Estate planning: Preparing for your family's well-being
* Creating family traditions
children: What parents can do
planning: Preparing for your family’s well-being
Suzanne Zemelman Gellman, MS, JD
Financial Education Specialist
Estate planning is a topic often
avoided by individuals because it deals with attitudes and feelings
about death, property ownership, business arrangements, marriage and
family relationships that they or other family members may not be ready
to think about.
People who have experienced the death of a family member
agree it is worth investing some time and money to avoid the confusion,
delay, expense and quarreling that sometimes occurs in families when an
individual dies without an estate plan.
Most people, when they stop and think about it, would like to
have a say about what happens to property they have worked so hard to
accumulate. An estate plan is a tool that provides some aspect of
control. If you don’t bother to make a plan, state and federal laws will
determine what happens to your real and personal property upon your
What would happen if your estate had to be settled tomorrow?
Would your spouse be able to maintain a satisfactory level of living?
Would an adequate education for your children be assured? Who would
receive your property if, after your death, your spouse remarried—your
children, the second spouse, a business partner? You can determine the
answers to these questions and others by enacting your own estate plan.
Your plan needs to be tailored to your resources and to your
family’s needs. Unfortunately, many families cannot come to grips with
these challenges because they are unaware of the cost of not planning.
They are afraid of what they think is a complex subject, or are wary of
outsiders who seek to help them develop a plan. Whether you realize it
or not, you are unconsciously developing part of your estate plan every
time you acquire property, decide how property or accounts will be
titled, name beneficiaries, or purchase insurance.
The estate planning process involves six basic steps: 1)
Initiate the discussion; 2) Take stock of the present; 3) Develop
objectives; 4) Choose professional advisers and discuss objectives; 5)
Consider alternatives and implement the plan; and 6) Review and modify.
As you begin forming an estate plan, establish your objectives in
creating the plan. What do you want to accomplish? Objectives vary from
family to family
because of differences in assets and liabilities, aptitudes and ages of
survivors, special needs children, number of children, and values that
are important to the person making the estate plan.
Some common estate planning objectives include: provide
security for surviving spouse; provide security for both spouses after
retirement; provide security for an incapacitated or special needs
family member; assure continuity of farm or other business; provide
educational opportunities for children or grandchildren; name guardians,
conservators, or trustees for minor children; provide means for paying
expenses of funeral, estate settlement, taxes and other debts; transfer
specific property to specific people; provide for charitable bequests to
favorite charities or organizations; and arrange for healthcare power of
attorney and healthcare directive in case of incapacity.
Even if you have made estate plan arrangements, you need to review these
plans periodically. For example, changes in federal law (Health
Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA) now
require a privacy waiver in the healthcare power of attorney to allow
the attorney in fact access to medical records of the incapacitated
person that may be needed to make medical decisions.
If your power of attorney for healthcare was created more
than two years ago, you may need a privacy waiver addendum to your
healthcare power of attorney. (See www.mobar.org for the form.) Many
professional advisers suggest a review of your estate plan every three
to five years or whenever there is a major change in your situation or
in related state or federal laws.
(Watch for more estate planning information by Suzanne Zemelman
Gellman soon at
Estate Planning in Montana: Getting Started. (August 1995, reviewed June
2005). Marsha A. Goetting, PhD, CFP®, CFCS, Extension Family Economics
Specialist and Professor, Montana State University-Bozeman.
Estate Planning Considerations for Ohio Families. (November 2003). Jim
Polson, CPA (inactive), District Specialist, Farm Management, Ohio State
Extension, and others. ohioline.osu.edu/estate/
Creating family traditions
Maudie Kelly, MS
Human Development Specialist
As we each think back to childhood memories, I’m sure everyone remembers
some special event, tradition, or ritual that seemed to bond our
families together. For me, there are many, but one that always pops into
my head during the summer vacation season is the miniature golf our
family played wherever we went.
I can still remember the years when my daughters could barely hold a
golf club, as well as the times when they could “beat” both their father
and me. The girls are grown now, but they still talk about all the
different miniature golf courses we visited and what fun we had!
Family traditions are generally repeated over and over again. Children
especially find comfort in knowing something they enjoy will most
certainly happen again. A tradition is a tool that helps us build
strong, healthy families, and makes sure we do things we truly value.
Traditions can evoke memories that lead to good feelings connected to
those things—Grandma’s special apple pie at Thanksgiving, or 4th of July
fireworks at Grandpa and Grandma’s farm. Since traditions often involve
celebrations or holidays, they often give us a chance to maintain
connections with family and special friends.
A very important aspect of traditions is that they help us create a
family history that may be passed on through generations. Family photos
of us doing the same thing year after year can help us and our children
feel connected to the generations who came before us. Family rituals
give us a great chance to teach family
values and define what our family means. So many lessons are learned
from simple activities that include discussion in a relaxed, happy
In addition, traditions and rituals are a great way to bring generations
together. Everyone can contribute something to create precious memories,
whether it is stories about the past from older family members or
wonder, excitement and joy from the younger set. Traditions can help us
“pause” amidst all the hectic, busy times of our lives because these
events are often planned and scheduled. Traditions are frequently
associated with holidays, but opportunities exist for events all year
I quizzed some friends about their traditions. I’d like to share with
you a few of their ideas and my own. Then you can think about what
traditions you already have or new ones you might like to try:
Use a “Red Plate” to observe “special” occasions. This is a bright, red
plate with white lettering along the edge that says, “YOU ARE SPECIAL
TODAY.” The plate can be bought at a gift store or hand painted. It can
be used at a meal for a special guest, a special celebration, or even
for someone who has suffered a disappointment. It is a visible way to
show support, encouragement and love.
“At meals, we pray while holding hands around the table. It reminds me
to be thankful for my family every day.” (Paula S.)
“Every year, on the first day of school, my husband took a picture of
the kids. Even though they might have grumbled about it, they can now
laugh at how they used to look and see how much they changed from year
to year.” (Donna R.)
“Sunday was always the day when my father cooked a big breakfast.
Normally he worked long days and didn’t have much time to share meals
with us. We all enjoyed sitting at the table and sharing stories about
the week.” (Willa H.)
“Our family started keeping a family journal several years ago. There is
no regular time that anyone writes in it, just when they choose to do
so. They may write about a happy day, a special meal, or whatever they
choose. It sits on a shelf where anyone can read it and becomes a sort
of history of that year. We buy a new journal each year.” (Bonnie P.)
After my children were born, I started buying them a dated keepsake
ornament each year at Christmas. They were lovingly placed on the tree.
As each child got married, I gave each their collection as a starting
point for their new tree and as a way to remember past holidays. You
could adapt this custom to your own holiday traditions, such as Hanukkah
What parents can do
Damaris Karanja, MA
Nutrition & Health Education Specialist
Childhood obesity has become an increasing concern for parents.
The rate of overweight in the United States has more than doubled for
preschoolers and adolescents over the past 30 years, and it has more
than tripled for children ages 6 to 11. Overweight children get a head
start on health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and sometimes
low self-esteem and depression resulting from social discrimination.
A child being overweight is generally caused by lack of physical
activity, unhealthy eating patterns, or a combination of the two, with
genetics and lifestyle both playing important roles in determining a
child's weight. Children are moving around too little as a result of too
much screen time, including television, computers and video games.
Almost half of children aged 8 to 16 years watch three to five hours of
television a day.
As a parent, you can help your children improve their physical
condition. Even small changes can make a big difference in your family’s
More physical activity
children to be physically active. Most days of the week, they should
get 60 minutes of moderate physical activity. Be a good role model.
Limit TV time to
less than 2 hours a day.
activities that provide everyone with exercise and enjoyment. For
example, go hiking or biking, wash the car, or walk around a mall.
Be sensitive to your child’s feelings. Find activities that aren’t
difficult or could cause embarrassment.
Provide a safe
environment for your children and their friends to play actively.
Healthy eating tips
children to eat when hungry and to eat slowly.
Eat meals together
as a family as often as possible. Don’t eat or snack while watching
Avoid the use of
food as a reward.
food as punishment.
Do not place your
child on a restrictive diet. Overweight children are still growing
and will not need to lose weight, but the goal is to reduce their
rate of weight gain.
children to drink water and to limit the intake of soft drinks,
fruit juice drinks, and sports drinks since they are high in added
children in meal planning and grocery shopping.
Plan for healthy
snacks like fresh, frozen, or canned fruits and vegetables; low-fat
cheese, yogurt or ice cream; frozen fruit juice bars; and cookies
such as fig bars, graham crackers, gingersnaps or vanilla wafers.
Carefully cut down
on the amount of fat and calories in your family’s diet by selecting
recipes and methods of cooking that are lower in fat. For example,
bake chicken instead of frying it.
Aim to eat a variety
of fruits, vegetables and whole grains each day: green and yellow
vegetables, fruits of various colors, and whole-grain breads.
Always serve a
Importance of your
Overweight children probably know better than anyone else that they have
a weight problem. Let your child know he or she is loved and
appreciated, whatever his or her weight. Be a good role model. If
concerned your child may be overweight, talk with the doctor.
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