceased spouse unused exemption amount (DSUEA)."
In the ten years before Jane's death, the estate grows to $14.45 million and Jane's exemption is increased by indexing from $5.45 million to $6 million. When Jane passes away ten years later, her exemption plus the DSUEA total $11.45 million. However, the estate is $14.45 million and $3 million of her estate is taxable. The estate tax at 40% is $1.2 million.
Bill and Betty also have a $10.9 million estate. However, both of them create plans with a bypass trust. Bill passes away in 2016 and his entire $5.45 million estate is transferred to a bypass trust. The trust is exempt because of the $5.45 million estate exemption. Therefore, Bill's estate pays no estate tax. Betty receives income from the bypass trust for her lifetime. When she passes away, the bypass trust and her estate are each $7.17 million. Only her estate is subject to tax. With a $7.17 million estate and a $6 million exemption, the tax is $468,000. The bypass trust saved $732,000 in estate tax.

Bypass Trust Powers

The bypass trust is designed to use the exemption in the first estate and to avoid any tax in the second estate. In order to do this, the trustee must have limited powers to transfer assets to the surviving spouse. If the trustee, who may also be the surviving spouse, can simply transfer the property from the trust for his or her comfort or well-being, there is not an "ascertainable standard" and the trust will be included in his or her estate.
Therefore, the bypass trust typically has a requirement to pay income to the surviving spouse and a permission to transfer principal to the surviving spouse under a "health, education, maintenance and support" standard. In essence, there is an "ascertainable standard" that governs the circumstances in which assets may be transferred to the surviving spouse.
It is also permissible to give the trustee a power to invade the trust to the extent of the greater of $5,000 or 5% of trust assets each year. This power is used fairly infrequently because the assets transferred from the bypass trust to the surviving spouse will be subject to estate tax when he or she passes away.

Bypass Trust Pitfalls

There are many benefits of a bypass trust, but there are also some cautions. First, if the family residence is transferred into the bypass trust, it will usually receive a stepped-up basis to the value when the first spouse passes away. If the home does not appreciate, the bypass trust could sell it without paying capital gains tax. However, if the house is held for a period of years and appreciates, the bypass trust does not qualify for the $250,000 capital gain exclusion for sale of a principal residence. Therefore, there could be substantial capital gains tax payable on that residence if sold by the bypass trust.
Second, if there is a blended family that is going to receive the bypass trust remainder, the spouse may attempt to use the "health, education, maintenance and support" standard to invade the trust. For example, if the surviving spouse is the second husband or wife and the remainder of the bypass trust is going to children of the first marriage, he or she may attempt to invade the trust and then transfer it to his or her own children.
Finally, there could be conflict between the surviving spouse and a child. If the surviving spouse becomes ill and a child takes over as trustee, the child may be reluctant to provide high quality and expensive care for surviving spouse. This expensive care would deplete the trust and reduce the inheritance of the child. Therefore, this conflict of interest could cause problems.

Rights of the Surviving Spouse

In most cases, the surviving spouse will be trustee and will receive all income from the bypass trust. The surviving spouse will have the right to control the property. If there is a family residence in the trust, he or she will be able to live in the home.
Following the standards set up under the health, education, maintenance and support rule for invasion of principal, a surviving spouse may (with appropriate justification) invade principal. Finally, some trusts permit the surviving spouse the greater of $5,000 or 5% invasion power to take principal from the trust.

Bypass Formula Clause

The bypass trust normally is funded with a formula clause in the estate of the first person to pass away. Within that estate, there will be a fractional share or fixed dollar clause that is designed to allocate the maximum amount to the trust that will avoid federal estate tax. If the exemption equivalent is $5.45 million, that amount is generally allocated to the bypass trust.
The spouses and their counsel should also consider the impact of potential state inheritance or estate taxes. For most states, there will be tax that may be levied even on the first estate. Because the state inheritance and estate tax rates are lower than the federal tax, it may still be appropriate to fully fund the bypass trust. However, counsel and the two spouses should review the state tax impact on their plan.

Retirement Funds to Bypass Trust

If the first spouse to pass away has a majority of his or her estate in taxable retirement funds, it may be necessary to use those assets to fund the bypass trust. It is quite easy to do so through a beneficiary designation for the IRA, 401K or other qualified plan. For a 401K or in a community property state, it is necessary to have a spousal consent to fund the trust. In most cases, counsel will require a spousal consent if a trust is to be funded with an IRA, 401K or other qualified retirement plan.
The potential disadvantage of funding the bypass trust with a taxable retirement plan is that it is a wasting asset. That is, as the qualified plan is paid out to the bypass trust, it is subject to income tax. The federal and state income tax may exceed 40% on the plan payouts.
For example, with a $2 million IRA paid to the bypass trust over a 12 year expectancy of a surviving spouse, there could be $800,000 in federal and state income tax. The $2 million IRA could be reduced to $1.2 million after tax.

Bypass Charitable Remainder Unitrust

If the estate is fairly substantial, it may be preferable to transfer the IRA, 401K or other qualified plan into a bypass charitable reminder unitrust (CRT).
The bypass CRT is usually a 5% payout unitrust. It may exist for the life of spouse and lives of children, or it may exist for the life of surviving spouse plus a term of up to 20 years for children.
Because the bypass CRT qualifies for the use of the estate exemption and there is a charitable estate deduction for the value of the remainder interest, it may be larger than the typical bypass trust. For example, with a $5.45 million exemption and a $750,000 present value of the remainder interest, it may be possible to fund the bypass CRT with $6 million and still have zero estate tax.
The CRT has the benefit of tax-exempt status. It may receive the full distribution from an IRA, 401K or other qualified plan tax free. The full value of the plan may then be invested for the benefit of the surviving spouse and children. The value of the total income distributed over a long period of time may actually be similar to the value of income plus principal in a regular bypass trust. With a regular bypass trust, the IRA or 401K will be depleted by payment of a very high income tax rate.

$3 Million IRA to Bypass Trust or to Bypass CRT?

Mary has a $3 million IRA and $3 million in other assets. She passes away and transfers those assets into her $6 million bypass trust for the benefit of husband Joe. The IRA is paid out over the 12 year expectancy of her surviving spouse, Joe. There is $1.2 million in income tax paid on the $3 million IRA, leaving $4.8 million in the bypass trust. Husband Joe and the children receive income from $4.8 million for their lifetimes.
Martha also has a $3 million IRA and $3 million in other assets. She transfers both assets into a bypass charitable remainder trust. The $6 million trust receives a $3 million IRA distribution, but it is tax-exempt. All $6 million is invested to earn income for family for the duration of the lives of surviving spouse Mitchell and their children. This trust will eventually be transferred to charity, but the increased life income to family makes up for the future gift to charity.

Choosing an Appropriate Walking Cane

Choosing an Appropriate Walking Cane

I have severe arthritis in my knee and could use a walking cane to help me get around. Is there anything I should know about canes before I buy one?
When it comes to choosing a cane for balance and support, most people don't give it much thought, but they should. Walking canes come in hundreds of different styles, shapes and sizes today, so you need to take into account your needs and preferences to ensure you choose one that's appropriate for you. Here are some tips that can help.

Types of Canes

The first thing you need to consider is how much support you need. That will help you determine the kind of cane you choose. The three basic types of canes you'll have to choose from include:
1. Straight canes: These are basic, single point canes that typically incorporate a rounded "crook" handle or "L-shaped" ergonomic handle. They are usually made of lightweight aluminum or wood. Most of the aluminum models are adjustable in height and some even fold up.
2. Offset-handle canes: These also are single point straight canes, but come with a swan neck curve in the upper part of the shaft that puts the user's weight directly over the cane tip for added stability. These canes are typically aluminum, adjustable-height and come with a flat, soft grip handle that's easy on the hands.
Both straight canes and offset-handle canes are best suited for people who have a slight walking impairment.
3. Quad canes: Also called broad based canes, these work best for people who need maximum weight bearing and support. Quad canes come with four separate tips (some have three tips). They usually have an offset flat handle and can remain standing when you let go of it, which is very convenient.

Fitting the Cane

Once you decide on the type of cane, you need to make sure it fits. Stand up with your arms hanging straight down at your side. The top of the cane should line up with the crease in your wrist, so your arm is slightly bent at the elbow when you grip the cane.
The cane should also have a rubber tip at the bottom to prevent slipping. A worn or torn rubber tip is dangerous, so check the tip frequently to ensure it's in good condition and replace it when necessary. Rubber tips come in different sizes depending on the shaft diameter, and can usually be purchased in multipacks at your local pharmacy.
The grip is also very important, so choose one that's ergonomically designed, or one that has a molded rubber or foam grip that's comfortable to hold on to.
And if you travel much, consider getting a folding cane that can be packed or stored away easily.

How to Use

When using a cane, it should always be held in the hand opposite of the leg that needs support. For example, if your knee pain is on your left side, you should use the cane in your right hand. The cane should then move forward as you step forward with the bad leg.
If you have to go upstairs, you should lead with the good leg. And when you go down stairs, you should put your cane on the step first and then step down with your bad leg.
The Mayo Clinic offers a slide show at that will show you how to choose and use a cane. It's also a smart idea to work with a physical therapist.

Where to Buy

You can buy canes at drugstores, discount retailers, medical supply stores and online, usually between $10 and $50. You'll also be happy to know that Medicare covers canes with a written prescription from a physician.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Leaving a Legacy Through Sportsmanship

Some of the best lessons Terry Schuler ever learned were on the baseball field. They may not have been lessons in batting, or throwing, or fielding, but lessons about life.  These are the lessons that guided Terry through adulthood.  Lessons that were life-changing.  Terry wanted other children to learn those same lessons on the ballfield.  Lessons taught by working with coaches and other players and experiences that helped send him to adulthood successfully.

The Terry Schuler Little League Fund in the Washington County Community Foundation will award one child from each of the seven leagues of baseball and softball, through the Salem Parks and Recreation Department, a Sportsmanship Award at the end of regular season play.

Terry knew not every child could have the best batting average or the highest strikeout percentage; but, he did know that every child could learn a lesson in the dirt of the field. That lesson is how to treat others.

How to Downsize Your Stuff for a Move

Can you offer any helpful tips for downsizing? My husband and I are interested in moving to a condo downtown when we retire, but we need to get rid of a lot of our personal possessions before we can move. We've lived in the same house for almost 35 years and have accumulated tons of stuff.
The process of weeding through a house full of stuff and parting with old possessions can be difficult and overwhelming for many people.
A good place to start the downsizing process is to give your unused possessions away to your kids or grandkids. You can give up to $14,000 per person per year before you're required to file a federal gift tax return, using IRS Form 709. Beyond that, here are a few other tips and services that may help you.

Sell It

Selling your stuff is one way you can downsize and pad your pocketbook at the same time. Some other popular selling options are consignment shops, garage sales and estate sales.
Consignment shops are good for selling old clothing, household furnishings and decorative items. You typically get half of the final sale price. Garage sales are another option, or for large-scale downsizing you could hire an estate sale company to come in and sell your items. Some companies will even pick up your stuff and sell it at their own location - they typically take about 40% of the profits.
Or, if you're willing, online selling at sites like Craigslist, eBay and Amazon are another way to make top dollar for your stuff. is a huge classified ads site that lets you sell your stuff for free. Note that and will take a cut of your sale - roughly 10% to 15%. If you don't want to do the selling yourself, eBay offers a valet service ( to do it for you, for 20% to 40% of the selling price.

Donate It

If you itemize on your tax returns, donating your belongings is another way to downsize and get a tax deduction. Goodwill (, 800-741-0186) and the Salvation Army (, 800-728-7825) are two big charitable organizations that will come to your house and pick up a variety of household items, furnishings and clothing.
If your deduction exceeds $500, you'll need to file Form 8283, "Noncash Charitable Contributions" ( You'll also need a receipt from the organization for every batch of items you donate, and will need to create an itemized list of the items you donated. To calculate fair market value for your stuff, use the Salvation Army's donation guide at, or the free program "It's Deductible" at

Trash It

If you have a lot of junk you want to get rid of, contact your municipal trash service to see if they provide bulk curbside pickup services. Or, depending on where you live, you could hire a company like 1-800-Got-Junk (, 800-468-5865) or Junk-King (, 888-888-5865) to come in and haul it off for a moderate fee.
Another good disposal option is Bagster (, 877-789-2247) by Waste Management. This is a dumpster bag that you purchase for around $30, fill it to a limit of 3,300 pounds and schedule a pickup, which costs an average of $140 but varies by area.

Enlist Help

You can also hire a professional senior move manager (, 877-606-2766) to do the entire job for you. These are organizers who will sort through your stuff and arrange for the disposal through an estate sale, donations or consignment. Or, you can hire a professional organizer through the National Association of Professional Organizers at Organizers may charge $30 to $80 per hour or by the project.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Elder Mediation Can Help Families Resolve Caregiving Conflicts

Are there any services that you know of that help families resolve caregiving conflicts? My mother - who just turned 82 - recently had a stroke, and to make matters worse, my two siblings and I have been perpetually arguing about how to handle her caregiving needs and finances.

It's not unusual for adult children to disagree with each other regarding the care of an elder parent. If your siblings are willing, a good possible solution is to hire an "elder care mediator" who can help you work through your disagreements peacefully. Here's what you need to know.

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