Author: admin

“Blended families” and estate planning

Q: We’ve read in your past columns about how you use a ‘life estate’ rather than a trust for owning property and possibly protecting it from Medicaid under the five year look-back rule. We have a slightly different problem in that our farming child married late in life and married a gal with two kids from a prior marriage… Our son was never married before and has no children of his own.  We have other children who do have children, our grandchildren, but we don’t want to give the land to our farming son and, if he should die or get divorced, have this land go to her two children and out of our family name? What should we do? – Second Time Around. Dear Second Time: You do have what used to be considered a unique situation. These days, however, with marriages ending in divorce close to fifty percent of the time, many families consist of yours, mine, ours of any number of combinations and, in estate planning, it can throw some real loops at you. For example, if your son were married to this woman and he adopted these children, they become legal heirs of his and, therefore, possibly your estate for whatever property he might inherit. However, if he doesn’t adopt – and they remain stepchildren – they are not legal heirs – unless you name...

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My brother-in-law doesn’t pull his own weight

A farm woman wrote about the stress she experiences because the other family in a farm partnership does not do their fair share. It is a problem that occurs all too often in family farming operations.   “My husband and his brother (eight years younger) have been farming together for over 16 years. The problem is the brother gets equal pay and falls short on his end of the workload. It’s nothing for him to quit at 4 p.m. and go away for the rest of the day. His wife and children don’t do a thing. I could write a book on the stunts they’ve pulled. They don’t seem to see or care that the work gets done as long as the paycheck is always there.   “My husband will not say anything. I’m fed up covering for his brother and so are our two children. We desperately need things changed around here. I would like for us to farm alone (costly in terms of dollar signs but so is the cost to our lives the way it is) or to have them shape up and pull their own weight. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t know how to approach the matter. What suggestions do you have for our family?”   Step One: Get on the same page. Confronting a brother about his work behavior may be a...

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Christmas ideas

CHRISTMAS IS ALSO FOR THE BIRDS… One of the joys of winter where I live is watching the birds that gather in our old cedar and pine trees around the yard. I like to decorate the ‘outside trees’ too, with things our feathered friends can enjoy. Take ears of corn, cut them into 3" chunks and use nails or screws in one end to tie a piece of fishing line onto so I can tie the other end to the branch of a tree. Strings of unbuttered, unsalted popcorn draped around the tree make it look festive and the birds love it.  It’s a good job for some kids on a rainy/snowy day when they can’t go outside and Mom/Dad says ‘shut off the computer, cell phone, television and ‘do something useful’. Pinecones can be fixed the same as the corn cobs with the hangers.  We slather them with the cheapest peanut butter I can find and then roll them in birdseed.  (When I didn’t have peanut butter, we used pan drippings or melted beef fat and it works too.   TREE STAND COVER UP If you don’t have a Christmas tree skirt, and I must confess, I don’t have one – in fact, I don’t think I ever did have one – but you can use: An old quilt (my first choice) A big sheet (looks like snow)...

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Cricket ‘Catchers’ and other helpful hints

This must be the year for crickets!  Now I know they are supposed to be good luck, but, when there are drifts of crickets alongside of the buildings and hundreds of them crawling in the house, it is time to take action.  They eat clothing, books and anything else ‘munchable’ – so, to get rid of crickets without poison, this is what I do:   I take an old ice cube tray (the ones with the removable centers) and pour in about 1/2 inch of molasses and set it alongside the wall. The crickets are drawn to the smell of the molasses, crawl in, stick and die.   I also use the sticky mousetraps. They work the same as the molasses, or, you can use the fly strips that folks usually hang from the ceiling. Just lay them on a strip of brown paper grocery bag (again, along the wall) and the critters get stuck in them and die. It’s an easy matter to fold the paper over the deceased insects and dispose of them.       Boot crème softener When your jar of that expensive boot creme gets too dry, a little liquid wax will help to soften it. Just set the jar in a warm place for a few hours after adding the wax and then stir the whole with a fork to mix it all together....

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Bridging Red State/Blue State Values

Are we at a great divide? How different are we? Are we more alike that different? How do we bridge the gulf that seems to be growing with each election? No matter whether it is in an urban or rural setting, there are both advantages to enjoy and disadvantages to overcome. To thrive, people need to understand the environment they are in and meet its challenges. A wise man once observed that we need to unpack our bags and live like we are going to be there forever, even if it is for a short while. What does city life have to offer? Why do people live in places with long lines, intruding noises, congestion, traffic jams, bristling energy, quick-paced hurry, frequent crime, activity overload, and impersonal neighbors? Why does city life have such appeal despite obvious shortcomings? For good reasons. City life has much to offer: freedom, opportunity, equality, affluence, and tolerance. The indifferent stage of the city offers a wide variety of choices and opportunities. It is a place where excellence can be pursued relatively unfettered by constricting social roles and binding obligations. It is a place where dreams are dreamt and frontiers beckon. The city, bristling with energy, challenges the spirit in the same way the unbroken prairies excited the pioneers. Author Ole Rolvaag wrote of those days, “Youth was in the race, the unknown, the...

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