Latest Blog Post

Read the latest article written by EPPIA members, published in the Eden Prairie News.

Do I Need a Will?

Do you need a will? Do you need to hire an attorney to draft your will? The short answers are no and no. The long answers are a bit tougher, but here is a bit of advice to help you figure them out for yourself.

First, a proper estate plan will include a will or trust, as well as your selection of someone to make medical and financial decisions for you if you can’t make them for yourself. Second, a will only covers property you own in your own name. Assets covered by beneficiary designations or held in joint tenancy (typically how couples own their home) are not controlled by a will. At your death they will transfer to the beneficiary or survivor no matter what your will says.

A will lets you select guardians for minor children and to appoint a personal representative. The personal representative’s job is to collect and protect your assets, pay your bills, file your tax returns and distribute your estate.

There is no requirement that that you have a will. But, you may want one. If you die without a will, the state has a plan to distribute your assets after you die. The good news for non-planners is that your estate, if married, will go to your spouse. If you are not married and die without a will, your estate will pass to your children, or if you have no children to your closest relatives. However, if you or your spouse have children by a prior relationship, it gets complicated as to who gets what.

You may want a will if: 1) your net worth is more than $50,000; 2) if you have minor children; 3) if your family life is complicated, 4) if you own real estate, and 5) if you have special wishes as to who gets what from your estate.

At what point do you need a will? That’s a personal decision, but as your wealth, family and personal life gets more complex a will or some sort of estate plan becomes the more responsible choice. It’s also typically quicker and less expensive for your surviving loved ones if you leave some guidance for them and the probate court.

Do you need an attorney to help you prepare a will? No, but your chances of having your wishes realized are greater when you hire one. Can you prepare your own will with free or inexpensive software? If you can easily read, understand and follow legal questions and instructions - you may be able to find and use a quality will generating program. Of course, your chances for a good result are better if your financial affairs, family and personal preferences are relatively simple.

One important reason to be wary of do it yourself will software is that there are no do overs. If you buy Turbo tax and don’t understand the questions, or enter wrong data, you get to do it over. You can amend and refile. But if you’re dead you’re dead.

Do you need a will and legal help to draft it? No simple answers. But, as your life, family and financial picture becomes more complex, you may want a will and help drafting it. Most estate planning attorneys offer a free initial consultation to help you understand the law. Your job at that meeting is to help the attorney understand your family, your assets and your wishes. After the meeting they typically can give you options and estimate costs.

Rick Jensen, Attorney

EPPIA is a networking group whose members are committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. EPPIA members meet to learn, exchange information and discuss issues in the field of aging. For more information on EPPIA and local senior resources, please visit our website at

The Art of Downsizing

What comes to your mind when you think of downsizing? To some people it is loss, drudgery, an overwhelming task that one scarcely knows where or how to begin. Conversely, others might see downsizing as a feeling of freedom, simplicity, and even joy. No matter how you feel about downsizing, it is something that almost everyone has to do sooner or later for themselves, their parents, relatives, or friends. Some tips to help you take downsizing to the next level are outlined below. Note that downsizing is an art and what works best for you might not be the same as what works for the next person. Also, the amount of downsizing you need to do will depend on several factors including how much you have to begin with and whether you are staying in your current home or moving someplace smaller.

One way to look at downsizing is by category such as clothing, dishes, cookware, furniture, books, knickknacks, pictures, linens, etc. Assess your needs and take a good look at what you really use, wear, read and want to keep. Some people want to keep it all. This is not downsizing. Some people (albeit a much smaller number) want to get rid of almost everything. These are two extremes and your goal should be somewhere in the middle. Some “don’ts” of downsizing include: don’t keep clothes that don’t fit you and/or that you don’t wear. Don’t keep things just because they were a gift or inherited – if you don’t use them, like them, or want them let them go. Don’t keep things that are broken that you have never fixed even though you think you might do this “some day.” If that is true, make “some day” “today” or kiss it goodbye.

A few “do’s” to keep in mind include: do keep sets of matching linens, do keep the best things whether they are clothes, furniture, dishes, art, pictures, books, etc. Do keep the things you use and like the most. Keep the things that give you joy. Take pictures of belongings you plan to sell or donate if you need to have a visual memory of them. Take family pictures out of frames and put them in an album. Make an album of your favorite scenes and pictures from trips you have taken, the “best of” so to speak.

So let’s assume that you are making your way through this process and downsizing. What do you do with all of your stuff? If your family doesn’t want it, you can sell it or donate it, depending on what you would like to get rid of. Selling options include consignment stores, estate sales, on-line estate sales, e-Bay, Craig’s List, and garage sales. The approach you take depends on how much you have and what its value is. There are numerous charities where you can donate items; some will come to your home and pick items up (sometimes a fee is involved for this service). And, some things you eliminate might be more appropriately recycled; this includes household and yard chemicals, paper, metal, glass, and plastic. The last and final resort is the garbage. If no one can use it and it is not recyclable, put it in the trash!

When you have found your way through this process, take time to reflect and celebrate your accomplishment and enjoy your new, decluttered, fresh home!

Holly Hansen, Partner
Brilliant Moves

EPPIA is a networking group whose members are committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. EPPIA members meet to learn, exchange information and discuss issues in the field of aging. For more information on EPPIA and local senior resources, please visit our website at

Four Pillars of Successful Aging

Research tells us that we are not victims of our DNA, as we maybe once thought. One can think of our DNA like the blueprints of our "house." Your blueprint was created at conception. Got Grandma's hips? Uncle Albert's nose? These are heredity's gift to you--your genealogical legacy--embrace them! Although we are not able to change the design of our "house", what we CAN do is choose the materials we use to build our house, so that we can age in a healthy way, well into our golden years.

Ever see a 50-year-old house that is crumbling due to neglect, or a 100-year-old house that is still structurally sound and beautifully maintained? What is the difference between these two homes? Obviously age plays a role in these two very different outcomes, but more and more we are realizing the importance of a strong foundation, and regular maintenance over time.

So, how does this translate to us? Research has shown that there are four key areas that help to determine our overall wellness. We call them "The Four Pillars of Successful Aging." They are; 1) Brain Fitness, 2) Physical Fitness, 3) Nutrition/Dining Experience and 4) Social/Spiritual Engagement. When you build these Four Pillars into your everyday life, you will be helping to build a strong foundation for health and longevity. Even if you have gotten into a rut and find yourself sitting in front of your TV watching "Judge Judy" or "Leave it to Beaver" reruns all day-- there is hope! Making small adjustments to your routine can make a big difference over time, and it's never too late to start building these Four Pillars into your lifestyle. 

We all hope to maintain our mental clarity as we age. However, as you probably know--"hope" is NOT a strategy. Action is required. There are simple things that you can do to help give your brain a workout. Online programs such as Luminosity and Dakim Brain Fitness are wonderful tools. Playing cards with friends, listing to music, doing crossword puzzles, etc. are activities that help to keep your brain active. Just like a muscle, the brain needs to be challenged and engaged, in order to stay strong.

If you want to work on your physical health, there is no need to become a long-distance runner in order to reap the benefits of exercise. The body was designed to move. Movement is LIFE! So, take steps (literally) to get your body moving and active each day. Conversely, when the body is continuously sedentary, the breakdown process begins--much like a home that has been left abandoned. It may be time to clear out those cobwebs and take a walk around the block!

There is no doubt regarding the role that nutrition plays in your health. Don't worry. I am not going to tell you that you must start eating organic kale at every meal. However, I would suggest looking at your food in a new way--as building blocks for your "house". Make healthy choices each meal and each day. Incorporate more "bricks" (vegetables, fruit, lean proteins, whole grains, water, etc.) and fewer "sticks" (sugary foods, highly processed foods, artificial sweeteners, etc.) to build a stronger "house" over time.

Lastly, take the time to socialize with friends over a cup of coffee, and enjoy a laugh. Connect with your spiritual source of strength, and do your best to remain optimistic and grateful. These are just a few ways to experience the benefits of regular social and spiritual engagement.

Wherever you are in life, and no matter the age or state of your "house," it is never too late or too soon to begin incorporating the Four Pillars into your life, and reaping the rewards of health, happiness, and personal fulfillment.

Sarah Vilmain
Lighthouse of Waconia
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EPPIA is a networking group whose members are committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. EPPIA members meet to learn, exchange information and discuss issues in the field of aging. For more information on EPPIA and local senior resources, please visit our website at

Five Staging Tips to Help Sell Your Home

If you are thinking about selling your home, here are five simple budget minded suggestions that are easy to do and will enhance the appearance and appeal of your home to the prospective buyer.

1. Create an environment that will appeal to the most people as possible. Use neutral colors when painting: beige tones; gray tones or pale greens work well. A minimal amount of furniture and accessories in the home makes it easier for the buyer to see the home’s floor plan. Put away personal items such as trophies, family photos, and collectables. Your doll, seashell or pet rock collection may be important to you but it will give the home a cluttered feel. So, pack those collections away save them for your next home.

2. Always take full advantage of all artificial and natural lighting. Check your light bulbs and make sure they are all working and that the bulbs have the some color. If some bulbs burn white and other bulbs yellow in a room, it looks odd and detracts from the room’s appearance. Try not to block any natural lighting coming into the home, particularly if you have attractive views. Remove heavy curtains and furniture in front of the windows. If possible, stage the room with light colored furniture, which will enhance lightness and makes the room seem larger.

3. Think about the purpose of each of your rooms. Homebuyers who see the property might not have the vision for what a room could be, and might distracted by how the current homeowner is using a room. For example, if the dining room is wall-to-wall toys, the homebuyer might leave the house thinking there is no dining room in the home. For best results with potential buyers turn the dining room back into a dining room and remove unrelated items.

4. Remove traces of family pets. This is a challenging one, but many buyers are extremely sensitive to pet odor, and the sight and smell of a litter box will put their nose into overdrive. Offensive odors have been known to cost many homeowners a sale. Large dog kennels in the kitchen can also take away from the appeal of your home. If you have gnawed woodwork, scratched floors or frayed rugs/carpets due to animals, make repairs before putting your house on the market.

5. When staging, create a focal point in the room. Set the table in a simple uncluttered fashion, remove extra leaves from the table to maximize available space and make the room look larger. Have a headboard on the bed in the bedroom, place fresh flowers on tables, and in large or empty rooms add a well-placed plant. All these techniques create a focal point that draws the eye and creates interest. If your home is completely empty ask your realtor about virtual staging; this is a technique where empty rooms are staged with photos showing them furnished and accessorized. Ninety percent of buyers start their home search online. Sometimes it is impossible or impractical to stage a home. Virtual staging gives buyers an idea of what the home could look like with furniture.

In summary, think about creating a clean, uncluttered, neutral canvas when staging your home and you should get a buyer quicker and for top dollar. According to Inman for every $1 that is put into staging a home there will be a $2 increase in sale price.

Marta Beckett, Realtor
Keller Williams Realty- Eden Prairie
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EPPIA is a networking group whose members are committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. EPPIA members meet to learn, exchange information and discuss issues in the field of aging. For more information on EPPIA and local senior resources, please visit our website at

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