Big Changes for Aid & Attendance Benefits

 

Our veterans have graciously fought for us. We love them,  are proud of them and for many of us, they just so happen to also be members of our families. If that is the case for you or your family, listen up-this piece is for you! Effective October 30th, 2018 the VA pension plan regulations are bound to change.

Aid & Attendance (A&A) and Housebound Eligibility

Long Term Care Options

According to the VA Benefits webpage, VA pension eligible veterans who require the attendance/assistance of another person (ie. a nurse or a family member) may now qualify for additional monetary payment.

 

These veterans must be in eligible wartime service status, with 90 days active duty at least one day within the confines of WWII, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam Era Conflicts, or the Gulf War. This does not replace the pre-existing pension agreement that the veteran already has, but is a supplementary addition to the monthly allowance. The qualifiers are based on the following:

-The veteran requires the aid of another person in order to perform 2 or more everyday personal functions.

-The veteran is bedridden (ie. the veterans disability/ies require time in bed for a prescribed amount of time)

-The veteran is in a nursing home due to mental or physical incapability

-The veteran’s eyesight is limited to a corrected 5/200 visual acuity or less. This can be in either or both eyes or a concentric contraction of the field of vision to 5 degrees or less.

 

In regards to eligibility for the Homebound, the veteran must be substantially confined to your immediate premises because of a permanent disability to qualify for additional pension payments.

Aid & Attendance and Housebound Ineligibility

 

Because these A&A allowances increase the monthly pension amount, those that are not eligible for basic pensions due to excessive income may not be eligible for these benefits. The veterans net worth is not to exceed federally established Medicaid Community Spouse Resource Allowance, which currently stands at 123,600 USD. The VA will now look back at the finances of the past 3 years to decide whether or not candidates are eligible for these benefits. This is a new addition to VA benefit qualifications.

 

Additionally, Unreimbursed Medical Expenses (UME) are deductible from net worth calculation as they apply, licensed care professionals must provide the UMEs. These UME must not be spent on certain non-care related medical expenses like HI premiums. Family caregiver payments are no longer accepted as valid UMEs unless said family member is properly licensed by the state. In addition to this, a veteran or a surviving spouse of a veteran may not receive A&A and Housebound benefits at the same time.

 

How to Apply

One may apply for Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits by acquiring the services of Hilbun Elder Law Firm to assist with the A & A application process. They will assist with the writing and sending of the documents to your local VA benefits center. To enlist their services, one must come with the necessary documents.

 

Upon arrival, one would be advised to include copies of any evidence of aid and attendance or housebound status. These documents are preferred to be a report from an attending physician that can validate the need for A&A or Housebound type care. A call to Hilbun would help to assess whether or not the documents one has are valid.

 

These documents should provide sufficient detail to determine whether there is a disease of injury-producing physical or mental impairment, loss of coordination, or conditions affecting the ability to conduct daily living activities without assistance. Examples of activities needing assistance are:

  • dressing,
  • feeding,
  • toileting and making themselves presentable.

 

Regardless if the claim is for A&A or for housebound status, the applicant must present information addressing the abilities of each applicant. This should include information like how well the applicant gets around, where they go, and what they are able to do in a day. It is also important to determine if the claimant is confined to the home or immediate premises.

 

Contact Hilbun Elder Law for any other questions or inquiries about the new A & A and Housebound benefits.

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3 Reasons You Need To Discuss Finances and Legal Issues With Your Parents

 

 

 

Okay, I get it.

It is an uncomfortable topic. Many families do not discuss finances. It is considered taboo. And children are taught to stay out of their parent’s personal business. That includes their finances.

 

And This Needs to Change.

 

Many problems that wind up in our office could have been avoided. Proper planning a communication with the whole family can eliminate a lot of headaches we see.

 

Rolling the Dice

Let’s face it, tragedy can strike at any time. However, the older we get the higher the odds are that an accident or illness may happen. Are you really ready to roll the dice?

1. A Fall or Other Accident May Leave You Physically Incapacitated

Long Term Care Options

If we have heard it once we have heard this story a thousand times. Mom or dad has fallen and winds up in the hospital. They are incapacitated. However, no one in the family has a power of attorney. Their hands are tied. They are unable to make medical decisions. And furthermore, if there are multiple children each may have a different opinion.

Sibling Rivalry rears its ugly head and everybody wants to do something different. Chances are (hopefully) they are all wanting to help their parent. But they each have different beliefs and views on what is the best way. And so, the fight begins and the family unit is torn apart. Is this really what you want for your family?

And how are your bills going to get paid while you are recouping?

Hopefully, if you have fallen, you still have your cognitive abilities. An Elder law attorney can come to see you in the hospital and help get your documents in order. But wouldn’t it be less stressful to do that before there is a problem?

 

2. A Stroke or Other Serious Health Situation that Leaves You Mentally Incapacitated

Now we have a more serious situation. You have not planned for this. Yet here it is.  Hopefully you have at least named someone as your POA (Power of Attorney) and hopefully, you have other documents in place to ensure that your medical needs and decisions are respected.

Have you discussed your finances with your POA? Do they know how much you have available?  Often families come in because they do not know what to do. A stroke that left dad incapacitated means he now needs long-term care.

And Medicare Does Not Pay for That

Families are shocked to discover that Medicare does not pay for a home care worker to stay with dad during the day while his daughter is at work. You may be able to get a few hours a week from Home Healthcare for a limited time. But they will not cook, clean, run errands or play chess with Dad. Nor will it pay for an Assisted living facility or nursing home. These costs will have to come out of pocket.

And if there is not any money or not enough money you may have to apply for Medicaid. But planning this ahead of your actual need is necessary. Applying for Medicaid is a process. And having a plan in place is important.

“I was ashamed that I had not saved enough money for retirement. So, I hid that fact from my children. I was hoping that I would just die in my sleep one day and we would not have to deal with any of this” ~ Sharon, a stroke survivor

3. The Long Slow Slide into Dementia

It is common to want to believe this is not happening. To yourself or to someone you love. But the signs are there. Subtle in the beginning but nevertheless there. Pretending that this is not or will not happen is not a strategy that works for anyone.

“Dad was having a good time traveling across the country with his race car. I was proud of him. He was 78 and still so active and seemed to really be enjoying life. But looking back there were signs. It was uncomfortable. And I did not want to believe there could be a problem. I wanted his life and my life to continue on this happy course. And then our little Utopia came crashing down around us. Dad showed up at my house a few days before hurricane Harvey hit Houston. It would flood our home and we would not return for a year. Dad’s car had obviously been wrecked. He could give me no logical explanation about what happened. Though I was concerned I had other worries to deal with now as Harvey invaded our home. And then Dad disappeared.” ~ Claire, Daughter and Harvey Survivor

Claire’s father was eventually found. He had gone home. To the home, he had shared with his now ex-wife and Claire’s mom. They had been divorced for over 25 years. She still lived there and let him in. She could tell something was wrong.

As an only daughter, Claire had POA but the money she thought Dad had had all been spent or possibly given away.  People with beginning dementia are especially vulnerable to con artists and crooks.

What’s Your Plan?

Having a plan and strategy in place can help families avoid having to make important decisions during stressful times. Take a few hours to attend a workshop. Learn about what you need to have in place. Have the money conversation with your family. This way they will know what to do when tragedy strikes.

 

 

 

 

blended families

Blended Families- What You Need to Know

 

You are madly in love! You are sure the person you are marrying is also a really good Mom/Dad. And you imagine that everything will work wonderfully.

Hmmmmm….Really? No hiccups along the way?

Getting married when you are young and single without children can be an adjustment. You both came from different families. As such, there were beliefs you picked up along the way. You have different ways of doing things.

Getting Married with Children

blended family

Approximately 65% of new marriages include children of past marriages.

Let’s face it, getting married with children brings the whole adjustment experience up a notch. Everyone has their own vision of what life should look like in the new family. And the truth is you may not all be on the same page. Here are a few situations you should consider.

Sibling Rivalry

All families experience sibling rivalry. But blended families experience it at a different level. The fighting may be more intense. After all, they didn’t ask to be a part of this new family. Chances are your child may long for “how things used to be.” Additionally, children who haven’t had to “share’ their parent in a long time may have trouble letting go.

How to Handle the Situation

Communication is the key to a successful remarriage and a blended family. Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page about sibling rivalry. If one of you thinks the other’s child is causing the rift, nothing will work. If you are having trouble with this seek counseling.

Consequences and rewards need to be the same for all the children, no matter how it “used to work” before you two got married. The rules have to be the same for everyone and you and your partner need to be on the same page.

Turf Wars

Children of blended families often have trouble with one another’s turf. If the children from one family move into the home with children who are already there expect some acting out. Ideally, if you can move into a new home it may make the transition smoother. But this may not be possible. In that case, try the following tips.

If there are not enough bedrooms, make the den or an office space into a bedroom.

Sharing Bedrooms

blended families- bedrooms

Children who must share bedrooms need to have an active voice in how it is decorated. Spending a few extra dollars on new paint and décor can help soften the blow of sharing a space for your child.

Consider hiring an organizer to work with the family to clean out closets, drawers and family spaces that will be shared. This will be an outsider who can help the children develop a good plan to use their space.

Keep each family member’s allotted space as equal as possible. This is so important!

Legal Disputes and Issues

When families separate there may be legal issues that arise. During a divorce, one partner may get the house but when a new partner enters the picture, legal agreements may need to be changed. There may also be financial strains from ongoing legal issues related to the divorce.

Communicating before you get married. Put all of your cards on the table. Make sure you enter a marriage with your eyes wide open. Understand all of the legal and financial challenges you may encounter.

It is Important to Plan

Wills, trusts and other documents need to be updated. This is so important. Often people do not even think about the fact their new family could be left in the cold. Your ex-spouse could end up with money you wanted your new spouse to have. And you want to make sure all of the children in the family get equal treatment and shares.

The Hilbun Law Firm can help you make sure everything is in place.

Pet Estate Planning- Caring For Your Fur Babies

 

“Bella is my baby I can’t imagine what might happen to her if I’m gone. And what if I just got in an accident and couldn’t make it home? Who would take care of her? Who would even know that she’s there.”

When You Live Alone

June lives alone. she’s been divorced for a while and has a grown daughter. But her daughter lives in another city. Furthermore, they don’t have the strongest relationship.

pexels-photo-545010

Plus, June told me Carrie doesn’t really like animals.  “I can’t understand that. But that’s the way it is. So, I have to think about other arrangements for Bella. After all, I’m her protector and she deserves the best.

A lot of people who live alone and worry about what will happen with their pets when they are gone. Unfortunately, all too often people have not made any plans or arrangements. They assume they will outlive their pets.

Let’s face it life is uncertain.

Whether you are 30 or 80, things can happen. And if you’ve taken on the responsibility of a pet then it’s your responsibility to make sure that they’re taken care of in the event that something would happen to you. And you can’t always expect the family to swoop in and take over.

“When my mother-in-law fell,” Kathryn said “We had to take in her cat. I really didn’t want or need another animal. But it was the right thing to do. And no one else in the family would do it. So, my husband and I took Callie and cared for her for the next 9 years. We really didn’t want to but we did.”

zoltan-tasi-437454

Not everybody has someone in their family who would do that. If you do that’s great. But have a talk with your family ahead of time. Make sure you know who is willing and who is not. And if nobody is really willing then you’ve got to think of other arrangements. Where would your pet go? Who would care for them?

When Keith Didn’t Answer His Phone

phone-old-year-built-1955-bakelite-163007

 

 

Elaine called Catherine concerned she hadn’t heard from her friend Keith in over a day.

 

“It’s not like him,” she said “We always call each other each morning. He’s not answering and I’m worried. I’m afraid to go over there” Elaine said

 

She was concerned that Keith might have passed away. At 89 years old it was definitely a possibility. So, Catherine got her husband, Bob, to go and check on Keith. Elaine had a key so he could get in.

Keith Was In Trouble

Keith wasn’t dead but he did have a stroke. He was laying on the floor in the hallway. And his two dogs were snuggled up next to him clearly distraught. The person they love was not doing well. An ambulance was called. But now came the question, what to do about his to beloved pets?

A Plan Was In Place

SONY DSC

Luckily Keith had already made a plan. The place where he boarded them when he went on vacations had already agreed to take care of them. Furthermore, if Keith passed away or could no longer care for them they would find a home for both of his fur babies.  Keith even paid for a month in advance to ensure that is two sweet angels would be well taken care of.

 

Furthermore, he had set up a trust account. This would be for any medical bills they may have in the future. Whoever adopted them would not have to worry about the expense. He clearly thought of everything.

Peace of Mind

Keith spent the last 6 months in a nursing home. But he did not have to worry about his beloved pets. In fact, the couple who adopted brought them for visits once a week and made sure Keith had plenty of pictures and videos.

 

A Few Steps To Protect Your Pets (or Fur Babies)

 

  1. Make sure that you have information in your wallet to let people know that you have a pet at home. If you were in an accident, someone would need to check on your pet. Print something up on card stock. Make sure contact information is included for the person who can enter your home to take care of your pet.
  2. Does a friend, relative or neighbor have a key to get into your home? Luckily Keith thought ahead and gave Elaine a key. This made it easier for someone to check on him and his fur babies.
  3. Talk to your family. Do not assume they will take care of your fur friends. What other options are there? Who could help? Have a plan in place like Keith did.
  4. Have a sticker on your door and window to let EMS know there is a pet inside. Have contact information on your refrigerator so they know who can care for your pets.

 

Consider adding a provision to your estate plan. This is especially important if you have exotic animals or pets with special needs. After all, your fur babies are your family too. Make sure they are well taken care of.

Long Term Care Options

Making Sense of Long-Term Care: Know Your Options to Plan for Your Needs

 

We spend much of our adult years planning for retirement, but as that time approaches, our financial goals start to shift and other needs come into focus. Of course, it’s impossible to know for sure whether you will need long-term care or for how long, but there are some risk factors that can help predict the likelihood. Whether you’re approaching retirement or already retired, now is the time to think about those risk factors and start planning ahead.

 

What are Your Risk Factors?

 

Over half of Americans turning 65 today will develop a disability serious enough to require long-term care. According to HuffPost, the two most common reasons people need some form of long-term care are dementia and disability. You may not be able to predict these things, but you can ask yourself a few questions that affect your likelihood of needing long-term care.

 

 

  • Are there hereditary illnesses and conditions that could impact you? Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and stroke all have genetic components, so if you have a family history of any of these debilitating illnesses, your risk of needing long-term care may be higher.

 

  • What lifestyle choices are you making now? You can’t change your genetics, but lifestyle factors play a huge role in your risk of having problems later. For example, high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking are just a few of the lifestyle factors that lead to a higher risk of stroke.

 

  • What other factors raise your risk? A few other factors that are out of your control may also raise your risk. Women are more likely than men, and single people are more likely than married people to need long-term care.

 

  • How close are you to retirement? The earlier you start saving for long-term care costs, the better. If you plan to get a long-term care insurance policy, AARP recommends shopping in your 50s or 60s. As you get older, premiums will be higher, and worse health could prevent you from getting the best coverage.

 

What Can You Do Now?

 

It’s never too late to change unhealthy lifestyle choices. Quitting smoking, exercising, eating a balanced diet, and managing stress can all lower your risk for stroke and other chronic illnesses. You can also reduce the risk of injury by doing a thorough safety check of your home and making any modifications that make mobility easier and safer.

 

What are Your Options When Preparing for Long-Term Care?

 

Most people use a combination of personal funds, government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and personal financing options like long-term care insurance to pay for their care. There are also some commonly overlooked funds, such as VA benefits, so be sure to explore all options that are available to you. While government programs can help, most long-term care costs typically come from your private savings or insurance.

 

If you have the means and want to avoid paying for an insurance policy you may never need, one option is to put a substantial sum into savings. This isn’t an option for everyone, and it can be tricky to estimate the amount you should be saving. Another option is to purchase long-term care insurance; you can choose from traditional long-term care policies as well as life insurance/traditional long-term care combination policies.

 

Even with savings and insurance, it’s important to know your options if you end up needing help paying for long-term care. You may want to consider a life settlement as one option. Choosing a life settlement allows you to sell a life insurance policy you already have for a greater value than you would get surrendering the policy. Selling a life insurance policy can help pay for daily living expenses and medical care if you find yourself needing help paying for long-term care. Just be sure to do thorough research before making any decisions to avoid unwanted surprises.

 

Thinking about long-term care costs is often unsettling. When you’re ready to enjoy retirement, preparing for long-term care is probably the last thing you want to do. Just keep in mind that the peace of mind you will get from planning ahead will be worth it.

 

Author

 

June is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.

 

 

Photo credit: Pixabay

Scams Target Seniors

3 Financial Scams that Target Seniors

 

“My grandfather lost everything!” Sarah declared. “They took his life savings. And now when he needs to money to pay for a nice assisted living he doesn’t have it. I am so angry about this. I don’t know what we will do. I guess my mom and I will try to care for him as best we can. After all, he was always there for us. But it’s not what he wanted. He feels embarrassed and he is pretty depressed also.”

Targeting Seniors

Scams Target seniors

Financial scams are rampant. And the prime target is our senior citizens. The people running these scams are clever and convincing. They know which buttons to push. And they know how to trigger the emotions like fear and worry.

Furthermore, these scammers know that the risk is low. Many seniors are too embarrassed to tell others what has happened.  So, they often go unreported. The bad guys are counting on this.

But don’t think they just target the wealthy. No indeed. Seniors who are already struggling can fall prey also. Often losing what little they had.

The Grandparent Scam

Scams Target seniors

Yes, this one has been around a long time. And yet many seniors are still falling prey to this one.

A child will call ad usually ask Hi Grandma or Grandpa do you know who this is?  The victim of this scam will then usually say a child’s name giving the scammer the information they need. Then they will pull on the heartstrings confessing to the grandparent that they have gotten into some trouble and need some help. They beg the senior not to tell mom and dad because they will be in big trouble. Then they ask for money (for overdue rent, car repairs, etc.) They will ask that the money is sent by western union or Moneygram because ID is often not required to collect. The amount is usually in the hundreds and may be repeated.

Investment Schemes

There are a lot of different investment schemes that target seniors. Seniors are often concerned because they are no longer working. They are looking for ways to grow what money they have left to keep up with the high cost of living. Pyramid schemes like Bernie Madoff’s targeted a lot of seniors. And the Nigerian prince looking for a partner to claim inheritance money is still targeting our most vulnerable seniors.

You may have trouble believing that your parent could fall victim to one of these scams.

But it happens. Sometimes cognitive impairment or Dementia is to blame. Family members may not even be aware that Dad is having a problem with his memory and though process. Parents are often very good at hiding their problems from the children. And the adult child often does not want to see that there is a problem. Dad is just eccentric, they believe. That is until the money is gone.

Telemarketing and Phone Scams

Scams target seniors

It is no surprise that telemarketers target older folks. They are often home alone all day. As such they will gladly pick up the phone and chat with the nice person on the other end. These smart scammers also know that seniors make twice as many purchases over the phone than the national average.

And these scams are incredibly hard to trace. There is no paper trail and no face to face interaction. Furthermore, once a successful scam has taken place, the buyer’s name is then shared with similar schemers looking for easy targets.

“Luckily my sister decided to help mom with her banking. Unfortunately, it was too late to save her from losing some of what little money she had. Sharon noticed that Mom had an automatic withdrawal on her account. For the last 6 months someone was withdrawing $150 a month. When questioned Mom seemed confused.  The bank could not stop the transactions because the scammers had a recording of mom agreeing to the monthly withdrawals. Our banker said that most likely they engaged mom in a conversation and recorded it. They then spliced together the right words to make it sound like she had agreed. We ended up having to close out the bank account and start a new one somewhere else.” ~Kay

There are a number of different telemarketing scams that go around.

The key is to pay attention to what is going on in mom or dad’s life. Ask them if they would like some help with the finances. This can be a touchy subject. But it is smart to have someone on the account to monitor any unusual behavior. If you are able to go in weekly and look at the transaction you may be able to stop a problem before it gets out of control.

Make sure your children tell their grandparents that they will never call them for money. Furthermore, make sure they understand that this is a scam when it happens. They should tell the person on the other line that they will call them back. Then hang up immediately and call their grandchild.

Hopefully, this never happens to you or someone you love. But if it does tell others so they will not fall prey to the same problems.

 

Honoring Mom

Honoring Mom- 5 Ways to Really “Be There” For Mom

 

 

“I really want to be there for mom.” Beatrice said. “She did everything to help me growing up. Then later when I was in an abusive marriage she helped me and my children. She took us in when we had nowhere to go. And we lived with her for two years while I finished my degree. Mom is 80 now. She is very proud and wants her independence. I really want to “be there” for her and at the same time I do not want to take away her independence”

 

This is a slippery slope many adult children are learning to navigate. We want to honor mom’s wishes and yet we are concerned for their safety and well being. Where do you draw the line?

Here are 5 ways to really “be there” for mom.

1.Help Her Stay Social

Honoring mom

Loneliness can be deadly. Staying social will not just keep mom happy, it will keep her healthy as well. In fact, researchers have found that Late-life depression may increase the risk of incident dementia, in particular of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

Additionally, if mom gets depressed she may not eat right, remember to take her medication or get any exercise. All of these things can affect her physical health as well.

So, What Can You Do?

Finding The Best care For mom

Find senior centers and organizations in your area of town. The local YMCA also offers a lot of special classes for seniors. Most people who join end up making a lot of new friends.

If your mother can no longer drive to attend these activities, arrange for transportation. A caregiver agency like Right At Home is partnered with LYFT to provide safe and reliable transportation for seniors in the Cypress, Texas area.

 

2.Hire home care or a housekeeper to help because she is worth it

senior woman with her home caregiver

Mom may tell you she doesn’t need any help. Tell her that she is worth it and you want her to have the best. If she is really hesitant just start with one day a week. Have a schedule of what you would like the care companion to help her do. Maybe making a grocery list, ordering them online and then picking them up later. You could also have the caregiver plan a week of meals and cook a few to freeze.

3.Call Every Day

Yes, even when you are incredibly busy! You do not have to talk very long. But a few minutes to check in can mean so much to someone living alone. If you live far away and cannot see mom often try doing video chats. If Mom has trouble with the technology to make that happen the caregiver could set up the call for her while she is there. Even better, have her set up the call right before she leaves. Make sure to mark this time off of your calendar so you can give mom your undivided attention.

Bob lives in Nevada and his mom is in Cypress, Texas. They do Facetime every morning while they are both having their coffee.

“It’s great! I get to see how she is doing. I know if she didn’t sleep well or is not feeling good. I can relay that information to friends and family close by so they can check in. I think she really enjoys seeing me also and hearing about my life.”

4.Help Protect Her From Scams

Sad but true, scammers prey on the elderly.  The grandparents’ scam (telling the senior that their grandchild is in deep trouble) is a common one. There are also people posing as representatives from Medicare, social security and the IRS and calls with offers for free or discount medication. For seniors that use the internet, they can be vulnerable to even more.

Honoring Mom

Most seniors are terribly embarrassed when they fall victim.

“I felt so stupid Athena told me. I can’t believe I fell for this.”

But the truth is these people are often savvy professional crooks. They know exactly what to say to push your buttons and get you to fall for their schemes. And women over 80 who have lost a spouse or moved in the last three years are most vulnerable.

So, What Can I Do?

Talk to mom about these scams. Don’t lecture or warn her. Nobody wants to be lectured especially by their children. You want to keep the conversation as open as possible. That way if there is a problem now or in the future Mom will feel comfortable talking to you.

Just talk about the different scams you have heard are going around. Ask if any of her friends have been targeted. Having a conversation is the first step.

Honoring Mom

Secondly, you might suggest that you be added to her online banking accounts as an added security. This way you can look for any unusual or large charges that may be a red flag. If Mom will allow you to take over her finances that may be the best option. But don’t expect it to happen. Much like giving up the car keys this is something most seniors want to have control over.

Third, take a look at the mail that she is getting. If she is getting a lot of mailings from promotion companies could indicate the elderly person is on a “sucker list”.

5.Take Mom to An Estate Planning Workshop

Ask her to go with you because you don’t want to go alone. After all, you both need this information. People are sometimes hesitant to talk about finances and future long-term care plans. But if you don’t talk about it now you may find yourself in a world of hurt down the road.

 

The Hilbun Law Firm offers these workshops free every month. We have both daytime and evening workshops. Rest assured you will not be pressured to do anything. And the information will be invaluable to both of you. get the updated workshop schedule here.