LocationAlhambra , CA United States
On a gray June morning at Alhambra’s Joslyn Center for seniors, Carlos Arcos offered advice to a room of about 20 people on how to think about growing older, both legally and financially.
Arcos, whose Arcadia practice specializes in elder care planning, visits the Joslyn Center almost every month and has been presenting these programs for the last 27 years. His lectures go beyond drawing up a will, which is what most people think of when planning for their golden years. Arcos outlines other important steps, including how to set up living trusts for assets, how to designate a power of attorney in case of medical need, and how to finance retirement, including paying for elder care, health insurance and preparing for unforeseen situations.
During an interview with the Alhambra Source, Arcos described the people who come to his talks as brave. “They come here and we’re talking about incapacity, not so much about death, but who’s going to take care of you,” he said. “How long is your money going to last? And how do you deal with those issues?”
People don’t often think about how to prepare for the realities of aging, when it comes to making legal and financial end-of-life preparations.
“Most people think of what I call a death plan,” Arcos said. “They’re not thinking about incapacity planning or elder care planning. Nobody wants to think that they’re going to get old. The whole point of being an American is to be young and strong.”
Arcos realized how hard it was for people to get good information on growing older, when he started working as an estate planning lawyer after graduating from UCLA Law School in 1989. He branched into elder care planning, after many of the people whose wills he drew up had questions about how to live out their retirement years.
“I just started having clients [and was not] able to answer their questions when it came to [elder care planning issues],” he said.
Arcos cites a common statistic that about 10,000 people are reaching the retirement age of 65 each day, with that number projected to grow in the next two decades. He says that information about elder care planning is not widely available, except on the Internet and that information is hard to verify. Sponsored by the city of Alhambra, his Joslyn Center lectures are meant to be a free educational resource, so that people know how to go about making informed decisions about elder care planning.
Not hard to verify are stories of friction within families.
Arcos describes examples of wars within families who have to deal with the incapacity or death of an elderly parent. In one instance from his latest lecture, he advised people to designate someone in their family who’s trustworthy and reliable as their trustee or power of attorney, especially if the family is not the “Ozzie and Harriet” type where everybody gets along.
The people who attend Arcos’ lectures have questions that range from designating a non-family member as a trustee, to something more dramatic like how to include one’s home in a trust, so that this asset is protected if the person in question dies during the sale.
Many attendees find the information he gives very helpful, whether they’re interested in elder care planning or making preparations for their own deaths. “My parents — both of them passed away without a will or a trust,” said one attendee, Ed Dare, 65, a retired certified public accountant, after attending Arcos’ talk this past February. He wants to set up a trust while he still can to avoid the complicated process that ensued after his parents died.
“My sisters and I went through a very nasty probate — not because my sisters and I did not get along — it was just going through the whole court session. And when Carlos was saying how expensive it was, I could attest to that.”
The Joslyn Center’s program coordinator, Janine Pinto, says that Arcos’ talks have been a good resource for seniors. “A lot of [people] come with their questions and they come multiple times, so they must enjoy and find them beneficial,” she said.
Besides fulfilling a real need in the community, Arcos finds his lectures personally satisfying, especially as a former psychology major. “It’s very rewarding because I learned something — I get sort of a sense of what’s going on out there.”
In a sense, he’s teaching financial literacy to the seniors who attend his lectures, showing how this skill is truly a lifelong endeavor.
Carlos Arcos’ next Joslyn Center talk is in September on “Understanding and Reviewing Your Trusts.” For more information, visit his website.