July 25, 2004

All I Have Left Are a Few Family Photographs

When Linda Spence asked her mother to write her life story, her mother stared at a blank sheet of paper and asked, "How? Where do I begin?

That proved the inspiration for Legacy, a practical guide to capturing memories that have been stored away with keys to unlocking the recollections that make up a life. Believing that every life has value and knowledge for others, Spence offers a step-by-step guide to writing personal history by using stimulating questions, shared memories and evocative photographs.

I was most moved by what she says about "Why write?"

    We who have already lost our opportunity ... stare at the face in the faded photograph, try to imagine the heart, the feelings, the story of that person... Many of us are separated from our families by distance and busy lives. Few of us have the good fortune to spend long afternoons together - playing cards, listening to music, baking bread, sitting on the porch and hearing the casual or intimate tales of 'back then." Rarely do we work side by side with our parents, witnessing how they deal with life's surprises and challenges. Less and less frequently are our dinner tables set for several generations coming together to share a meal and the day's events. Even as our telephones bring us together in an instant, it is at the expense of letters, the written record of everyday life. ...Finally, the gift you give to others will repay you many times over and could become the gateway to a wider vision of your life.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:14 PM | Permalink

July 21, 2004

I forget just why


Life must go on,
though good men die:
Anne, eat your breakfast;
Dan take your medicine;
life must go on;
I forget just why

Edna St Vincent Millay, from "Lament"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:25 PM | Permalink

July 20, 2004

15 trust officers in 16 years

As financial services consolidate, trust managers come under fire reports the Wall Street Journal today.

The wave of consolidation in banks has reduced the estimated number of institutions offering trusts from 4000 to about 3000 in the last decade according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Company. At the same time the use of trusts for personal assets has soared, growing to $1.1 trillion in 2003 from $928 million in 2002 according to the VIP Forum, a research group in Washington, D.C. that tracks the wealth management industry.

    "In trusts that's a particularly big issue, because relationships mean a lot," says Robert Wolf, an estate lawyer with Tener, Van Kirk, Wolf & Moore in Pittsburgh. "The word 'trust' kind of says it all. How can you have trust without relationships?" One of his clients, he says, has had 15 trust and investment officers in 16 years because of rapid turnover at the client's bank.

    Big banks face more pressure "to sell the corporate product of the month," says Mike Carroll, president and chief executive of independent trust company Heritage Trust Co. in Oklahoma City. But, he says, it's a tough business for large institutions: "It's too time-consuming, too much touch, too much relationship-driven."

    With trusts more prevalent -- and beneficiaries more financially savvy -- squabbles about trust funds have become common, especially since beneficiaries have little power to control trustees, say estate planners. One big problem: Many older trusts don't have clauses dictating how and when a trustee can be removed, making it tough to switch trustees without expensive litigation. In addition, the turbulence in recent years in the stock market has caused the value of many trust funds to plummet, brewing unease among beneficiaries.

The wave of consolidation in banks has reduced the estimated number of institutions offering trusts from 4000 to about 3000 in the last decade according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Company. At the same time the use of trusts for personal assets has soared, growing to $1.1 trillion in 2003 from $928 million in 2002 according to the VIP Forum, a research group in Washington, D.C. that tracks the wealth management industry.

    "In trusts that's a particularly big issue, because relationships mean a lot," says Robert Wolf, an estate lawyer with Tener, Van Kirk, Wolf & Moore in Pittsburgh. "The word 'trust' kind of says it all. How can you have trust without relationships?" One of his clients, he says, has had 15 trust and investment officers in 16 years because of rapid turnover at the client's bank.

    Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:45 AM | Permalink

July 16, 2004

We were not quiet in our minds

Unless you keep your affairs in order, and that is what EstateVaults™ will allow you to do, your family will have a terrible time finding out what's what and what's where and they will be "out of their wits with trouble" as Samuel Pepys was more than 400 years ago.

But above all, our trouble is to find that his estate appears nothing as we expected, and all the world believes; nor his papers so well sorted as I would have had them, but all in confusion, that break my brains to understand them. We missed also the surrenders of his copyhold land, without which the land would not come to us, but to the heir at law, so that what with this, and the badness of the drink and the ill opinion I have of the meat, and the biting of the gnats by night and my disappointment in getting home this week, and the trouble of sorting all the papers, I am almost out of my wits with trouble, only I appear the more contented, because I would not have my father troubled. The latter end of the week Mr. Philips comes home from London, and so we advised with him and have the best counsel he could give us, but for all that we were not quiet in our minds.

As one of the commentators to this entry wrote Dealing with an estate is a special kind of torture.

On the one hand, you’d like to sit the dearly departed down and let them have it for leaving their affairs in such terrible mess for you clean up when you’ve already got plenty to do in your own life thank you very much!!

On the other hand, you feel horribly guilty for thinking such things about someone who was so sick, and who cared enough about you to leave you part of their estate.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:22 AM | Permalink

Strengthening Family Bonds and Legacies with Blogs

How do widely separated families keep up with what's going on in each other's families? Yes, there's the phone, occasional family reunions, and photos to share. Yet somehow keeping family members abreast of family news gets more difficult as families grow, extend, disperse and blend. That's why blogs are becoming more popular as a way of keeping everyone up on everyone's doings. And it's a great way of collaborating on family stories and family legacies.

Just in my immediate family, I have two sisters and brothers-in-law, two nieces and two nephews in the Tacoma area, and in San Francisco a brother and sister-in-law who's soon to give birth, while in Geneva, Switzerland, a brother is about to be joined by his soon-to-be wife in the Philippines with their daughter to follow shortly, a brother and his wife and two daughters in Arlington, a mother in Arlington, a sister in a nursing home in Boston and a cousin, husband, niece and nephew in Denver. So just keeping up on the goings-on of Colleen, Robin, Jessica and Chrissie, Julie and Ken, Michah and James O, Robby and Jennifer, Billy and Julieta and Tricia, Kevin and Melinda, Taylor and Lucy, Ruth and Debby, Julie and Deuce, Katherine and Christopher is difficult.

Today, my family is beginning to gather to celebrate the wedding of my brother Billy and Julieta and we're planning on a grand time. And probably the time to start our own family blog.

We'll either use Blogger, a free service from Google where you can create a blog in three easy steps. Sending text is as easy as sending an email and you can designate family members who can post to the main blog. Only downside is that you can't protect your site by requiring a password to enter.

TypePad from Six Apart will allow you to set a password to protect your site. You can upload photos, even video clips for $4.95-$8.95 a month and store them in photo albums

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:14 AM | Permalink

July 15, 2004

Gone to Dogstar

If your favorite cat or dog is getting older and nearing the end and you don't want to face life without Sophie or Vinny AND you have an extra $50,000 to spare, you can order an exact replica at Genetic Savings & Clone. First step, banking your pet's DNA for $845-$895 plus shipping. After that maintenance of the DNA is $100 /year. If that seems too pricey or ghoulish they have a handy page of Grief Resources. You can leave your tribute and have your pet memorialized with a free star in a constellation at Gone to Dogstar

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:21 PM | Permalink

IRS oks Intentionally Defective Irrevocable Trust

Tom Herman's Tax Report as usual as the scoop.

    Suppose you want to give money to your kids. You can transfer assets into an intentionally defective irrevocable trust, or IDIT. Because of the trust's special nature, the income it generates is included on your personal income-tax return while you are alive, but its assets aren't included in your taxable estate, says Martin Nissenbaum of Ernst & Young. "This is a positive thing" if your goal is "to have as much money as possible go to your kids" or other heirs.

    You "effectively wind up paying the kids' income tax on the trust income" without having to worry that the IRS will label that payment as a taxable gift to the kids, says Lawrence P. Katzenstein, a lawyer at Thompson Coburn LLP in St. Louis.

    For more details, see IRS revenue ruling 2004-64, which generally confirms the strategy -- and the point that the payment of the income tax by the grantor doesn't create a taxable gift, Mr. Nissenbaum says.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 AM | Permalink

Fumbled Handoff

Because of the trust's special nature, the income it generates is included on your personal income-tax return while you are alive, but its assets aren't included in your taxable estate, says Martin Nissenbaum of Ernst & Young.... For more details, see IRS revenue ruling 2004-64, which generally confirms the strategy -- and the point that the payment of the income tax by the grantor doesn't create a taxable gift, Mr. Nissenbaum says.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 AM | Permalink

July 12, 2004

Recipe for a Life Worth Living

A high school dropout at 15, "Monroe Singer's "New Year Greetings to My Family" has graced the Reston home of Sally Singer Horwatt for years.... To his second daughter, 4-year-old Sally, Singer wrote: "Happiness should come easy for you because you give so much joy to all of us. My wish for you in this New Year is my wish for all your life -- Happiness, Health and a gracious spirit that you may continue to give to all those around you the joy you have given to me."

    "Monroe Singer's "New Year Greetings to My Family" has graced the Reston home of Sally Singer Horwatt for years. A scant eight paragraphs, it was written in the chill of a 1945 Chicago winter as war ravaged the world. To his second daughter, 4-year-old Sally, Singer wrote: "Happiness should come easy for you because you give so much joy to all of us. My wish for you in this New Year is my wish for all your life -- Happiness, Health and a gracious spirit that you may continue to give to all those around you the joy you have given to me."

    Horwatt's father, a high school dropout at 15, was a salesman who died in 1966 at the age of 64. Today, she treasures what he wrote to his wife and three children more than anything else he left behind because "it's contact with my father, with his humanity. It expresses his values."

    What Horwatt, 63, has always called "Dad's letter" is an example of what is now commonly called an ethical will, a document that bequeaths to loved ones a spiritual, rather than material, legacy. What Horwatt, 63, has always called "Dad's letter" is an example of what is now commonly called an ethical will, a document that bequeaths to loved ones a spiritual, rather than material, legacy.

    Increasingly popular in recent years, ethical wills usually describe the moral or religious values people have strived to live by, the important life lessons they have learned and the kind of life they wish for their children. These wills also can include stories about events and people that shaped the author's life, as well as regrets and acts for which the writer seeks forgiveness.

    Ethical wills carry no legal status. Their value is more in the wisdom they pass to the living. And for their authors, they are a tangible way of being remembered.

    "It's really an attempt to share and to some extent shape what your legacy will be by putting on paper or into words . . . how you see yourself . . . functioning in the world and what you hold dear and why you hold it dear," said the Rev. Robert Washington, chaplain at Montgomery Hospice in Rockville.

Writing an ethical will is not just for the dying. Many people see the act of writing one as one for their own benefit first, their kids second. "It's an exercise in looking at your life, what your priorities are, what's important to you." said Stephen Berry, a customer service manager. Another said his ethical will is a couple of pages long that gets updated as his life changes and as his kids change.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:05 PM | Permalink

July 11, 2004

Did Bill Gates really say that?

Life Lessons from Bill Gates


    Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it. The average teen-ager uses the phrase "It's not fair" 8.6 times a day. You got it from your parents, who said it so often you decided they must be the most idealistic generation ever. When they started hearing it from their own kids, they realized Rule No. 1.

    Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

    Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

    Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. When you screw up, he's not going to ask you how you feel about it.

    Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping - they called it opportunity. They weren't embarrassed making minimum wage either. They would have been embarrassed to sit around talking about Kurt Cobain all weekend.

    Rule No. 6:   It's not your parents' fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. This is the flip side of "It's my life," and "You're not the boss of me," and other eloquent proclamations of your generation. When you turn 18, it's on your dime. Don't whine about it, or you'll sound like a baby boomer.

    Rule No. 7:   Before you were born your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. And by the way, before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your bedroom.

    Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

    Rule No. 9:   Life is not divided into semesters, and you don't get summers off. They expect you to show up every day. For eight hours. And you don't get a new life every 10 weeks. It just goes on and on. Very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

    Rule No. 10:   Television is not real life. Your life is not a sitcom. Your problems will not all be solved in 30 minutes, minus time for commercials. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop to go to jobs. .

    Rule No. 11:   Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could.

From Snopes , the real scope

    This list is the work of Charles J. Sykes, author of the book Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write, Or Add. Many versions of this list omit the last three rules:

    Rule No. 12:   Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic. Next time you're out cruising, watch an 11-year-old with a butt in his mouth. That's what you look like to anyone over 20. Ditto for "expressing yourself" with purple hair and/or pierced body parts.

    Rule No. 13:   You are not immortal. (See Rule No. 12.) If you are under the impression that living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse is romantic, you obviously haven't seen one of your peers at room temperature lately.

    Rule No. 14:   Enjoy this while you can. Sure parents are a pain, school's a bother, and life is depressing. But someday you'll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now. You're welcome.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:48 PM | Permalink

July 1, 2004

How a Secret Became a Great Legacy

Sometimes the greatest legacies are a secret.

    For more than 50 years, rancher Waldo Wilcox kept most outsiders off his land and the secret under wraps: a string of ancient settlements thousands of years old in near perfect condition.

    Hidden deep inside eastern Utah's nearly inaccessible Book Cliffs region, 130 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, the prehistoric villages run for 12 miles along Range Creek, where Wilcox guarded hundreds of rock art panels, cliffside granaries, pit houses and rock shelters, some exposing mummified remains of long-ago inhabitants.

    The sites were occupied for at least 3,000 years until they were abandoned more than 1,000 years ago, when the Fremont people mysteriously vanished. The Fremont, a collection of hunter-gatherers and farmers, preceded more modern American Indian tribes on the Colorado Plateau.

    What sets this ancient site apart from other, better-known ones in Utah, Arizona or Colorado is that it's been left virtually untouched, with arrowheads and pottery shards still covering the ground in places.

    "I didn't let people go in there to destroy it," said Wilcox, 74, whose parents bought the ranch in 1951 and threw up a gate to the rugged canyon. "The less people know about this, the better."

    But the secret is out after federal and state governments paid Wilcox $2.5 million for the 4,200-acre ranch, which is surrounded by wilderness study lands. The state took ownership earlier this year but hasn't decided yet how to control public access, said Kevin Conway, director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources......

    Wilcox said, "It's like being the first white man in there, the way I kept it. There's no place like it left." He said some skeletons have been exposed by shifting winds under dry ledges.

    "They were little people, the ones I've seen dug up. They were wrapped like Egyptians, in strips of beaver skin and cedar board, preserved as perfect," he said.

update. The New York Times today has a piece on Range Creek.

What mostly distinguishes Range Creek is that through quirk of fate and human will, it escaped both the ravages of looters and, until recently, the spades of archaeologists. Cliffside grain-storage vaults have been found here with their lids still intact, the corn and rye still inside. And while many sites in the West can still produce an old stone arrowhead or two, researchers found whole arrows here just a few weeks ago, apparently lying in the dust just where they were dropped 10 centuries ago at the time of William the Conqueror.

Mr. Wilcox sold the ranch to the Trust for Public Land in 2001 for $2.5 million, but officials at the trust kept quiet. The Federal Bureau of Land Management then acquired the land from the trust and kept quiet. The State of Utah obtained title earlier this year and had been delaying an announcement until a management plan was in place to protect the grounds from looters. That strategy was shattered last week when a local paper in southern Utah broke the story, which was then picked up by The Associated Press. That led to the invitation to the news media from around the country for the valley's unveiling.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 AM | Permalink