Q: Every day, I seem to have a mailbox full of invitations to free seminars on living trusts and financial planning. Would these seminars provide me with the information I need?
A: The answer may be yes — but more likely no.
These seminars address general issue of estate planning. The right strategies for a person to make proper decisions must be based on that person's unique circumstances.
The sponsors of this type of seminar many times have a product or service to sell, and while they do provide some useful information, they also are promoting the purchase of their product or service.
The complexity of estate planning unfortunately provides a window of opportunity for con artists at financial planning seminars. You need to protect yourself. Be very careful about what information you offer about yourself and carefully read and fully understand anything you sign.
Q: I live in Thousand Oaks and am planning to give up my driver's license. Some time ago there was a seminar on how to use public transportation. Do you know if that seminar will be offered again?
A: Yes, I have just been told that another Transportation Orientation Workshop is "back by popular demand."
The Senior Adult Master Plan (SAMP) Transit Committee is offering another free orientation workshop July 23 from 12:30-2 p.m. at the Goebel Adult Community Center, 1385 E. Janss Road in Thousand Oaks.
The workshop will teach attendees how to get around Thousand Oaks as well as Ventura County without a car. Even if you are still driving this is great information to have for future needs and emergencies.
For information and reservations call the Goebel Center at 381-2744. Don't wait too long — the last workshop was a sold-out affair.
Q: I am trying to help an elderly relative pick health care. I am so confused. I have run into Medicare, Medi-Cal, Medicaid, Medigap and Medicare Advantage. Can seniors have only one of these items, or can they have a combination? Can you help me make sense of all of this?
A: Medicare is a nationwide, federally financed health insurance plan for those 65 and older, disabled people who are eligible for Social Security disability benefits and people on dialysis for chronic kidney disease. It is the major health insurance used by seniors and has been in effect since 1965.
The cost of service is billed to the government. This option is one that remains today.
You next mention Medi-Cal and Medicaid, which are basically the same. Medicaid is a federal health care assistance program designed to help pay medical expenses for low-income families. Medi-Cal is California’s version of that federal program.
Q: My parents are getting on in age and will eventually need my assistance. I have no idea where to start planning. Can you suggest some starting points?
A: Many people avoid dealing with this subject until a crisis arises. You are to be congratulated for wanting to be prepared. There are four areas that you should become knowledgeable with: living arrangements, medical coverage, estate planning and finances.
Talk with your parents about their thoughts on future living arrangements when and if they become unable to care for themselves. If they want to remain in their own home you will need to familiarize yourself with the community resources available to provide the support they will require. You should also research alternative living arrangements in case remaining at home is no longer an option.
You will have to become familiar with the type of medical coverage your parents have selected and what it covers. You should obtain the name and telephone number of their primary care physician and any other physicians who are treating them. Become aware of any illnesses or disabilities they have and especially what medications they are taking.
Q: I just received a letter from a company saying the state was holding money that belonged to me. For a fee, this company would collect that money and send it to me. Is this on the up and up, or is it a scam?
A: The letter you received is probably an honest offer. There are companies whose sole purpose is to search public records and do the work required to collect money due someone for a fee. Sometimes it is a flat fee; sometimes it is a percentage.
However, you can easily search the records and claim the money without the use of private services that want fees.
When someone forgets or never knew about an account or refund, and the company holding that money cannot reach the person, the money is turned over to the government of the last state in which the account owner lived. There it is held as unclaimed property. Most accounts become unclaimed when there is no owner contact with the financial institution or account activity for three years.