Getting Your Legal House in Order
Sally Balch Hurme is an elder law expert and author who has led the national conversation on many of the legal issues of concern to older persons and their families. She received her B.A. in Political Science from Newcomb College of Tulane University and her J.D. from the American University Washington College of Law.
Sally Hurme’s legal career spans public service, private practice, associations, and a wealth of volunteer commitments. Among other positions, she has served as a city magistrate in Alexandria, Virginia; an attorney adviser with the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review at the U.S. Department of Justice; and a staff attorney with the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging. She also worked for nearly 25 years for AARP, and she has taught as an adjunct professor at the American University Washington College of Law and The George Washington University Law School.
Because of her wealth of knowledge on elder law issues, Sally Hurme is quoted frequently in The Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY, The New York Times, Money, and other national media, and she has lectured worldwide on elder abuse and guardianship. She has written more than 20 law review articles on elder law topics, and she is the author of the award-winning series of Checklist books about elder law for consumers published by the American Bar Association and AARP.
A long-term member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the American Bar Association, and the Virginia and District of Columbia bars, Sally Hurme lives in Bridgewater, Virginia, and enjoys kayaking on the Shenandoah River with her grandchildren.
01: Get Your Legal Life Together Now!
Begin your course with a survey of what makes up your legal house, from the ordinary day-to-day documents you already have to estate planning tools and considerations. You’ll quickly learn that “getting your legal house in order” is less daunting than it sounds—and it starts with an inventory you will take in this first lecture.
02: Reducing Debt by Reading the Fine Print
Too often, debt is easy to get into but hard to get out of, which is problematic because not only can debt limit your choices today, but it can also endanger the future for you and your loved ones. Here, you will review the major types of consumer debt, things you should consider before taking on debt, and the relationship between debt and your credit score.
03: Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft
Everyone is a potential target of identity thieves, and the best way to defend yourself is to understand how thieves operate. Whether it’s a phony call from the IRS or someone rooting around in your trash for account numbers and passcodes, thieves can be wily. Learn several strategies for defending yourself and your data.
04: Knowing Your Property Rights
Property is central to American law, but as anyone who has run afoul of the local zoning board or a condominium’s HOA understands, your name might be on the deed (or lease), but property restrictions are rampant. Explore the many rights, responsibilities, restrictions, and hassles of owning and renting property.
05: Deciding Whether a Timeshare Is for You
The marketing literature paints a lovely picture: an ownership stake in vacation property that will set your family up for years of getaways. Timeshares may be wildly popular, but an inside investigation of the costs shows they don’t always add up to a wise investment. Find out what you need to know before buying—or selling—a timeshare.
06: Choosing the Insurance You Need
Insurance is something you buy with the hope that you’ll never have to use it. But if you ever do need it, you certainly want to make sure you are covered. Unpack some of the most common types of insurance and arm yourself with a newfound understanding of policies and coverage.
07: Figuring Out Your Retirement Finances
Making the leap from a regular paycheck in your working years to living off your savings in retirement can be scary, and planning ahead is the best way to take care of yourself. From 401(k)s and IRAs to annuities and defined-benefit pension plans, get to know the financial instruments that will take care of you in your golden years.
08: Making the Most of Medicare and Medicaid
No one has ever been accused of saying Medicare and Medicaid are easy to understand. Like the rest of the American health care system, Medicare and Medicaid are built around confusing concepts such as coverage, deductibles, coinsurance—and even “Medigap insurance.” Learn how to make the most of your medical insurance options in later life.
09: Weighing the Benefits of Reverse Mortgages
For some, a reverse mortgage can be a handy tool in retirement, providing a flow of steady cash backed by property you own. Here, you will find out what exactly a reverse mortgage is, how it works, who might want one, and why you might want to avoid them altogether.
10: Comparing Retirement Communities
Where do you want to live in retirement? From resort-like active 50+ communities to Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), today’s seniors have more choices than ever before. Survey the ins and outs of age-specific communities, the continuum of care, and what to watch for when planning your finances.
11: Drafting Your Estate Plan
A will is a central document in your estate plan, a way to distribute property that is not already designated by some other way. Reflect on what a will does, why you might or might not need one, and what happens to your property if you die without one. Also, begin thinking about what you should include in a will.
12: Understanding and Using Trusts
Although you’ve no doubt heard of a “trust,” there is a great deal of confusion and misinformation around the concept. Continue reflecting on your estate plan in this lecture that demystifies what a trust is, why you might need both a will and a trust, what you don’t want to put in a trust, and a few special reasons to set one up.
13: Controlling Who Gets Your Property
How you own what you own can make a big difference when it comes time to settle your estate. Consider the legal theory of property “interests”—or rights of ownership—and how you would like your property divided up. Things get complicated in a hurry when it comes to joint ownership, you’ll want to pay close attention if you have a partial interest in a piece of property.
14: Separating Probate Facts from Fiction
At its most basic, “probate” is a court-monitored procedure that determines the validity of a will, inventories assets, and settles claims on an estate. Think of the court as a referee to a game involving heirs, beneficiaries, creditors, executors, administrators, and other players. Get to know how to make probate as smooth and simple as possible for your family.
15: Conveying Your Personal Wishes in Writing
The process of dividing up property can lead to nasty disputes within a family. Fortunately, you can take two easy steps to head off potential family feuds: Write a letter of instruction for your final wishes and another letter for your personal belongings. From organ donation to the type of funeral you want, a letter can save a lot of heartache.
16: Creating a Financial Power of Attorney
A “power of attorney” is a simple document that gives written authorization to someone to represent you or act on your behalf. As you will learn in this lecture, every adult should have a power of attorney for matters of health and a second power of attorney for matters of finance. See why, and then explore the responsibility of being an agent.
17: Caregiving by Contract or Court Order
Much has been written about caregiving, but in this lecture, you will study two legal aspects of the caregiving relationship: the compensation contract for hiring a caregiver or paying a family member for services and the process of working through legal guardianship. Discover a few legal nuances and why they are important.
18: Preparing Medical Advance Directives
One of the kindest things you can do for your family is spare them the distress of having to face decisions about your health care without knowing your wishes. In this final lecture, delve into advanced care planning (including health care powers of attorney)—what treatments you want, and in what circumstances. As with all the tools you have studied, an advance directive is about peace of mind.