Milk is Back!

Jay Matteson

For too many years, fewer and fewer Americans were drinking milk. There were many more choices for consumers to quench their thirst than ever before and honestly, the dairy industry had not done a good job of keeping up with marketing their product in a modern, exciting manner. The old white jug had lost its appeal. The previous administration in the White House changed the school lunch program removing whole and 2% milk options and forcing schools to offer only skim milk. This change reduced the desire by children to drink milk. 

    Then the Coronavirus disaster set in. Food service businesses closed their doors. According to an April 3, 2020 article written by P.J. Huffstutter on Reuters website, the closure of food service businesses – restaurants, schools, and fast food restaurants sent a shock wave through the dairy industry. Plants that manufacture dairy products used in food service are not easily converted to retail manufacturing. With the onset of Coronavirus shutdown of food service businesses, the outlook for dairy initially was very dark. American diets typically consisted of 35 – 40% food service purchases. Dairy products are extensively used by food service to add flavor and nutrition to many products. The Virus also disrupted distribution systems and plant workforce. Dairy cooperatives told their member farms to dump their milk because there became a tremendous glut of milk on the market. Dairy Farmers of America estimated at one point that 3.7 million gallons of milk a day was being dumped. 

    At the same time, people did not know what to expect when told to shelter at home. Store shelves emptied of food, paper products and milk! People were buying two gallons at a time and freezing it, just in case. It appears that consumers turned to what they knew was very healthy, satisfying and comforting, milk. According to an article published online on June 15, 2020 on the AgDaily website, from March 9 to March 22, 2020 fluid milk sales increased by 45,000,000 gallons compared to the same period in 2019. Plant based beverage sales in the same period increased by approximately 7.9 million gallons. This was huge news for American dairy farmers. 

    Those of us in the agricultural industry saw the initial demand for fluid milk and were hopeful, but worried that after the initial run on the grocery stores, consumers would return to old habits. Consumers, however, appear to want nutritious and tasty milk and dairy products back in their diets! Ag Daily reports that from March 23 to May 31, 2020 fluid milk consumption increased by nearly 60,000,000 gallons compared to the same period in 2019. Plant based beverages increased by just over 10,000,000 gallons. Also noticed was consumers were trending to whole and 2% milk. Many enjoy the taste and satisfaction of whole milk compared to skim milk. 

    It appears, when difficult times arose, the American consumer came back to a food product they knew was wholesome, nutritious, and tasty – milk. In Jefferson County, we saw two dairy farms begin bottling their own milk. Next Generation Milk from Grimshaw Farms and Old McDonald’s Farm Milk from North Harbor Dairy Farm were an instant hit. Both operations had difficulty keeping up with demand. When a very local option became available to consumers, they swung quickly to supporting local dairy as much as possible. I can personally testify that my 19-year-old son will travel out of his way to make sure we always have milk from both farms in our refrigerator. Most times, he pays for it! 

    The dairy industry will still have challenges with balancing supply and demand fluctuations. Our dairy farms are coming off five years of difficult prices for their product. But if the demand for dairy continues to grow as people realize what they have been missing, perhaps we will see a brighter future for our dairy farms and the American consumer. Thanks to consumers, we see a path out of this current quagmire we are in. We are looking out to 2025 and building a path forward. 

    Welcome home, America! 

2020: In A Class By Itself

Rande Richardson

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  — Nelson Mandela 

The Class of 2020 will forever hold a chapter in the book of COVID-19. Students have been deprived of the experiences and joys of many things a complete senior year brings: awards ceremonies, spring sports records, friends, proms, yearbook signings, graduation. The ceremonial rites of passage for their hard work in the classroom, on the athletic field, on stage, and with other extracurricular activities will not be the same. 

    We are all a product of a variety of influences. In the mix of nature and nurture, we are largely shaped by our education. Who we become includes lessons from a variety of influences including parents, family members, coaches and other community role models. We have all had teachers or professors who were instrumental in shaping us. Some took a special interest in our success or believed in us in a way that changed the direction of our lives. In recognizing the loss of the senior year, it heightens our appreciation for the way our school experience advances us to the next stage of life. Our community’s educators are due a special thanks for continuing to develop young minds and souls even from a distance. 

    Education is an investment, and one of the most critical we can make. Since its roots in 1929, the Northern New York Community Foundation has held education high on its list of priorities. Through those 90 years, more resources have consistently been directed toward education than any other area. Community Foundation donors have enabled substantial investments in educational programs, institutions and education-focused nonprofit organizations. For a decade, youth philanthropy programs have educated the next generation about civic service and community needs and resources. Scholarships have helped many thousands of local students as they began or continued their educational journeys, including nontraditional students and those pursuing studies in trade, vocational, and technical fields. Some of those students have remained in the north country, joining our local workforce and helping to meet its needs. Others have chosen to bring their talents elsewhere. Each has contributed to making our world a better place. 

    We are fortunate to partner with many schools in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties to provide long-term stewardship of precious scholarship dollars. Many of those schools have also established educational foundations so donors can support learning beyond scholarships to include every facet of education, including the arts and athletics. We have worked alongside community groups to build educational resources for members of the military and their families. The people of our region have a tradition of generosity that has helped change and shape lives, and, ultimately, made our communities stronger and our workforce better equipped. 

    While in many ways the Class of 2020 was shortchanged, they have been given enhanced valuable life lessons that will serve them (and us) well. The Class of 2020 is one of adaptation, resiliency, flexibility, persistence, resourcefulness, patience, appreciation, tenacity, grit, determination, discipline and strength. They are better equipped for whatever may come their way. You have learned how to learn and find solutions to unexpected challenges. 

    The greatest gift an educator can receive is knowing the difference they have made in the lives of their students. The words, “you changed my life” or “because of you” are music to the ears and a testament to what a good teacher can accomplish. To the class of 2020 and all who have shaped them, know that what you do with adversity and challenges will define your character. Just like the teachers and others who brought you here, your impact will be significant, life-long and lasting. You have the opportunity today to inspire and shape a better tomorrow as you lead our community, society and the world. That is a reason to celebrate and be hopeful. In case you haven’t noticed, we need that now more than ever. 

Diverse Terrain and Natural Settings in NNY Draw Golfers

Randy Young

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Bureau of Real Property performs all aspects of the land and conservation easement acquisition process, from appraisals and boundary surveys to negotiations and contracts. Most recently, DEC acquired tracts that will bring together larger pieces of land to bolster outdoor recreation opportunities like hunting, hiking, camping, and snowmobiling. 

    Surveying goes back many generations to a time when people were homesteading and governments were looking for ways to bring money to their coffers through taxation. 

    The Adirondack Park encompasses approximately six million acres, nearly half of which belongs to the people of New York state as Forest Preserve. The Bureau of Real Property gives credit to today’s maps and information to Verplanck Colvin. Colvin was state superintendent of the Adirondack Survey in 1882. He and his field crews generated hundreds of field books and notes as they recorded level, traverse, and triangulation data to complete a survey of the Adirondack wilderness. 

    “Colvin was self-taught. He used triangulation to survey the Adirondacks,” said Michael Contino, Region 6 real property supervisor. “It took him 28 years to do it, but Colvin literally placed the Adirondack Park on the map. The work surveyors do today builds on his work and you can still find his survey markers on the summits of many of the Adirondack High Peaks.” 

    The triangulation station on Stillwater Mountain, which sits at the base of Stillwater Fire Tower, is station number 77. The bolt reads, “S.N.Y. Adirondack Survey: Verplanck Colvin Supt. 1882.” 

    Located within the Independence River Wild Forest, the original wooden Stillwater Fire Tower was replaced by a metal one in 1919. It was staffed by 15 total fire observers from 1912 to 1988. 

    Over time, the Stillwater Fire Tower deteriorated and was no longer safe for public use. In August 2015, Jim Fox and the Friends of Stillwater Fire Tower (FSFT) entered into a stewardship agreement with DEC. Over the course of one year, FSFT replaced all steps and landings, installed safety fencing on all eight staircases, replaced the floor and windows in the cab, and scraped, wire brushed, and painted the entire tower. In July 2016, the group gathered at Stillwater Mountain Fire Tower to recognize the completed work and mark the official re-opening of the tower to the public. Last August, they gathered to commemorate the tower’s centennial. 

    Both events were attended by residents of Herkimer and Lewis counties, as well as seasonal residents, DEC staff, and followers of Colvin. Known as the “Colvin Crew,” the group consists of approximately 140 professional surveyors who conduct recoveries of Colvin’s survey sites. “We are following in his footsteps. His work is our Adirondack heritage,” said Contino. 

    During his 2016 remarks, Fox noted the importance of Stillwater Mountain to Colvin’s work and to the surprise of many of those assembled, presented the Colvin #77 original brass bolt. “It was pretty amazing,” said James M. Vianna, assistant superintendent to the Colvin Crew. The original bolt had been taken out years before by vandals and was ultimately found and held by a caretaker off-site. “I had the opportunity to actually place it back in the hole. It fit like a glove. As a land surveyor, I love history.” 

    Seeing the bolt brought tears of joy to many people there, including Fox’s right-hand man Harry Peck of Stillwater. Fox had secretly borrowed the bolt from the caretaker in Wanakena. The original bolt has since been returned to the caretaker. FSWFT had a duplicate created and placed at the base of Stillwater Fire Tower. 

    The next time you hike the moderate one-mile climb to the summit, take a picture to mark your connection to the creation of the Adirondack Park. 

Planning Ahead For Your Business

Jennifer McCluskey

I am proud of all the work that you and all of our North Country business owners have done to make it through this difficult time. We may have a long road ahead, but you have worked hard to get here and have held on through many challenges. One way to be stronger for the path ahead is to take a good hard look at how your business did during this crisis and find out if there are things that you could do better to prepare for the future. This is a great time to figure out a solid contingency plan for your business, since this disaster may have exposed areas in which your business is weaker. You have a chance now to learn and to figure out policies that will allow you to be better prepared in the future. 

    One big area where businesses struggle significantly is cash flow and being able to set aside a “cushion” of savings. Sometimes businesses expand too fast or buy that bright shiny piece of new equipment maybe before they were ready. This pandemic may have shown you that your cushion might have been too small to deal with a possible emergency. Have you ever played the board game Risk? In the game of Risk, if you expand too fast then on the next turn the other players will wipe out all your armies because you’ll be too weak to defend. You have to expand slowly from a solid base that can be maintained. It’s the same in business: you need to shore up your current business and have enough savings to support yourself before you start trying to expand. 

    I know this is hard for businesses that are constantly living on the edge of solvency. But maybe now is a good time to make a financial plan to figure out how you can get to the point where you do have enough of a cushion to get through a couple of months with little to no income. And if you don’t think it’s possible for your business to ever get to that point, maybe you need to make some radical changes, or possibly maybe it’s time to move on and try something new. Talk to your SBDC counselor. We can help you develop strategies, look through your budget and see where changes can be made, and provide support in whatever way you need. 

    Other areas you might want to consider looking at include:  

  • Develop work from home or contingency location plans. You may have found that having some of your employees work from home went OK for your business. If you likely now have the technology capabilities you need to implement this strategy again in the future if needed.  
  • Assess communication between you and your employees. Now that they are back in the office, find out if there could be ways that you all could communicate better in the future. What systems are you going to put in place so people can get access to critical information and can make critical decisions? Does everyone know his or her role in a crisis?
  • Put key business instructions in writing in an employee manual, or consider training employees to be able to do each other’s jobs. What if a key employee or owner gets sick? Would the business be able to function without that person? Are other people than the business owner authorized to speak to the bank, accountants, and attorneys if needed?

If you need assistance with your business during this difficult time, you can reach out to your local Small Business Development Center office. If we can’t meet with you in person, we can talk on the phone, teleconference, or email, whichever works for you. We are free, confidential, and always available to help. You can reach the SUNY Canton SBDC at (315) 386-7312, SUNY Canton SBDC at Clinton Community College at (518) 324-7232, or the Watertown SBDC at JCC (315) 782-9262. 

United Way Transforms to Meet Needs of Community

Lt Col Jamie Cox

Over the past five months, our nation and communities have experienced an unprecedented health and economic crisis, and the repercussions continue to ripple through our towns, neighborhoods, homes, businesses, places of worship and schools. As challenging as the past five months have been, the emergency has also expedited the identification of community challenges and vulnerabilities, which are sometimes unique to each town or village. The United Way of Northern New York (UWNNY) rapidly transformed to meet the needs of our communities in March and will continue to evolve as we face the new and persistent challenges before us. 

    While the federal and state governments prepare to care for the individuals and families most devastated by the pandemic through extended unemployment benefits, enhanced Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) allowances and more, the United Way is increasing our focus on families and individuals who earn above the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to afford the basic necessities to have a genuine quality of life. 

    ALICE – or Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – is an acronym used by the United Way Worldwide to identify families who are highly susceptible to situational poverty or worse. With low wages and no savings, these Americans have no ability to meet their current needs or to adequately prepare for the future. These families are particularly vulnerable to financial shocks like job loss, unexpected medical expenses, and natural disasters. Though many ALICE adults work more than one job, their ability to afford rent, utilities, food, car payment, gas, insurance and other life-critical items are constantly being threatened. One minor car repair can force the family to choose between the car repair and food. Or falling behind on rent. Or paying for a prescription. The chart below demonstrates the dire financial challenges faced by ALICE adults and families in our region.  

    The 2020 United for ALICE study, which was recently released, identifies that 42.3% of households (40,853 out of 96,579 households) in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence Counties are ALICE or in poverty. It’s time that we strengthen and empower everyone in our community. 

    What is the United Way of Northern New York doing about ALICE? 

    In collaboration with communities and local nonprofit organizations, UWNNY is focused on creating and sustaining a stable environment for every resident of the north country through equitable access to quality childcare, the power to purchase nutritious food, the ability to reside in safe housing, and access to superior educational institutions. A self-sufficient individual or family adds to the overall quality of the community. We must be fair, just and equal in our words and actions.   

The United Way of Northern New York’s plan:  

  1. Leadership. Provide leadership in thought and action to take daring steps in addressing the challenges faced by the most vulnerable residents in the region.
  2. Training. Provide critical training for community leaders, nonprofit organizations and community stakeholders on how to more effectively and efficiently address the challenges.
  3. Funding. Provide targeted grant funding to create the greatest return on investment to each community.

COVID-19 has forever changed our world: precious lives were lost, jobs vanished, and businesses collapsed. Getting knocked down and staying down is not in our nature. The United Way is leading the charge by tying together all the critical elements of our community’s ecosystem: physical and mental health, nutrition, education, economic development, childcare, employment, recreation, nature and the arts to increase the quality of life for every resident of the north country. 

    Great leaders rise to the occasion. In this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous time, let us be bold in thought, word and action to make our communities stronger than they have ever been. The time is now. 

Your Digital Real Estate

Sarah O’Connell

My February column dealt with businesses that are dependent on the weather and how important it is to have a plan to deal with the uncertainty that comes when the weather doesn’t cooperate. I wrote quite a bit about the extremely high water levels last summer that affected businesses along the lake and river, and in that context, I also talked about the SBA’s disaster loan program.

And now, within weeks of me writing that column, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the north country, along with the rest of the world, found itself in a totally unprecedented situation that in terms of impacting and disrupting our lives makes a snowstorm feel like a single flake drifting down.

As of May 15, the north country is starting to gear up to reopen businesses through a series of phases. As long as the different criteria for positive tests, hospitalizations and testing levels stay stable, we can continue to on this path. I, along with many others, look especially forward to our beauty salons and barbers reopening. But these are very uncertain times, and we know that businesses will have to be operating differently for the foreseeable future.

It would have been unimaginable to plan for a scenario like this. Some of our small businesses had no option but to shut down entirely. Others, like restaurants, found a way to keep some staff and some revenues through meals-to-go offerings, and “curbside pickup,” like social distancing, has become part of our language. Other businesses pushed their online sales to help them get through the interruption.

This brings me back to the need to take advantage of your “digital real estate”. If your business already had a website, an email list and/or a social media presence, you have had the ability to stay in touch with your customers and to stay engaged with them, whether it’s sharing special store hours for seniors, providing a limited menu, offering Internet sales, letting people know about the safety precautions you’ve established or informing them when you are going to be able to reopen, and many businesses, even while closed, shared community news and events or offered words of support and encouragement. Many businesses are also offering comfort in the form of value-added content such as exercise classes, recipe tips, links to helpful sites and of course, cat videos. But if you didn’t already have a digital presence, you may have missed out on an opportunity.

Going back to my February column, I still contend that we Northern New Yorkers are resilient. We’re going to find a way to cope with whatever nature throws at us. It’s not too late to be thinking about how to invest in some digital real estate. The advisors at the Watertown SBDC

(well, working from home, remotely) are here to help you do just that.

Much of our advisors’ time from March through May has been spent assisting north country businesses with the two SBA disaster loan programs: the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The EIDL program is similar to past disaster loans except for the inclusion of the Emergency Advance grant that included an amount per employee and owner that did not have to be paid back. The PPP was a whole new creation, part of the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act), and has continued to be refined as time has passed. A key part of that also includes loan forgiveness (does not have to be paid back) if the funds were spent and accounted for in a very specific manner.

The funding for these original loans was depleted very quickly and the payouts have not been swift as the sheer number of applicants overwhelmed the system. They have subsequently been re-funded; at the time of this writing the EIDL was now being offered only to agricultural businesses and the PPP was being refined to address the needs of smaller businesses.

The New York Small Business Development Center at JCC offers free, individual, confidential counseling to new or existing business owners in Jefferson and Lewis counties. For more information, contact 315-782-9262, sbdc@sunyjefferson.edu. St. Lawrence County residents can contact their SBDC at SUNY Canton, 315-386-7312, sbdc@canton.edu

Diverse Terrain and Natural Settings in NNY Draw Golfers

Randy Young

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Region 6 covers five counties, all diverse in terms of their natural beauty and opportunities for recreation. Our weather in Northern New York is conducive to golfing in the summertime and we are fortunate to have several dozen golf courses in our region that each offer a unique opportunity for a challenging day on the links. The diverse terrain and natural settings draw local golfers and those enjoying a summer vacation near the water or the mountains.  

    Kelly E. Hale is an avid north country golfer and environmental program specialist in DEC’s Division of Environmental Remediation. “I strongly encourage people to play golf,” she said. “It is a lifelong sport. My grandmother played until she was 83, and that is my goal.”  

    Hale is the former captain of the St. Lawrence University golf team and currently plays on two leagues, the Clayton Ladies Golf League and the LaFargeville Ladies Golf League.  

    In our region, resident and migratory Canada geese also enjoy taking to the greens. Migratory geese pass through New York on their way north and south, stopping briefly each way. Resident geese do not leave the state and are here over the winter. DEC biologists estimate the current resident geese population in New York state to be about 200,000 birds. Based on the growing statewide severity of complaints, biologists would like to see that number reduced to fewer than 85,000 birds statewide.   

    Canada geese are a natural resource that provide recreation and enjoyment to bird watchers, hunters, and the general public, but sometimes, their presence creates challenges. These days, resident geese are nesting and feeding at some area golf courses in higher numbers than the past, which has proven to be a nuisance to golf course owners and the occasional golfer.  

    “Geese are grazers and love to eat lush, green grass,” said Andrew MacDuff, Region 6 DEC wildlife manager. “Also, most golf courses have numerous small ponds that make good nesting and loafing areas. There are also very few predators on golf courses compared to more natural landscapes.”   

    Once these birds make a golf course their home, problems can follow: Canada goose fecal matter carries harmful bacteria; the noxious odor of goose droppings can make some people ill; and there’s also potential for geese to harass golfers. Canada geese are territorial and will fight to protect their nests and eggs.  

    What are golf course owners to do? There are many ways to discourage geese from settling in an area. Persistent application of a combination of methods usually yields the best results.  

    “There are numerous methods to mitigate goose issues at golf courses from harassment and physical barriers to allowing in-season hunting,” said MacDuff. “It can be challenging to move them once they become established, but steady pressure should do the trick. If they are nesting, oiling or addling the eggs will often get them to leave.”  

    Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County, Horticulture Educator, Susan Gwise said, “The best way to control geese is with trained dogs. But the dogs need to harass the geese on a daily basis.” Persistence can pay off. If not, DEC’s website www.dec.ny.gov features a section on “when geese become a problem” http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7003.html. In some situations, federal or state permits are needed.  

    How should golfers proceed? Hale has encountered her share of geese on the golf course. One specific incident cost her a stroke penalty. “I had to call for a ruling. My ball had rolled next to the pond. It was nesting season, and the geese were along the perimeter of the pond. I could not get close enough to identify my ball, because the geese were trying to protect their nest,” said Hale. “We all took caution, not to anger or get close to the geese. Since I could not identify my ball, I had to take a stroke penalty and continue my round.”  

    She advises golfers to take care around wildlife on the course. Always tread with caution and do not harass the wildlife. All Canada geese, migratory and resident flocks, are protected by federal and state laws and regulations. DEC shares management responsibilities with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  

    Perhaps the best advice is to be aware of the potential for Canada geese on the golf course and not to let it affect your concentration on the sport. “A sport like golf is an individual sport, but you still have to help your teammates along the way,” said Hale. “Golf taught me a lot about patience, time management, camaraderie, and how important it is to think about your next shot, rather than dwell on the previous one.” 

Defining Courage

Lt. Col. Jamie Cox

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines courage as the “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.” Synonyms for courage include bravery, fearlessness, gallantry, guts, heart, heroism, intrepidity, valor and virtue.   

    In the first 54 years of my life, which was celebrated this past February, I had the opportunity to witness dozens of acts of raw, pure courage. The U.S. Marine aviator successfully landing a helicopter with an engine on fire and a cabin full of infantrymen on a ship at night. The female Navy corpsman who ran through machine gun and mortar fire to perform triage on me during the battle of Fallujah. Individuals of great integrity taking a stand in the face of overwhelming odds. The company CEO who prioritizes employees over profit.  

    In the 60 days since my birthday, I have witnessed more than a hundred acts of courage. Ordinary people in every community performing extraordinary acts that have changed the trajectory of Northern New York.  

    The stories that capture the headlines in the media beautifully articulate the heroism of our doctors, nurses, certified nursing assistants, police officers, fire fighters and emergency medical technicians. Their sacrifice and courage in the face of this pandemic has inspired a nation.  

    In March 1945, Admiral Chester Nimitz, reflected on the battle of Iwo Jima, which was fought between the U.S. Marine Corps and the Japanese army, by saying, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.”  I believe that quote – referencing the men who fought a horrific, bloody battle – runs deep in our north country blood.  

    Consider these snapshots of simple valor in our community:   

  • The cashier at Price Chopper supermarket, who only makes minimum wage, running her check-out register without a protective mask as everyone panicked to purchase food and supplies in late March.  
  • The gas station employee, who does not receive benefits, working without protective equipment to ensure that we’re all able to purchase gas and other necessities.   
  • The school bus driver and teacher who ran endless routes to deliver food to children and families – jumping out of the bus at every home to drop off meals with a wave and a smile.  
  • The school district superintendent who didn’t bat an eye when asked for $10,000 to help the North Country Library System provide online educational tools for children and parents.   
  • The agricultural small business owner who delivers his high-end, organic produce to food pantries and schools throughout Northern New York for free, and is keeping his employees working and paid despite no revenue coming in the door. 
  • The nonprofit company executive director who slashed her own pay to keep more of her staff from getting furloughed. 
  • The general manager of a local television network outlet who has donated significant airtime to public service announcements and is hosting a benefit concert on his own dime. 
  • The nonprofit employee who has continued to risk his health by providing critical services and food to more and more families each day. 
  • The young reporters from our news station and newspaper who are in the field every day to find uplifting stories to keep our morale high. 
  • The volunteer drivers, who put their health at risk by transporting residents without vehicles or the ability to drive to grocery stores or medical appointments.  
  • The guy in front of me at the store yesterday who purchased groceries for the elderly lady in front of him, and then carried them to her car. 

    Away from Washington, D.C., and Albany, patriotism comes in every shape and form. Love for the north country resides in our hearts, regardless of race, religion, or creed. While our economy struggles and residents are suffering, we are witnessing some of the finest acts of kindness and courage.   

    I hope and pray for the end of the pandemic and a healthy economic recovery.  But I know that when we get to that point – sadly – partisan finger pointing will return to our discourse, drowning out the heroics we’re witnessing today. I hope you’ll join me in taking a moment to recognize the special heroes during this crisis. 

Alternative Goals of Estate Planning

Timothy Lambrecht

When you think about creating an initial estate plan, you likely focus entirely on the need to create a roadmap for the distribution of your estate assets in the event of your death. While that certainly will always remain an important estate planning goal, you will undoubtedly include additional goals into your estate plan over time.  The following subjects should be at the forefront of your mind, depending on your own unique personal situation.   

Incapacity Planning  

    People typically associate the possibility of becoming incapacitated with old age, specifically with Alzheimer’s and other age-related dementia conditions. While Alzheimer’s is a leading cause of incapacity in elderly individuals, the reality is that you could suffer a period of incapacity at any age as a result of a tragic accident or debilitating illness. If that happens, who will take over control of your assets? Who will make health care decisions for you? In the absence of an incapacity planning component in your estate plan, a judge may be forced to answer those questions – and you may not like the answers.  Putting a power of attorney and health care proxy into place will allow you to appoint your own agent to act in your best interests in the event of incapacity.  

Probate Avoidance  

    Probate is the legal process that is required after the death of an individual. The primary purpose of probate is to identify, value, and eventually transfer the decedent’s assets to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate. If the estate is required to go through formal probate, it can take months, even years, to get through the process. In addition, a lengthy probate can be costly, diminishing the value of the estate that is ultimately passed down to loved ones. Probate avoidance tools and strategies can help your estate avoid the need for formal probate.  The most common tool for probate avoidance is a Revocable Trust, otherwise known as a Living Trust.  By working with an attorney to establish a Revocable Trust and placing your assets in the trust, every asset that goes into the trust will avoid the probate process.  

Planning for Parents with Minor Children or Children with Special Needs  

    If you are the parent of a minor child, you undoubtedly want to make sure your child is provided for if something happens to you. Your minor child, however, cannot inherit directly from your estate. Simply leaving assets for your child in your will doesn’t ensure that your child will be well cared for in your absence. Instead, most parents establish a trust to protect their child’s inheritance until the child reaches an age where the child is more mature. As the creator of the trust, you appoint someone as the trustee to manage and invest the trust assets while your child is a minor. That same trust can then be used to stagger disbursements once your child becomes an adult, allowing your child to learn how to manage his/her inheritance before receiving it all.   

    In the event there are children with special needs that will inherit, a particular trust called a Supplemental (or Special) Needs Trust would need to be established.  The Supplemental Needs Trust allows the child to have the benefit of their share of the parent’s estate, but not have any risk of losing any public benefits that may be subject to assets tests, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicaid.  

Long-Term Care Planning  

    Long before you reach retirement age, you should start thinking about the possibility that you, or a spouse, will need long-term care (“LTC”). Specifically, you need to plan for the high cost of that care. With a nationwide average of over $100,000 per year for 2020, most people cannot afford to pay for LTC out of pocket – and Medicare will not cover LTC expenses. Medicaid can help with those expenses, but you must first qualify for Medicaid benefits. Medicaid uses both an income and an asset test that could be problematic if you failed to include Medicaid Planning in your estate plan well ahead of the time you need to qualify.  An experienced estate planning attorney will be able to guide you through the process of establishing certain trusts that can help protect your assets from Medicaid.  

    Reaching out to an experienced estate planning attorney is the first step in helping you accomplish your estate planning goals.  The sooner the process is started, the sooner you can rest assured that you and your family are taken care of. 

Timothy J. Lambrecht primarily focuses his practice on complex civil litigation, environmental law, and municipal law matters. Mr. Lambrecht is an experienced environmental law practitioner and litigator. If you would like legal assistance in an environmental case contact Attorney Lambrecht of the Wladis Law Firm at tlambrecht@wladislawfirm.com

Outdoor Adventures With Your Pets

Teddy the cat wears a harness and leash to hike Shenandoah National Park.

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