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PREPARE for you health care

Kaiser Health News reports that most Americans avoid making important end-of-life decisions, called Advance Care Planning, because it can be uncomfortable and the paperwork confusing.

Rebecca Sudore, a geriatrician at the University of California-San Francisco, created prepareforyourcare.org, which provides step-by-step instructions and video stories to help people navigate the care they want at the end of their lives. She built the site in 2013 for families unsure how to broach sensitive questions. In a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in May 2017, she and other researchers found that the website, combined with the use of an “advance directive” form, prompted participants to plan ahead.

The website gained the attention of major charities and since that time the organiztion has gained financial support from foundations such as the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, California Health Care Foundation, Stupski Foundation, as well as the American Cancer Society, California Health Care Foundation, The Donaghue Foundation, John and Wauna Harman Foundation, National Institute on Aging, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, UCSF, and Veterans Health Services Research & Development.

Visit the PREPARE website to have them help you

  • Have a voice in YOUR medical care
  • Talk with your doctors
  • Give your family and friends peace of mind
  • Print a summary of your wishes
  • You can also fill out an easy-to-read advance directive

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Kenmore warranties and Sears bankruptcy

Sears has filed for bankruptcy and many aer wondering what will happen to their Kenmore appliance warranties.

The good news is Sears is honoring those warranties. The company said in a statement,  “We are honoring our warranties, protection agreements and guarantees as normal,” the company said in a statement. If you need help with a replacement part for your appliance, check out the Sears PartsDirect Site.

Eric Arnum, editor of Warranty Week, which reports on the warranty industry said,.    “Normally consumers haven’t had to worry about their warranties being dissolved in the wake of a company going out of business.

When Circuit City and CompUSA filed for bankruptcy, outside insurance companies stepped in, and all extended warranties were honored. “That’s been the case for decades in the U.S.,” Arnum said. The reason: Many states mandate that a company work with outside insurance companies or demonstrate assets of a certain amount to continue coverage for consumers.”

So, even though you don’t have to worry about your current warranty, you should definitely think twice about extended warranties in the future. Here’s why you should think twice.

Warnings about extended warranties aren’t new. Consumer Reports against them for decades.

Margot Gilman, Consumer Reports money editor says,  “Consumer Reports has always advised consumers to be wary of extended warranties. Whenever we’ve analyzed them, and surveyed our members about their experiences with them, we’ve reached the conclusion that the benefits don’t outweigh the costs. There are better, more financially prudent alternatives to extended warranties for people who want to protect themselves against products that may break.”

Consumer Reports found that almost two-thirds of consumers rated aggressive pitches to buy extended warranties a top annoyance.

Yet in 2017, consumers bought $44.6 billion in extended warranties, according to Warranty Week. In 2010, extended warranties totaled $31.3 billion.

Warranty Week editor Eric Arnum says,  “People are often helpless in the face of a determined salesperson. There are people who can sell snowshoes in Hawaii, and they are extremely skilled.

The top offenders according to Arnum P.C Richards and Sears.

“Most consumers do not go into the store even thinking about extended warranties until the salesperson says, ‘Hey, thought about protection?’” Arnum says. “All the research they do is on the product, so it’s easy to convince one in three people, on average, to buy them.”

Many consumers see their kids’ cellphones as a peril worth insuring. They might not think they need the break/fix protection, Arnum says, but loss/theft is seen as worthwhile. ‘What if I drop it?’ You see that with laptops [people are attracted to] the accidental damage protection. Even the Consumer Reports people say loss/theft is good.”

Another critic of extended warranties is Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. “When something is a big profit center for a company, it’s probably not in the best interest of the consumer,” says Rheingold.

“I don’t typically think they’re worth it,” Rheingold said. “Whether [something] needs repairs along the way, the standard warranty is usually good enough.”

“Another issue is you can’t always see the cost of a warranty before you buy a product.” On the Sears website, which is still open for business, a customer has to place a specific refrigerator in the shopping cart before seeing the cost options for an extended warranty.

On its website, The Federal Trade Commission, has a section called ‘Who’s responsible for the contract,’ that says “Before you sign a contract for an extended warranty, think about the company’s financial situation and consider whether the business is reputable.”

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Preparing for probate.

Probate is the legal process for transferring property after someone dies. In most cases the process follows the instructions in the will but occasionally other factors may arise, but basically, property is transferred, debts paid and assets distributed.

But even though it’s a pretty straightforward process, you should still prepare for probate to make sure there are no unforeseen snags.

  1. Learn about probate.  It is a good idea to learn about probate. Learn about the process and what happens during the process.
  2. Collect relevant documents.  All your assets will need to be appraised. In order to make this process run as smoothly as possible, you should have the necessary documents, such as tax statements, a proof of your assets, etc. that can be presented to the court.
  3. Choose a personal representative. Once you’re familiar with what the general probate process entails, you’ll need to choose a personal representative. This person will administer your estate and help you carry out your intentions. You should not only pick someone loyal and trustworthy, but also organized.
  4. Hire a lawyer. Hiring an estate planning or probate attorney is not required, but it is in your best interests. A lawyer can help guide you through the process smoothly and efficiently. An attorney will also ensure that you meet your deadlines and avoid irreparable mistakes.

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Sears on the edge

Back in 2005 Sears decided to merge Kmart with Sears in an effort to create a fortified competitor to fend off giants like Walmart. It failed to stem the fall of the retail giants.

Over the past ten years, Sears has had just one quarter of positive store sales. Since thy couldn’t rely on the Sears’ business to pay the bills, the CEO Eddie Lampert sold or spun off many of its most valuable stores and brands. A thinning cash flow left little money to reinvest in the company itself.

Sears used to be America’s largest retailer and largest employer. But its declines goes back well before the growth of online shopping that threatens traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.

When Sears and Kmart merged to form Sears Holdings in 2004, they had 3,500 US stores between them. A long series of store closings has left it with fewer than 900 today.

Briefly, here is what happened in the last fourteen years:

2004: Kmart purchased Sears, then named the Sears Roebuck Co. and merged the two into the Sears Holding Company. This briefly gave the company record profits in 2006.

2015: Sears announced that it has lost $7 billion. Eddie Lampert was brought in as CEO and gave the company a $500 million loan to help avoid bankruptcy. Sears had been closing a large number of underperforming stores.

2018: In June, Sears announced it is liquidating 78 locations. Lampert also warned the company is running out of money, and likely will need to restructure debt.


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Sears bankruptcy looms

Unless Sears can come up with $134 million by Monday it will need to declare bankruptcy. Sears most recent filing showed it only had $193 million on hand as of August and another $269 million available to it from lenders.

All signs point to bankruptcy next week since out of that on hand money the company has to pay vendors, employees and stock up on inventory for the holidays.

Also, three companies that sell items at Sears told Reuters that Sears had missed payments to them over the past few weeks. One of Sears’ major shareholders recently dumped a large bunch of his stock for pennies on his original investment. The company added a new director last week who is familiar with bankruptcies and restructuring.

Robert Schulz, chief credit analyst for the retail industry for Standard & Poor’s said despite years of losses, store closings and other financial problems, “the possibility of a bankruptcy does seem to be higher than over the past couple of years,” . He said in years past the situation did not have the “sense of urgency” that exists now.

The investor mentioned above, Bruce Berkowitz of Fairholme Capital Management dumped 142,000 shares of Sears last week.

The Wall Street Jouirnal recently reported Sears has also hired M-III Partners, a boutique advisory firm specializing in seeing companies through bankruptcies and restructuring. The company is also talking to lenders about providing it with debtor-in-possession financing, according to CNBC. That kind of loan is used by companies that file for bankruptcy to fund operations during the process.

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