Monday, September 26, 2011

Free Ethical Wills Template

Ready to start writing your own Ethical Will?

NEW: a free Ethical Wills Template available now.

Use this template as an easy way to begin your Ethical Will.

New book coming soon:
The Essence of Ethical Wills: How to Write Legacy Letters to Your Family

Have you started your Ethical Will? I'd love to hear how it's going.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Home Downsizing and Saving Memories

When the time comes to downsize a home, the dilemma is to decide what to do with all your belongings. Whether you need a smaller home because of an empty nest, less maintenance, or for daily assistance, the problem is the same: how do you part with many of your cherished possessions and still retain the precious memories associated with them?

Here are some simple ways to preserve your recollections as you disburse your collections:

Saving memories
• Photographs
Before you start to disassemble your home, take photographs of how each room is arranged, taking care to highlight your most cherished possessions. Ask someone else to take a few pictures with you and favorite pieces, whether they are jewelry, paintings, furniture, or some of the delightful treasures you may have found over the years. Make a few notes about the items, such as how and when you got it, where it came from, who was involved, and anything else you recall.

• Scrapbooks
Scrapbooks can be a wonderful way to house your favorite pictures, notes, and mementos. Keep in mind they don’t need to be elaborate or complicated to serve a purpose. Think of them as memory keepers. Solicit help from family members and friends to create a few scrapbook pages. You might even enjoy throwing a scrapping party with your favorite snacks and beverages.

• Vignettes
Another idea to consider is creating a scrapbook page vignette to tell a particular story. Use photos and some notes or journaling, then frame the single page to hang on the wall. Craft stores, such as Michaels or Hobby Lobby, have shadowboxes or scrapbook frames available in various sizes, as well as custom framing.

Gifts to share
• Early inheritance
If you plan to bequeath some of your favorite possessions to family members or friends, consider gifting them now. You’ll have the pleasure of seeing them use it and pass on the respect that it deserves. You may also decide to allow your loved ones to select their favorite reminders of you. A few years ago, a friend of mine was terminally ill. She threw a jewelry party at her home so each of her loved ones could try on her beloved trinkets and keep their preferences. What a great way to help each of them remember her on a positive note.

• Gifts to children and grandchildren
Another way to start downsizing is to give your children or grandchildren gifts. Check with your financial advisor or tax accountant about gifts up to $13,000 per year per child. After that, you’ll need to file IRS Form 709 for a federal gift tax return. This can be an especially thoughtful way to share some of your assets while you can enjoy the pleasure they provide to others.

• Heirlooms
If you have cherished heirlooms from your ancestors, you may want to have them appraised. That will help the recipient understand the monetary value for insurance purposes. Make sure you tell them the story behind the object to give them a better appreciation of why they are so important to you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Protect Our Children

Yesterday during the Author’s Fair at the Bourbonnais Public Library, I met Nancy Flowers, who is the author of a children’s book I highly recommend. It is called Tell Somebody It Happened to Me and is designed to prevent child abuse. The book is easy to read, with lively illustrations and a nice flip format for boys and girls. More details are available at

Unfortunately, where child abuse is concerned, we seem to concentrate more on dealing with the aftermath than preventing the occurrence. This book provides an ideal way to broach the subject with children from four to ten. In fact, reading it annually with young boys and girls will help to reinforce its message in a non-threatening way.

I was delighted to learn Bravehearts Australia purchased 5000 copies of the book to distribute in their schools. They are dedicated to preventing childhood sexual abuse, which is commendable. Lord willing, schools in the United States will be enlightened some day as well.

In the meantime, I snagged a copy to read with my grandson and granddaughter. At ages seven and six respectively, I want to help make sure their innocence remains throughout their childhood. The reality is that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.

What are you doing to prevent the abuse before it happens?

Friday, September 16, 2011

AUTHOR FAIR Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011

If you happen to be in the Kankakee, Illinois, area, please stop by:

AUTHOR FAIR Saturday 9/17/11 1-3 PM CT
Bourbonnais Public Library

I'd love to meet you in person!

P.S. Ask for your Friend's Discount

Monday, September 12, 2011

Grandparents Day 2011 - Building Memories

Yesterday was Grandparents Day in the United States and I had the pleasure of spending the previous day with my two grandkids. At ages 6 and 7, they are young enough to enjoy being with Grandma and old enough to carry on some lovely conversations. I love that we are building memories together.

In preparation for my visit, I packed up my usual Bag of Tricks to keep things lively. Anything not used for one trip is saved for the next one, so nothing ever goes to waste.

Here are some of the items in the bag:
Books are some of my favorite diversions. Whether I read to the kids, they read to me, or we take turns reading, it’s always fun. Sometimes, the hardest part now is finding books for a girl and a boy to both enjoy. The selection this time happened to be a children’s version of the Roman Catholic Mass. As both their Godmother and Grandmother, the dual role can sometimes be a little tricky. Fortunately, these little books were a hit with both of them.

Having given the grandchildren many books over the years, they now have a lovely collection of them. Invariably, we’ll also read through several of their (and my) favorites, whether it’s Yertle the Turtle or The Velveteen Rabbit.

I always try to bring a couple of age-appropriate games or activities. The kids love to color, so I printed off some Grandparents Day pages from a greeting card to color and fold, as well as a word search puzzle. It turned out my granddaughter really liked the card and my grandson favored the puzzle. So they were each happy with my choices.

Usually, we play a few of their games, too. Each of the kids gets to choose a game and we complete at least one round before we move to the next one. Of course, whoever gets the game out has to pick up all the pieces and put the box away.

Educational toys are also among my favorites. I shop the local garage sales to find something they might like. If the seller’s kids happen to be around, they are usually brutally honest about whether the toys they offer were fun or not. The other tell-tell clue is the condition of the toy: if it is still in pristine condition, then likely no one found it fun. For this trip, I had two sets of age-appropriate flash cards held together by a pin on one corner. They look like fun, but we ran out of time this trip, so back they go into my Bag of Tricks until next time.

Now that both of the grandkids are in grade school, I expect we might have some homework to do from time to time as well. And that’s just fine. I love to know what they are doing and what they are studying.

What Grandma doesn’t bring something good to eat? I always toss in some small snacks, such as cookies, cheese crackers, or candy. In addition, I bring along fruits and vegetables they may not be familiar with. This time, it was Honey Crisp apples, miniature sweet peppers in red, yellow and orange, and fresh raisin-pecan baguettes from our local farmer’s market. Surprisingly, the six-year-old loves fruits and vegetables; the seven-year-old, not so much.

If we will be eating together during our visit, I generally try to ensure we have something nutritious but fun. In this case, we had smoked sausage, which I cut into thin coin-shaped pieces and browned in a skillet. Not knowing how much they’d eat, I prepared about half the package and wrapped the rest to refrigerate for another meal.

At dinner, each of the kids wanted seven (not six, not eight, but seven) 'pennies,' so that’s what they got, along with their choice of rice or macaroni and cheese, with various vegetables. Thank Goodness for leftovers! For whatever reason, they thought the food was really yummy and asked for seconds. Sure, no problem! I gave each of them four more pieces while I started heating up the rest of the package. The new batch was barely warmed up before they were clamoring for more. Perfect timing!

Maybe that meal doesn’t sound very special for you, but it was for us. At times, dinner can be rather contentious, with each of the kids wanting something different that isn’t readily available. So it was a real treat that they both ate well and liked what Grandma fixed for them. Of course, it was a huge help that Mommy & Daddy had the kitchen nicely stocked, too. Good planning, good prep, and good execution. Now that’s the way it should be!

Here’s your challenge: How are YOU building memories with your grandchildren?

Before you know it, they’ll be grown and gone, so start now and have fun WITH them!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ethical Wills – The Perfect Gift to Your Family

When you write an Ethical Will, you create not one, but several priceless gifts.

First Gift:
One gift you’ll be giving to current and future generations is a piece of your heritage, consisting of all your family stories, customs, and traditions. The more your descendents known about their roots, the better they will understand themselves and you.

Second Gift:
Another gift is a piece of yourself, by taking the time and making the effort to keep precious stories from being lost. Your heritage is a priceless heirloom to leave for your family and friends. Besides being informative, and perhaps entertaining, you are preserving the essence of your accumulated history.

Third Gift:
A third gift is for yourself. Learning more information about your family gives you a better opportunity to know and appreciate who you are. The accumulation of that knowledge may be the most precious gift of all.

As we consider what information to include in your ethical will, keep the following items in mind:
• Thoughts from the past
o Personal history
o Family stories
o Lessons learned
o Regrets

• Thoughts from the present
o Personal values and beliefs
o Expressions of love
o Gratitude
o Giving and receiving forgiveness

• Thoughts for the future
o Hopes for you and your loved ones
o Philanthropy and service
o Requests
o Advice