Because We Are Human Life/Death/Law Podcast

Welcome to Life/Death/Law. A podcast about estate planning, an issue that affects all of us, because we're human. Lawyers tend to make estate planning both boring and hard, but I think it doesn't need to be either one. After 20 years writing about it and writing estate plans for hundreds of families, I actually think it's a fascinating and rich topic. Death is like sex. We all do it, but we're often afraid to talk about it. I created the Life/Death/Law podcast to answer your questions with no judgement and to bring you experts on topics that matter. Are you ready? Let's get started.

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In this episode of Life/Death/Law, Dr. Jessica Zitter, author of Extreme Measures: Finding a Better Path to the End of Life, talks openly and honestly about how to communicate with your doctors about what you or a loved one wants, and doesn’t want, for end of life care; how to pick the right person to act as your health care agent and make medical decisions for you; and what palliative care can offer those facing chronic illness. But more than that, she is a compassionate and articulate voice for changing the way that people die in this country and the role that the medical profession can play in improving end of life care. I loved talking to her and I think you’ll love listening.

She is Harvard and UCSF-trained to practice the unusual combination of Critical and Palliative Care medicine.  She works as an Attending Physician at a public hospital in Oakland, California.

She is a regular contributor to The New York Times and her articles have appeared in The AtlanticTime Magazine, Journal of the American Medical Association, The Washington Post and many other publications.

Extreme Measures:  Dr. Jessica Zitter Life/Death/Law Podcast
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In this episode of Life/Death/Law, join me for a conversation with Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider, a physician, speaker, writer, activist, and the force behind two amazing movies about end of life: Extremis and End Game, both available on Netflix (so watch them!).

Dr. Ungerleider also (when not producing movies and making social change) works as an internist practicing hospital medicine at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. She received her medical degree from Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, OR and completed residency at California Pacific Medical Center where she is now on the teaching faculty and serves on the Executive Board of the Foundation Board of Trustees.

Extremis, which is about end of life decision making in the ICU at Oakland’s Highland Hospital, won best Documentary Short at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2017, and was nominated for an Academy Award and two Emmies. End Game recently premiered at Sundance, and is about palliative care and end of life planning in the face of terminal illness, and was filmed at UCSF and Zen Hospice, in San Francisco. Both movies are heartfelt, engaging, honest and important. They show, without preaching, how important it is for your loved ones to know what you do and don’t want at end of life and how palliative care and hospice can add quality to that time.

End Well – Planning for a Better End of Life Life/Death/Law Podcast
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In this episode of Life/Death/Law, Einat Sandman Clarke, Senior Counsel at Google LLC provides an inside look at how Google handles requests for digital assets (like emails, photos, and videos) after someone has died and discusses the broader legal landscape that governs all service providers facing requests to release digital communications belonging to their users.

Learn how to use Google’s Inactive Account Manger to control access to your digital assets (like email,  videos, images, and documents) and why service providers (like Google, Apple, facebook, and Yahoo) can’t give anyone access to your stored electronic communications without your consent, or a court order.

If you’ve ever worried about what will happen to your digital life after you die (and who hasn’t), please listen.

Access to Digital Assets After Death — The Inside Scoop from Google Life/Death/Law Podcast
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05-Talking-to-Kids-LifeDeathLaw-300x300In this episode I’m taking to Dr. Muffie Weibe Waterman, author of Wired to Listen, a book about how what we say to kids, and don’t, impacts the way that kids see the world and act in it. In her book, Dr. Waterman writes about how, and when, to talk to kids about the hard stuff; death, divorce, and sex–topics that we all struggle with addressing honestly and effectively with our kids.

I asked her to be on the show because many of the people that I work with, and many of the people listening to this show, struggle with talking appropriately, and effectively, to kids (of all ages) about death and dying. These conversations can be around the death of a beloved grandparent, or about the process of estate planning, or, even, between adult children and elderly parents, about the reality of end of life planning.

If you have ever struggled with how to talk honestly and openly about death and dying with your children or your parents, and honestly, who hasn’t?, I think you’ll enjoy listening to today’s show.

Talking About the Hard Stuff Life/Death/Law Podcast
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What is estate planning, really? I know that most lawyers focus on reducing taxes, or the creation of documents, but when you get down to it, what you’re really doing when you make an estate plan is giving everything away, right?

So, to me, understanding the practice of generosity and what gets in the way of being generous are central to effective estate planning, and who better to explore that territory than my guest for episode 3 of Life/Death/Law: Myoshin Kelley, an eloquent teacher on the key Buddhist teachings on the wisdom of opening the heart. Myoshin is a Senior Instructor with the Tergar Community, which supports the worldwide vision of Tibetan master meditation teacher and author Mingyur Rinpoche, tergar.org, and it is an honor to have her on the podcast.

If you’ve ever been curious about the practice of generosity or the value of it, or found yourself wanting to be generous but somehow holding yourself back, and wondered what was getting in your way, please listen.

The Practice of Generosity Life/Death/Law Podcast
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In this episode, I’m taking a look at a difficult moment — you visit your parents and realize that your parents just seem…. a little bit different, just not the same as they used to be–more forgetful, more agitated, or suddenly involved with people that you don’t know or trust.

Join me for a candid discussion with Dr. Elizabeth Landsverk, a board-certified physician in Internal medicine, Geriatric medicine, and Palliative care medicine. She’s also the founder of ElderConsult Geriatric Medicine, a practice that offers house-call based medicine to seniors and their families.

Elizabeth offers practical help for those dealing with dementia: how to know if it’s time to take a loved one to be evaluated; what kind of cognitive and behavioral symptoms to worry about (or not to worry about); how to find the right doctor; avoid the wrong medications and offer a loved one with dementia the best possible quality of life. Join us!

Dealing with Dementia Life/Death/Law Podcast
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In this first episode Emily Bouchard, a family dynamics and money coach and the managing partner at Wealth Legacy Group, talks to me about money and the difficulties that families often have in engaging in honest conversations about it. Emily offers  fascinating insights into why money can be such a hard thing to talk about, and tips for helping to get these conversations started. I asked her to be on my show because, so often, a long, uncomfortable silence falls across the room when my clients begin to sort out who owns what in a marriage, or how parents want their children to treat an inheritance.  As Emily points out, avoiding open and honest communications about money (like avoiding the same kinds of conversations about death and illness) means a missed opportunity for learning about ourselves, our families, and our most closely held values and hopes. I hope you enjoy it.

To read more: Emily is the co-author, with Emily Chase Smith, of Beginner’s Guide to Purposeful Prenups and the author of Estate Planning for the Blended Family.

Prenups Life/Death/Law Podcast
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book-cover-from-amazon-234x300My new book, Every Californian’s Guide to Estate Planning is available now and I’m excited to share it with all of you.

I wrote it because there isn’t a California-specific estate planning book out there, and we, as Californians, have some special things to deal with.

In addition to an introduction to wills and trusts, what probate is and how to avoid it, and how to pick guardians for your minor children, this book also discusses these California-specific issues (and many others):

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03-Generosity-300x300What is estate planning, really? I know that most lawyers focus on reducing taxes, or the creation of documents, but when you get down to it, what you’re really doing when you make an estate plan is giving everything away, right?

So, to me, understanding the practice of generosity and what gets in the way of being generous are central to effective estate planning, and who better to explore that territory than my guest for episode 3 of Life/Death/Law: Myoshin Kelley, an eloquent teacher on the key Buddhist teachings on the wisdom of opening the heart. Myoshin is a Senior Instructor with the Tergar Community, which supports the worldwide vision of Tibetan master meditation teacher and author Mingyur Rinpoche, tergar.org, and it is an honor to have her on the podcast.

If you’ve ever been curious about the practice of generosity or the value of it, or found yourself wanting to be generous but somehow holding yourself back, and wondered what was getting in your way, please listen.

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black-29972_150On December 22, 2017, President Trump signed a bill that makes huge changes to the American tax system—including the estate and gift tax. As of 2018, individuals can give away up to $11.2 million free of estate and gift tax, and couples can combine that to give away up to $22.4 million! These exemptions are indexed to inflation and scheduled to revert back to 2017 levels in 2026 (unless Congress extends them or makes them permanent at that point).

This sounds like big news, but, to tell the truth, there’s no benefit to most of us. Less than 1% of Americans were subject to the estate tax under the old law–now even fewer of them are. The Joint Committee on Taxation now estimates that there will be only 1800 taxable estates (in the ENTIRE COUNTRY) in 2018, compared to 5,000 under the previous law, and 52,000 in 2000, when the exemption was $675,000.

So, what does that mean for most of us? It means that estate planning isn’t really about minimizing the estate or gift tax any longer. (And it hasn’t been since 2012 for those with $5 million or less.) But that doesn’t mean you don’t need an estate plan.