Guard Against Aortic Aneurysms | Print |  E-mail
Monday, 23 November 2015 22:29

111915senBy Jim Miller • Special to the Times

Stomach aneurysms, also known as “abdominal aortic aneurysms,” are very dangerous and the third leading cause of death in men over 60.

They also tend to run in families, so if you’ve had a parent with this condition you are much more vulnerable yourself.

An abdominal aortic aneurysm (or AAA) is a weak area in the lower portion of the aorta, which is the major artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

As blood flows through the aorta, the weak area bulges like a balloon and can burst if it gets too big, causing life-threatening internal bleeding. In fact, nearly 80 percent of AAAs that rupture are fatal, but the good news is that more than nine out of 10 that are detected early are treatable.

Who’s At Risk?

Around 200,000 people are diagnosed with AAAs each year, but estimates suggest that another 2 million people may have it but not realize it. The factors that can put you at increased risk are:

• Smoking: Ninety percent of people with an AAA smoke or have smoked. This is the No. 1 risk factor and one you can avoid.

• Age: Your risk of getting an AAA increases significantly after age 60 in men, and after age 70 in women.

• Family history: Having a parent or sibling who has had an AAA can increase your risk to around one in four.

• Gender: AAAs are five times more likely in men than in women.

• Health factors: Atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels also increase your risk.

Detection and Treatment

Because AAAs usually start small and enlarge slowly, they rarely show any symptoms, making them difficult to detect. However, large AAAs can sometimes cause a throbbing or pulsation in the abdomen, or cause abdominal or lower back pain.

The best way to detect an AAA is to get a simple, painless, 10-minute ultrasound screening test. All men over age 65 that have ever smoked, and anyone over 60 with a first-degree relative (father, mother or sibling) who has had an AAA should talk to their doctor about getting screened.

You should also know that most health insurance plans cover AAA screenings, as does Medicare to beneficiaries with a family history of AAAs, and to men between the ages of 65 and 75 who have smoked at least 100 cigarettes during their life.

If an AAA is detected during screening, how it’s treated will depend on its size, rate of growth and your general health. If caught in the early stages when the aneurysm is small, it can be monitored and treated with medication. But if it is large or enlarging rapidly, you’ll probably need surgery.

AAA Protection

While some risk factors like your age, gender and family history are uncontrollable, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from AAA. For starters, if you smoke, you need to quit – see or call 1-800-quit-now for help.

You also need to keep tabs on your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and if they are high you need to take steps to lower them through diet, exercise and if necessary, medication.


Medicare To Pay for End-of-Life Counseling | Print |  E-mail
Monday, 23 November 2015 22:27

By Gene L. Osofsky, Esq. • Special to the Times

Q: I hear that Medicare will now pay for me to discuss my end-of-life wishes with my doctor. Is this true?

A: Yes, beginning Jan. 1 of 2016, Medicare will begin reimbursing physicians for time spent in counseling patients regarding their end-of-life wishes.

This  development, just announced Oct. 31, 2015, by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”), was 6 years in the making and has been supported by the American Medical Association and many other groups and individuals.

Originally a part of the Affordable Care Act, this provision was removed in 2010, just before passage, to avoid the political controversy which arose when some individuals, notably former Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin, accused the Obama administration of supporting “death panels.” Since then, the mood of the country has changed and the desire to encourage end-of-life counseling has gained broad support.

Until this announcement, Medicare only paid physicians for end-of-life counseling if the counseling occurred during the one time “Welcome to Medicare” examination that occurred within a beneficiary’s first 12 months of Medicare enrollment.

The problem with that arrangement was that many beneficiaries were neither interested nor prepared to discuss this matter with their physician during that very first Medicare visit.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2016, patients may now schedule a visit with their physician for the sole purpose of advance care planning, and the physician may now bill Medicare for that counseling. Alternatively, the patient may choose to discuss advance planning as part of his visit to address other healthcare issues.

In either event, the physician may now bill Medicare for separate reimbursement, using one of two new billing codes added to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, effective in 2016.

One tip: If the discussion takes place during the Annual Wellness Visit, you will typically have no co-pays and the doctor will still get fully reimbursed. However, if the discussion takes place during any other visit, you may then have the usual co-pays just as for other Medicare services.

Another tip: If you have a Medicare Advantage Plan, be sure to first check with your plan to see whether it covers this counseling and, if it does not, ask if the plan can still bill Medicare for your advance planning visit.

Once you have these discussions with your physician, be sure to take the next steps and create or update your Advance Health Care Directive and discuss your wishes with your family and designated health care agent.

Just as you may prepare a will or trust to plan for your assets, so, too, must you plan for your end-of-life healthcare.

In doing so, you will be doing a service, not only for yourself, but also  for your loved ones who may one day take comfort in knowing that your own wishes were honored.

Gene L. Osofsky is an elder law and estate planning attorney in Hayward. Visit his website at

How to Fight Medicare Fraud | Print |  E-mail
Monday, 23 November 2015 22:23

By David Sayen • Special to the Times

It’s an unfortunate truth, but health care fraud drives up costs for everyone in the health care system.

Fraud schemes often depend on identity thieves getting hold of people’s Medicare numbers. So guard your Medicare number. Treat it as you would a credit card.

•Don’t share your Medicare number or other personal information with anyone who contacts you by phone, email, or by approaching you in person, unless you’ve given them permission in advance. Medicare will never contact you and ask for your Medicare number or other personal information.

•Don’t ever let anyone borrow or pay to use your Medicare number.

•Review your Medicare Summary Notice to be sure you and Medicare are only being charged for services you actually received.

•Be wary of salespeople who knock on your door or call you uninvited and try to sell you a product or service.

•Don’t accept items received through the mail that you didn’t order. You should refuse the delivery and/or return it to the sender. Keep a record of the sender’s name and the date you returned the items.

Fraudsters often surface during Medicare’s open enrollment season, which runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. So if you’re planning to enroll in a Medicare Part C health plan (Medicare Advantage) or Part D prescription drug plan:

•Be suspicious of anyone who contacts you about Medicare plans unless you gave them permission to do so.

•There are no “early bird discounts” or “limited time offers” for Medicare plans.

•Don’t let anyone rush you to enroll by claiming you need to “act now for the best deal.”

•Be skeptical of free gifts, free medical services, discount packages, or any offer that sounds too good to be true.

•Any promotional items you’re offered to enroll in a Medicare plan must be worth no more than $15. And these items can’t be given on the condition that you enroll in a plan

A common ploy of identity thieves is to say they can send you your free gift right away – they just need your Medicare number to confirm. Decline firmly.

If you suspect a health care fraud, report it by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). You can learn more about protecting yourself from health care fraud by visiting or by contacting your local Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP).

SMP is a nonprofit organization made up of highly-trained volunteers such as doctors, nurses, accountants, investigators and attorneys who teach others about health care fraud.

To find the SMP in your state, go to the SMP Locator at

David Sayen is Medicare’s regional administrator for California. You can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-633-4227.

Strengthen Your Durable Power of Attorney | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 05 November 2015 19:04

By Gene L. Osofsky, Esq. • Special to the Times

Q: I have heard friends complain that their parent’s financial power of attorney was not honored by their bank. Is there a way to avoid this?

A: Unfortunately, we hear that complaint from time to time.

While there may be no way to draft a power of attorney that completely eliminates the risk that it will not be honored at the time of need, here is my short list of steps you can take to  minimize that risk:

Sign the Bank’s Own Forms: Most banks and other financial institutions have their own short-form Power of Attorney with which they are familiar. While the bank’s own forms are more limited and are usually targeted to specific accounts, signing them — in addition to your attorney-drafted document — usually eliminates the risk that your designated agent will have problems at that bank down the road.

• Include Hold-Harmless Provisions in Your DPOA: Financial custodians are concerned about their exposure if they mistakenly rely upon a Durable Power Of Attorney (“DPOA”) that appears valid on its face. It sometimes helps if your DPOA includes specific language that a bank or other custodian will be held harmless if it relies, in good faith, upon a DPOA presented to it.

• Fully Describe Real Property: Title companies are sometimes reluctant to honor a DPOA that refers, generally, to “all real property.” Their comfort increases dramatically if the DPOA recites, specifically, the full legal description of each piece of real property covered by the DPOA.

• Preserve Evidence of Capacity: If you anticipate any question down the road as to whether an elderly signer knew what he was signing at the time the DPOA was executed, consider asking him to secure a letter from his doctor that the elder has full capacity to sign such documents. That letter can then be kept on file to be shown to any financial institution should such concern later arise.

• Keep the DPOA Current: Third parties are often concerned if a DPOA has been signed so long ago so that it is “stale” in their eyes. I recommend re-executing a financial DPOA at least every 3 to 5 years and, if possible, annually.

• Offer a § 4305 affidavit: Custodians are sometimes concerned that the DPOA may have previously been revoked. To allay that concern, the agent can submit an affidavit to the custodian, made pursuant to section 4305 of the Probate Code, that the DPOA has not been revoked. Once completed, that affidavit becomes conclusive proof of non-revocation.

• Anticipate Language That the Custodian May Prefer: If the DPOA is being created to be used at a specific bank or title company, ask whether it prefers specific language in the DPOA and, if so, incorporate same in your document.

• Legal Proceedings to Enforce Acceptance: As a last resort, consider a lawsuit. The law provides that a third party who refuses to honor a DPOA, after being provided a 4305 affidavit, may be liable for the petitioner’s attorney’s fees incurred in the court proceeding. Bringing this to the custodian’s attention often generates the desired compliance.

Gene L.  Osofsky is an estate planning and elder law attorney in Hayward.  Visit his website at

California Creates New Transfer on Death Deed | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 22 October 2015 18:03

102215sen1By Gene L. Osofsky, Esq. • Special to the Times

Q: I hear that Governor Brown just signed a new law that makes it easier for a homeowner to transfer a home, on death, to his named beneficiaries without going through probate or creating a trust. Do you know more about this?

A: Yes. The new law (AB 139) creates a Revocable Transfer on Death Deed (“TOD Deed”) as a simple way for homeowners to transfer title to residential property, effective upon death.

When properly executed, notarized and recorded, the TOD Deed will allow your named beneficiaries, following your demise, to acquire ownership of your home without the formalities of a probate or trust administration.

For many, this new deed will be a welcome alternative to the more elaborate Living Trust, as it promises to reduce the complexity and cost of designing a plan for the transfer of one’s home on death.

In substance, it operates much like the Transfer on Death (“TOD”) or “Pay on Death” (“POD”) provisions long available for brokerage or bank accounts. The new law requires use of a specific form, with required provisions, and should be readily available at stationery stores or for online download in the very near future.

As with anything, however, the new law has both “good” and “bad” features. Among them are the following:

The Good:The new TOD Deed will be simple to use and should be less expensive than creating a Living Trust; it will eliminate the time and expense of a probate; it remains revocable during the lifetime of the grantor; and, it will greatly simplify the transfer of title process at death.

Because it dispenses with post-death transfer formalities, it may also reduce or eliminate acrimony among heirs or beneficiaries which sometimes accompanies a formal probate or trust administration.

The Bad:It offers no protection from Medi-Cal estate recovery for a grantor who received during life a Medi-Cal subsidy for nursing home care; it can only be used for a residential property and not for other assets; it cannot be used to designate contingent beneficiaries:  if a named beneficiary predeceases the grantor, the property goes to the other named beneficiaries or, if none, then back to the grantor or his estate and may then require a probate; and, it cannot be used to transfer residential property held as Joint Tenancy or as Community Property with Right of Survivorship.

Most importantly, there is concern among some advocates for the elderly that the availability of this simple transfer deed will facilitate the commission of elder abuse upon frail seniors.

While the TOD Deed can be used now, it will only be effective for grantors who die after January 1, 2016.

Initially, the new law will have only a five-year life-span. During that term, lawmakers will study its operation and will later decide whether it should be extended or modified. However, even if the law is not extended, a TOD Deed will still be effective if properly executed and recorded while the law was in effect.

Caution: While the new TOD Deed holds much promise as a way of simplifying the title transfer of a home upon the owners’ demise, it is not suitable for everyone. Before deciding upon its use, it is best to seek professional guidance from an elder law or estate planning attorney.

Gene L. Osofsky is an elder law and estate planning attorney in Hayward. Visit his website at


Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Warns Seniors on Reverse Mortgages | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 22 October 2015 18:00

102215sen2By Jim Miller • Special to the Times

When it comes to celebrity spokespeople pitching reverse mortgages on TV, don’t believe everything you hear. Many of these ads are misleading and don’t always give you the whole story.

In fact, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently issued a warning to seniors to watch out for these deceptive advertisements. With that said, here’s the lowdown on reverse mortgages.

The Basics: A reverse mortgage is a unique type of loan that allows older homeowners to borrow money against the equity in their house that doesn’t have to be repaid until the homeowner dies, sells the house or moves out for at least 12 months. At that point, you or your heirs will have to pay back the loan plus accrued interest and fees, but you will never owe more than the value of the house.

It’s also important to understand that with a reverse mortgage, you, not the bank, own the house, so you’re still required to pay your property taxes and homeowners insurance. Not paying them can result in foreclosure.

To be eligible, you must be at least 62 years old, own your own home (or owe only a small balance) and currently be living there.

You will also need to undergo a financial assessment to determine whether you can afford to continue paying your property taxes and insurance.

Depending on your financial situation, you may be required to put part of your loan into an escrow account to pay future bills. If the financial assessment finds that you cannot pay your insurance and taxes and have enough cash left to live on, you’ll be denied.

Loan Details: Around 95 percent of all reverse mortgages offered today are Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM), which are FHA insured and offered through private mortgage lenders and banks. HECM’s also have home value limits that vary by county, but cannot exceed $625,500.

How much you can actually get through a reverse mortgage depends on your age, your home’s value and the prevailing interest rates.

Generally, the older you are, the more your house is worth, and the lower the interest rates are, the more you can borrow. A 70-year-old,  for example, with a home worth $250,000 could borrow around $136,000 with a fixed-rate HECM. To estimate how much you can borrow, use the reverse mortgage calculator at

You also need to know that reverse mortgages are expensive with a number of fees, including: a 2 percent lender origination fee for the first $200,000 of the home’s value and 1 percent of the remaining value, with a cap of $6,000; a 0.5 percent upfront mortgage insurance premium (MIP) fee, plus an annual MIP fee that’s equal to 1.25 percent of the outstanding loan balance; along with an appraisal fee, closing costs and other miscellaneous expenses.

Most fees can be deducted for the loan amount to reduce your out-of-pocket cost at closing.

To receive your money, you can opt for a lump sum, a line of credit, regular monthly checks or a combination of these. But in most cases, you cannot withdraw more than 60 percent of the loan during the first year. If you do, your upfront MIP fee will be bumped up to 2.5 percent.

Get Educated: To learn more, read the National Council on Aging’s online booklet “Use Your Home to Stay at Home,” which you can download at

Also note that because reverse mortgages are complex loans, all borrowers are required to get face-to-face or telephone counseling through a HUD approved independent counseling agency before taking one out. Most agencies charge around $125 to $250. To locate one near you, visit, or call 800-569-4287.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit

What Happens If I Die Without a Will? | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 08 October 2015 14:30

100815senBy Gene L. Osofsky, Esq. • Special to the Times

Q: If I die without a will, do my assets go to the state?

A: Generally, no. The state would be the last potential recipient, and then only if your successors or next of kin could not be located. Here is how your assets would be handled:

Joint Tenancy Assets: Assets held in joint tenancy form, such as “John Jones and Mary Jones as Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship” (sometimes abbreviated JTWROS, or merely as “joint tenants”) would go to the surviving joint tenant, and this would be the result even if you had a will.

If you are the survivor, then they would go as your separate property as noted below.

Beneficiary Assets: Assets titled in a manner which designates specific beneficiaries would go to those beneficiaries.  Examples: Financial accounts with “Pay on Death” or  “Transfer on Death” designations, insurance and annuity policies, and retirement assets such as IRAs and 401(k) accounts. Again, the named beneficiaries would take even if you had a will.

Other Assets: Other assets, including those held in your name, alone, would go to your next of kin under the California law of Intestate Succession. Dying intestate means dying without a will. In this situation, California law sets out a plan of distribution as follows:

• Community Property: All would go to your spouse or registered domestic partner (RDP), if they survived you. If you were the survivor, assets would go as your separate property, but subject to the special 15-year rule for a predeceased spouse, as noted below;

• Separate Property: Assets would go to your surviving spouse/RDP and to your children. The allocation would depend upon the number of your children: (1) if you are survived by a spouse/RDP and only one child, they would each split 50/50; (2) if you are survived by a spouse/RDP and two or more children, your surviving spouse/RDP would receive only one-third and the children would divide the remaining two-thirds.

• The 15-year rule: If you had a former spouse/RDP who died less than 15 years before you, but left their own children surviving, then the portion of your estate attributable to your predeceased spouse would go to their surviving children.

If none of the above provisions direct distribution of your estate, then the law looks to your family tree: first to your parents, if alive, then to your brothers and sisters, then to your nieces and nephews, then to more remote family members in a prescribed order based upon consanguinity. Only if no one in your extended tree can be located, would your assets escheat to the state.

However, this comment is not an invitation to forego making a will or a trust, because you would then give up some advantages that they offer, such as: the right to designate your own beneficiaries, name the overseer of your estate, the ability to do tax planning, protect the inheritance of children from former marriages, create protective trusts for minors or persons on public benefits, provide for your own incapacity and long-term care, the option of avoiding probate by creating a Living Trust, and more.

So, do make that will or create a trust. You will likely feel much better for having done so.

Gene L. Osofsky is an elder law and estate planning attorney in Hayward. Visit his website at

Roadside Assistance Services for Older Drivers; What to Look Out for in Plan | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 17 September 2015 14:53

091715senBy Jim Miller • Special to the Times

Getting set up with a roadside assistance service you can call on day or night if your vehicle breaks down is a smart idea, and can provide you and your wife some real peace of mind. Here are some options to look into:

Already Covered?

For years, auto clubs like AAA were the only option drivers had when it came to roadside assistance, but today you have lots of choices. Most roadside assistance plans provide services like towing, flat-tire changes, jump-starting a battery, lost-key or lockout services, fuel delivery and help with stuck vehicles.

Before you start shopping for a roadside assistance plan, you first need to find out if you already have coverage, or have access to inexpensive coverage that you’re not aware of.

For example, if you drive a vehicle that is still under warranty, there’s a good chance you’re already covered. Most auto manufacturers now include comprehensive roadside assistance coverage for free when you buy a new or certified used car. This typically lasts as long as the basic warranty, but not always. Be sure you check.

Also check your auto insurance provider, your credit card issuers and cell phone service providers. Many of these services provide different variations of roadside assistance as add-on plans that cost only a few dollars per year, or they’re free.

But be aware that many of these services are limited in what they cover. When investigating these options, find out the benefit details including:

3Who’s covered (individuals and vehicles);

3How many roadside-assistance calls are allowed each year (three or four is typical);

3The average response time per service call; and the towing rules on where they will tow (to the nearest repair shop, or one that you choose) and how far (about 5 miles for basic plan is common, although some plans might cap the amount they pay for a tow at $100 or less).

Auto Clubs

If you find that you aren’t covered, or you want a better roadside plan than what’s currently available to you, you’ll want to check out auto/motor clubs.

Most of these clubs offer two or more levels of membership depending on how much roadside assistance you want and are willing to pay for, and they often provide a variety of discounts on things like hotels, rental cars and other services.

One of the best known and longest running clubs, AAA ( offers comprehensive services and has an extensive network of more than 40,000 roadside assistance providers, which usually means fast response times. Costs vary widely from $48 to $162 per year depending on where you live and the plan you choose, plus an additional fee for adding a family member.

Some other clubs to consider that may be a little less expensive include Allstate Motor Club (; AARP Roadside Assistance ( for AARP members only; Better World Club (; BP Motor Club (; Good Sam (; and GM Motor Club (

On-Demand Assistance

Another new money saving option to consider is pay-on-demand roadside assistance services like Urgently ( and Honk ( If you use a smartphone and live within their service area, these non-membership app-based services will  let you call for help via smartphone, and will only charge you for the assistance you need at a low price.

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

Protect Deceased Loved Ones from Identity Theft | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 17 September 2015 14:51

By Gene L. Osofsky, Esq. • Special to the Times

Q: My father just died and I have been named as his executor. Are there steps I should take to protect against theft of his identity?

A: Yes. As disturbing as it may seem, even the identity of the deceased is subject to identity theft.

By one estimate, thieves steal the identities of more than 2 million deceased Americans every year. Part of the reason these thieves are successful is that it can often take up to six months for credit agencies to be notified of a death. In the interim, the identity thieves strike, apply for credit, make purchases, and even access the deceased’s financial accounts.

So, yes, steps can and should be taken immediately after the death of a loved one. Here is a short list of action steps:

• Be careful about the kind of information you put in the obituary. Avoid putting information that might be used in a credit application, such as date of birth, last address or mother’s maiden name. Thieves read these obituaries precisely to glean that information.

• Send, via certified mail, certified copies of the decedent’s death certificate to each of the three major credit reporting agencies, namely Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, advising of the decedent’s death.  Include a copy of the decedent’s will or trust certification showing that you are the executor or successor trustee charged with handling the decedent’s affairs.

With your letters, furnish the decedent’s full name, date of birth and Social Security number, along with his or her most recent address and date of death.

Most important: request that the credit bureaus put a “deceased — do not issue credit” alert on the deceased’s credit files.

• Send copies of the death certificate to each bank, insurer, credit card company and other financial institution where the deceased had accounts.

• Cancel the decedent’s driver’s license by notifying the Department of Motor Vehicles.

• Continue to monitor the decedent’s credit report for at least a year to make sure that there are no problems. A free copy of the credit report is available annually to executors or trustees, so I would recommend ordering one from each of the separate credit agencies every four months.

To order your free report, go to or call 1-877-322-8228. You can opt to either download a copy instantly or receive a printed report in the mail.

By taking these simple steps, you can protect the identity of your loved one and help to ensure the successful administration of his estate.

Gene L. Osofsky is an elder law and estate planning attorney in Hayward. Visit his website at

What Seniors Can Do to Stop Robocalls | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 03 September 2015 11:23

090315senBy Jim Miller • Special to the Times

Millions of Americans who have signed up with the National Do Not Call Registry ( complain they still receive unwanted calls from robocallers.

Why? Because most robocalls are scams run by con artists who are only trying to trick you out of your money, and they simply ignore the law.

But there’s good news on the horizon. A few months ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed a rule giving telecommunication companies more leeway to block robocalls. Before this ruling, the FCC has always required phone companies to complete all calls, much in the same way the postal service is required to deliver all your mail, even the junk.

So, look for your phone service provider to start offering call-blocking tools in the future. But in the meantime, here are some things you can do to reduce those unwanted calls.

Set up an “anonymous call rejection” option: This is a free landline-calling feature. It lets you screen out calls from callers who have blocked their caller ID information — a favorite tactic of telemarketers.

To set it up, you usually have to dial *77 from your landline, though different phone services may have different procedures to set it up. Call your telephone service provider to find out if they offer this feature.

Sign up for Nomorobo: This is a free service and works only if you have an Internet-based VoIP phone service. It does not work on traditional analog landlines or wireless phones.

Nomorobo uses a “simultaneous ring” service that detects and blocks robocalls on a black list of known offender numbers. It isn’t 100 percent foolproof, but it is an extra layer of protection. To sign up, or see if Nomorobo works with your phone service provider, visit

Buy a robocall-blocking device: If you don’t mind spending a little money, purchase a call-blocking device like the Sentry 2 ($59) or Digitone Call Blocker Plus ($100), sold at These small devices, which plug into your phone line allow you to blacklist numbers you no longer wish to receive, or manually program the phone to accept a certain number of safe numbers. Both devices are very effective.

Don’t pick up: If you have a caller ID, another tip is to simply not answer the phone unless you recognize the number. But if you do answer and it’s a robocall, you should just hang up the phone. Don’t press 1 to speak to a live operator and don’t press  any other number to complain about the call or get your number off the list.

If you respond by pressing any number, you’re signaling that the autodialer has reached a live number and will probably lead to more robocalls.

Get a cellphone app: To help with robo telemarketing calls and robo spam texts to your cellphone, get a call-screening app like Truecaller ( or PrivacyStar ( that screens and blocks them.

It’s also important that you report illegal robocalls to the Federal Trade Commission at or call 888-225-5322.

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

When Should I Think About Updating My Trust? | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 03 September 2015 11:20

By Gene L. Osofsky, Esq. • Special to the Times

Q: My wife and I have a Living Trust and related estate planning documents which were prepared some years ago. We were told that we should keep them current. Do you have any advice on when it is time to update or revise them?

A: When your trust was prepared, your attorney probably did his or her best to encourage you to plan for normal contingencies, such as by naming backup beneficiaries and successor trustees in the event your first choices predeceased you or became unable to serve.

However, none of us can peer into the future and anticipate all events. The real key to keeping your documents current is to coordinate them with any significant change in your own personal circumstances, and to keep them compliant with any changes in the law.

While certainly not an exclusive list, here is my short list of times when it may be prudent to at least review your trust and related estate planning documents and, where appropriate, seek the guidance of your attorney:

• When there is a change in family circumstances, such as births, deaths, marriages, divorce

• At the beginning signs of incapacity

• When you anticipate the need for long-term care, including the need for a Medi-Cal subsidy to help with the cost

• When you feel it is time to delegate decision-making powers to your successor trustee

• When there is a significant change in your assets and net worth

• When there is a significant change in the tax law that would affect your planning

• When any of your beneficiaries become disabled and apply for public benefits, such as SSI and/or Medi-Cal.

In terms of Advance Healthcare Directives, HIPAA Privacy Authorizations and Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (“POLST”), I would have a different list. With these health-related documents, it is important to keep them current so that your physicians know they reflect your current wishes, especially wishes regarding end-of-life care.

With regard to the Health Directive and HIPAA Authorization, I would suggest reaffirming those wishes at least every three years. You might do so by simply attaching an addendum reaffirming your wishes, dating and signing it and asking two disinterested witnesses to sign.

Regarding the POLST, I would suggest doing the same but with a frequency of at least once a year, and perhaps every six months depending upon your circumstances.

If your agents change addresses and telephone numbers, you might notate their new contact information by way of a dated addendum, rather than by interlineating or writing over their addresses in the original documents.

Generally speaking, I encourage my clients to look at their trust and related documents annually and when any of the above events occur, and to consider a review by their attorney every five years.

Not all reviews will necessitate a change in the plan documents, but the above benchmarks will serve you in good stead should a revision be necessary.

Gene L. Osofsky is an elder law and estate planning attorney in Hayward. Visit his website at

Celebrate Grandparents Day | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 03 September 2015 11:17

090315sen2The Aitken Senior Center at 17800 Redwood Road and the Kiwanis Club of Hayward/Castro Valley invite you to the annual Grandparent’s Day Pancake Breakfast and Celebration from 8:30 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19. Enjoy a delicious breakfast of pancakes, eggs, sausage, juice and coffee for just $4 for adults, $3 for kids. Sulphur Creek Nature Center Critters will be on hand from 10 to 11:00 a.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the door.




Weekly specialty items listings, garage sales, and much more!


Current Ads


If you would like to place a Classified Ad, call Patrick at 510-614-1558.

Real Estate

Get the latest in housing news and services delivered to you in full color PDF.


Browse this weeks gallery