Q: I am starting to think about who I can turn to when I will need some help. As we age this question becomes more serious and if you are not close to family or have no immediate family what choices do you have?

A: Your question has been asked by many seniors. Just recently, I had several telephone calls about what options are available in this type of situation.

Most of us want to remain in our own homes but we will likely need some help with personal care as well as with maintaining our homes. The Thousand Oaks Council on Aging has also had questions and discussions about this subject and has researched a very interesting option. This option is known as “The Village Network.” It will be the topic for the next council meeting presentation scheduled for March 4 at the Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks in the Board Room from 1 to 3 p.m.

The Village Network is a new, affordable-living model that is being developed around the country. It allows seniors to age in place in their own home and remain active and engaged in their communities. In return for an annual membership fee Villages offer members a welcoming community, a network of resources, services, programs and activities that revolve around daily living needs, social, cultural and education activities and member-to-member volunteer support.

The program will feature national and local Village experts. The panel of speakers will provide an overview of the Village Model in California and across the country.

This meeting should be of interest to baby boomers and seniors alike. There will be light refreshments from noon to 12:45 p.m. where you can meet the presenters. The program itself will begin at 1 p.m. Make reservations by calling 381-7362.

To my knowledge this seminar is the first, in our area, to present this topic. I think it will provide a great deal of information on a subject that is of importance to all of us as we grow older and continue to live independently.

I am sure the turnout will show the need and interest in this option for independent living. Don’t miss out — mark your calendar. I hope to see you there.

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, if any, to make claims 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 email betty@seniorconcerns.org (please include your telephone number). You are invited to submit questions on senior issues.

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