By Betty Berry, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011  Q: My daughter is nagging me about my hearing. She says I am missing out on a lot in life by not getting a hearing aid. I think my hearing is just fine. How can I prove to her that there is no problem?

A: Sorry to take sides in a family disagreement, but your daughter could be right.

As we age, we all encounter changes in both our hearing and vision, and it always amazes me that almost everyone will have their eyes tested while very few will go for a hearing test.

To answer your question I spoke with an audiologist, who provided me with some indicators of possible hearing loss. If you find yourself frequently asking people to repeat themselves or turning your ear toward a sound or speaker to hear better you may be experiencing some hearing loss.

Do you find yourself understanding speakers better when you wear your glasses and/or face speakers directly? This could be your unconscious way of compensating for your inability to hear by doing some lip reading. To some degree we all do some lip reading when communicating. Have you had difficulty understanding conversations in a group setting such as a restaurant where several conversations occur simultaneously? Does background noise present a problem?

When listening to radio or television how high is the volume? Does your daughter comment on how loud it is?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you might consider making an appointment with a hearing specialist. Don’t allow yourself to miss out on socialization and enjoyment if there is a way to prevent being left out.

Q: I have heard much said about probate and avoiding it if possible. I am not exactly sure what happens during probate. Can you enlighten me?

A: I’ll try. Probate is a court proceeding which starts with determining the validity of a will presented to the court and ends with the distribution of assets to the named beneficiaries of the estate.

During probate, proof is offered to the court showing that the document presented is the authentic will of the deceased and that it is properly signed and witnessed as required by the laws of the state in which it was created.

Probate proceedings require that the executor of the will inventory the deceased’s assets and have them appraised. He or she must notify relatives and creditors of the proceedings and publish notice of probate in appropriate newspapers. Time then must be allowed for creditors to make claims, if any, against the estate.

After all claims have been settled, the executor is then free to distribute the remaining assets to beneficiaries named in the will and probate is then closed.

Probate can be time-consuming depending on the complexity of the estate. It can also be expensive. Costs vary widely from state to state and again depend on the complexity and size of the estate. Attorney’s fees and court costs can eat into the value of the estate.

Length of time and cost are generally the reasons most people are interested in avoiding probate. Careful estate planning will allow you to determine the best alternative methods available for leaving your estate to your heirs.

Professionals who can assist you in these decisions include attorneys, estate planners and tax experts. It is worth the time and cost to obtain the services of these professionals in doing your estate planning.

— Betty Berry is a senior advocate for Senior Concerns. The advocates are at the Goebel Senior Adult Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362; phone 495-6250 or e-mail (please include your telephone number). You are invited to submit questions on senior issues.

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