No one can predict the future, said Mark A. Styles Jr. as he tried to get people to plan for the unexpected.
“Life throws so many curves,” Styles said at a Seniors Making a Difference program at Martin Luther King Village Apartments. “The goal is to keep your life as smooth and as stress free as possible.”
That fits the objective of Seniors Making a Difference. The group, established in 2011, is committed to helping people age 62 and older live in their own homes and obtain in-home health services, if needed.
Seniors Making a Difference assists people in the Swope Parkway corridor encompassing Cleaver Boulevard and 63rd Street, from Elmwood to Prospect avenues. The group works to improve the lives of older people, providing referral services and resources to help them maintain their independence.
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The assistance sometimes is as simple as changing light bulbs, lawn care and snow removal. The organization helps seniors get needed services and reputable contractors for home repairs.
Members check on patients after hospital stays. In addition, Seniors Making a Difference brings people together to learn from speakers like Styles, appointed this fall to a four-year term as a deputy probate commissioner in the Jackson County Circuit Court. He earlier offered insight on estate planning.
Ronald Miller, president of the group, said seniors need information on financial planning, reverse mortgages, trusts, probate court, wills, payday loans and more. Their schooling, work lives and retirements may have left many disconnected from computers, the Internet and vital resources. Seniors Making a Difference is a chance for older people to catch up, continue their education and maintain a high quality of life.
Styles said people don’t like to think about their unexpected death or their becoming disabled. But those things happen.
He advised people to designate a trusted person as a power of attorney “to take care of you while you are alive.” That person may make decisions about medical treatment if a senior is unable to do so.
“Sixty to 80 percent of people before they die have a period of being incapacitated,” Styles said. “Having a power of attorney allows decisions after a stroke, heart attack or dementia.”
Reaner Shannon, president of the Midtown Kiwanis, said the lecture was informative, giving seniors information to better manage their lives.
A person could live years longer than expected. A trusted person with power of attorney could access bank accounts, pay bills and handle creditors. After a person is able to do for himself or herself, the power of attorney goes away.
Ajamu Webster said: “It seems like all of us should have this in high school. It should be discussed at every family reunion.”
Styles advised people to take steps to ensure that their assets go to whom they want after they die. He said people can go to banks and fill out “paid on death” information so that accounts and other liquid assets go to designated persons. He also advised people with vehicles to fill out “transfer on death” papers with the state so those possessions go to designated persons.
Similar paperwork should be filled out with houses and other real estate. Styles said many homes in the black community have run down and deteriorated because the titles to the property remain in deceased persons’ names. Styles advised people to get a will, which he called “the cornerstone of estate planning.” People also could rely on trusts, but they often can be more complicated. Styles explained that it’s important that people regularly check and update their wills or trusts.
“As life changes, we change,” he said. “Make sure you tell someone what you’ve done. The goal is you are in control of your estate plan.”
People who plan can help maintain family harmony long after they’re gone.