Annual Meeting Info
Speaker for May 1, 2021, on Zoom:
Josh Slocum, Executive Director of Funeral Consumer Alliance (FCA)
Josh will be speaking on Transparency of the funeral industry, and FCA's efforts to change the FTC's ruling on requiring mortuaries to post their GPL online.
Joshua Slocum (age 46), joined the FCA staff in 2002 and became executive director in 2003. He has appeared as an expert commentator on funeral issues in national media such as 60 Minutes and the New York Times. On behalf of FCA’s nationwide federation of consumer information groups, Slocum has testified before Congress and helped to draft federal and state statutes protecting funeral consumers.
Slocum co-wrote, with Lisa Carlson, Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death. (2011, Upper Access Publishers.) Final Rights combines a journalistic investigation of the funeral industry and how consumers navigate it with practical information on how to avoid funeral fraud and financial exploitation.
Speakers who were scheduled for the May 2, 2020 Annual Meeting.
Due to the Corona Virus Pandemic, these two speakers wrote a summary of their proposed talks:
Operations Manager of Tomorrow Link
Death doesn’t always make sense… but it can make a difference. We believe that, whole heartedly, at Tomorrow Link; Colorado’s only Non-Profit, certified, Non-Transplant Tissue Bank that offers a whole new look at Whole Body Donation. We are proudly Veteran founded and keep serving others at the heart of our mission. We are dedicated to providing critical care skills training to local EMS and military, a cause that our veteran and military families are proud to be a part of. Our donors live to get the most out of life, and it is our promise to help them give the most out of death. We work closely with each donor family to understand their loved one’s wishes beyond “donation to science”, and while we can never guarantee placement for a specific cause, we guarantee that we will exhaust all of our resources trying to fulfill that wish. We encourage the family to be involved in the donation process, as much as they wish to be, in hopes that our personal approach will be a healing part of their grief journey. Our Donor Family Program offers ongoing support, from the first time they call, until long after the donation process ends.
“Our hope is to create a community where donor families can find comfort in knowing they are surrounded by people that will embrace them through their struggles, celebrate with them in times of joy; and through every story told, every memory shared, will become a link in their loved one’s legacy that can never be broken.”
For more information visit TomorrowLink.org ; 1982 S. Bannock Street, Denver CO; 720-779-8677
Karen Van Vuuren
Owner at The Natural Funeral.
The Natural Funeral, based in Boulder County, is an award-winning holistic, independent, funeral home providing greener options at death.
Most people do not know that many current deathcare practices are resource-intensive and harmful to the environment. They also remove the bereaved from creative participation in what happens to our loved-one at death. Our mission is to minimize the impact of our final footprints at end of life and reconnect families to the cycle of life with meaningful creative involvement.
Karen, Dan, and Seth are the managing partners at TNF. Karen is a natural deathcare educator and practitioner of twenty years’ experience who publishes a magazine on end-of-life and has produced two award-winning hospice documentaries. Seth owned a successful commercial construction company before he answered the call to walk the end-of-life journey with grieving families with an abundance of patience, compassion, and selfless service. Dan is an atmospheric scientist whose passion is environmental activism and being helpful in the world.
TNF offers fire cremation (conventional cremation), but also water cremation (alkaline hydrolysis), which is a green option. Water cremation uses less than a tenth of the energy of fire cremation and turns us into nutrient-rich fertilizer for the earth. TNF can also facilitate green burial in a locally made Colorado beetle-kill pine casket or a shroud. All our cremation urns and caskets are made by local artists and sustainably sourced. We do not embalm or use toxic chemicals. We practice Reverent Body Care™ a washing and anointing of the body in a ceremony of honoring and blessing either in our beautiful beetle-kill pine chapel or in the home of the deceased. We promote community, hosting educational end-of-life seminars and grief groups. We value aesthetics. Just join us for tea and see for yourself how our bright and uplifting funeral home is so beautifully different.
For more information visit TheNaturalFuneral.com; 102 W. Chester St.; Lafayette, CO 80026 CO; 720-515-2344.
Speakers at the May 4, 2019 Annual Meeting,
held at Malley Sr. Rec Center in Englewood 9:30 a.m.
Funeral Services Liaison at Donor Alliance
Donor Alliance is an organization that oversees organ and tissue donations for transplants. They are located in the Lowry area. The organization is highly regulated by the Federal Government, and it has had sixteen years of experience working with funeral businesses. They handle all tissue and organ donations. Currently, there are about 140,000 people in the U.S. waiting for a transplant. Over the years, sixty million people have donated tissue, organs, and even bones.
Donors are recognized by the black heart symbol which is on the bottom right hand corner of their driver's licenses. The process is time- sensitive and must be done within 24 hours of death. Donor Alliance can be notified by family members, doctors, coroners, police, hospitals and hospices. They do the initial screening, and then they recover tissue and organs. After that, they talk to family members, explaining the process and answering questions.
A donor's wishes are legally binding. Nobody can override a donation request. There is no age limit for donors. Sometimes a request to donate is part of a will; sometimes the donor is on the Donor Alliance Registry. There is no need for a family member to approve a donor request. There is a fee for transportation of the body, but often Medicare or Medicaid can help.
Occasionally, family members are unaware of the fact that another member has become an organ and/or tissue donor. Normally family member support is excellent. But sometimes family members object to proceeding with the donation. This often happens when the family had no knowledge of the choice. But their objection cannot be honored. Sometimes, because the donor has an infectious disease, his or her tissue and organs must be rejected.
Lindsey M. Wolman, CTBS
Donor Alliance | Funeral Services Liaison
200 Spruce Street, Suite 200, Denver, CO 80230
Direct 303-370-2787 | Fax 303-300-9060 | Lwolman@donoralliance.org
Heather McGuire is a Death Doula, a "soul midwife," a person who is a witness to a client's dying and who supports the family by being present. She can give not only emotional support, but also physical and pain management support. She helps clients to figure out how to plan his/her last days. It is important clients know they aren't alone. She helps clients think of meaningful times in life and become less stressed by death. She also supports family members who frequently have no idea of what to do or say. They can be completely unprepared.
It was immediately clear that her caring, generous and loving personality is perfect for the role of assisting clients as well as family members facing the death of a loved one. She has had many, actually joyful, experiences with her clients.
Heather told us stories of experiences with specific people. One time she found a male client wiping tears from his eyes. But after a while with her, he discovered his energy had soared to the point where he determined to hold tight till the moment he died.
She worked with a female client who had five children whom she never knew. Plus, she was never with their father. However, Heather evoked from her stories about her life and even her fantasy experiences. She turned out to be a wonderful woman who at the end said "I've never felt better," and refused her medications.
Heather explained that she never judges a person's past. She is an advocate for her clients and works to build a meaningful relationship with them.
Speakers at the May 5, 2018 Annual Meeting,
held at Malley Sr. Rec Center in Englewood 9:30 a.m.
Fran Myers, the 1st speaker, on “An Orange Juice Can, Sausage Casing and Washing Machine”.
Her passion for Hospice and The Conversation Project, and an early career as a nursing home dietician, has led her to start a business around Advance Directives and end-of-life advocacy. She is committed to educating the public about end-of-life options and decision-making that suits each individual. Confusion about Living Wills, Do Not Resuscitate and The New Right to Die law leave many unanswered questions for each of us.
Libby Bortz, LCSW, BCD; Patty Bortz, J.D., CSA© Present: “Mother and Daughter: Facing Life’s Last Chapters”. In presentations to groups throughout the Denver metro area, Libby and Patty Bortz share their emotional journey as mother and daughter discussing the difficult topics of aging, dying and what matters most in the later chapters of life. They help other sons, daughters, fathers, mothers and partners learn how to start such critically important conversations with their own loving, yet reluctant family members.
L to R: Fran Myers; Libby & Patty Bortz
Speakers at the May 6, 2017 Annual Meeting at Malley
Sandra Sigler, LLC, is licensed to practice law in Colorado and Kansas. Her specialty is probate litigation. She presented a slide show of her brochure on: What To Do When Someone Dies.” She noted that in Colorado, what is often known as “Executor” is called “Personal Representative.”
Highlights of her presentation include:
· The very important documents: “Financial Power of Attorney” and “Medical Power of Attorney” terminate when someone dies.
· Where a death occurs: at home, in a hospital, nursing home, assisted living or out of the country has a large impact on what to do when someone dies.
· The Personal Representative is extremely busy during the first three days after a death. Doctors must be notified. Decisions need to be made regarding choice of a funeral home,
burial choice, ways others can help dealing with plants, pets, phone calls, mail, home maintenance and home security during funeral service.
· During days four through ten the Personal Representative must first deal with obtaining death certificates which can be obtained from a coroner or the CO Department of Vital Statistics. Six to ten ‘certified copies’ should be ordered. Many financial entities require this document. Photocopies are sufficient for others.
· The title to real estate must be transferred. For autos Colorado is working on making available a “Transfer on Death” form for transferring titles.
· Other sources must be notified, including Social Security, insurance companies, credit bureaus, post office, credit bureaus, subscribed magazines and newspapers
· Probate is required whenever real estate ownership is involved.
Charles Hamlin, M.D., is a retired Doctor of Medicine. Though his topic was “End of Life,” he surprised and regaled us with his uplifting, sensible, philosophical and often humorous presentation. His motto is: Honor Death !
Dr.Hamlin has an abiding interest in elevating quality of life during the dying process. No longer should it be just “Life” and “Death,” but rather, “Life, Dying and Death.”
Dr. Hamlin is relieved that the new Colorado law, Medical Aid in Dying, was passed. He believes that a permanently ill person should be able to choose a peaceful death on his or her own terms. Seventy percent of Colorado voters agree that people should have the right to self-administer a lethal medicine. For the individual, there is comfort in knowing they have control, and that it is not assisted suicide. In addition, there has been no abuse of the new law as many detractors believed would happen.
He noted that during his life the way people die has radically changed. We now have 911, antibiotics, organ transplants, intensive care units, open heart surgery, and pacemakers – all of which can extend life and allow people to write their own last chapter. Knowing they have control, patients can better deal with dying. He calls it a “good death.”
Currently 50% of deaths occur in emergency rooms, 33% in intensive care and 20% in operating rooms. We all need to talk openly with our loved ones to let them know our wishes. Do we want to be resuscitated, or have open heart surgery, or donate organs, or have a potential life-extending operation? How much simpler it would be if our Personal Representatives knew the answers ahead of time.
Dr. Hamlin announced that the Hippocratic Oath is no longer used. Doctors do not have to ‘cure’ to ‘heal.’ He stressed the importance of having an Advance Directive. This form is available at Compassion and Choices. A person suffering from dementia is not allowed to write an Advance Directive. This must be done ahead of time. Every patient who is a USA resident legally has the option to refuse food and unwanted medical treatment. Other people have no right to shorten a life nor extend a death. The three ways to change laws are: through ballot initiative, legislation and constitutional challenge.
Speakers who presented at the May 7, 2016 Annual Meeting
Stewart Fleisher, Estate Attorney and former Board Member
Stewart presented a comprehensive analysis of estate and gift taxes. The highlights include the following:
There is no Federal Estate Tax if the deceased’s estate is valued under 5.45 million dollars. However, even with an estate over that amount a deceased’s spouse can file a Federal Estate Tax Return, to be eligible for an exemption.
If an estate is over $64,000, probate is normally required. Probate can be avoided if the owner of that estate ensures, ahead of time, that each asset includes a statement of ‘transfer on death’ (TOD). All investments, IRAs, insurance policies and even the deeds on real estate and automobiles must include this designation.
Currently, gifts of under $14,000 per year are not subject to a gift tax.
Stewart answered many questions from attendees. He gives a seminar titled “The World of Taxes.”
John Lantz, Lawyer, President of the Georgia Memorial Society, Board Member of the Funeral Consumers Alliance
John explained the concept of “uniquely vulnerable,” a theory originally advanced by Josh Slocum, Director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance. This vulnerability arises from five situations which regularly co-exist upon a death:
* Our society’s reluctance to discuss death
* The secrecy of the funeral industry
* The pressing need to act quickly when someone dies
* The emotional intensity involved
* The urgency of time when an executor is required to make quick decisions; e.g. disposition of body, obtaining death certificates, where to have a funeral or memorial
FCA’s new educational thrust will be to teach how to move from being “uniquely
vulnerable” to “uniquely purposeful.” John hopes alliance groups will do the same.
John also highlighted the evolution of the funeral industry. Cremation is rapidly becoming very popular. But that choice has a residual downside. Traditional funerals meet many needs: social, spiritual, emotional and religious. Cremations do not. Many cottage industries are popping up to fulfill these needs.
Lynn Weitzel, President of Compassion and Choices
This organization is one of those cottage groups. Compassion and Choices stresses support, education and advocacy. The group is working to put a Ballot Initiative on this November’s ballot, and they will need 160,000 signatures by August 1, 2016 to succeed in their effort. Obviously, they will need many volunteers to get those signatures.
Their bill - “End of Live Options” - will allow a terminally ill person to opt to self-administer a lethal prescription from an attending doctor. The rules would be strict. The major rules are: the attending doctor would be required to sign a statement that the patient has less than six months to live; if the patient is mentally ill, a psychologist would also have to sign a statement; the patient must take the prescription him/herself; the death certificate would list “underlying disease,” not suicide, as the cause of death.
Compassion and Choices strongly advocates for Advance Directives. They urge that a lawyer be used to write these directives. They feel it is extremely important that people write advance directives to be included with one’s will.
Mike Roberts, Director of LifeCycle Consulting, LLC, another of those cottage groups, gave a brief description of his consulting business.
Speakers who presented at the May 2, 2015 Annual Meeting
Jim & Judy Taylor - gave a short presentation on highlights in the new web site:
Using a media presentation with a large screen, Judy and Jim walked the audience through our website. This site was initiated last summer and is frequently updated to keep users aware of current news. The "Home Page" states our mission and explains what we are and what we are not. We are a non-profit whose goal is to educate on all end-of-life issues. We are not a funeral home nor a charity. Other headings are "Membership", "Contract Providers", "Resources", "Newsletters", "News", "About Us", and "FAQ". Membership is open to all, and an on-line application is provided. Dues are just $10 for two years per person. Our Contract Providers are those businesses which have offered reduced rates to FCSC members. The 'Resources' link provides legal forms. Our bi-annual Newsletter is available on-line. Under "News", one can find recent pertinent laws passed by the Colorado legislature. "About Us" includes photos and bios of Board Members and videos. Frequently Asked Questions ("FAQ") answers the many queries we receive.
Anita Larson - talked about the "Denver Death Cafe":
Anita Larson is a professional Family Celebrant who helps organize funerals and memorials by first interviewing those left behind, using locations chosen by heirs and conducting the ceremony. She, with assistance from Greg Whitehair, opened the first Denver Death Café in September, 2103. The Death Café is a global, life-confirming movement started in England in 2011, and it now has 1,774 world-wide cafes. Death Café operates as an open, self-generated dialogue which discusses death, dying and end-of-life concerns. It is not a grief or counseling group. The Denver chapter, which meets at Porter Place, 1001 E. Yale Avenue, Denver at 3:00 pm on the third Sunday of each month, is free, open to all and includes refreshments. Information is available on Facebook, Pinterest and their website www.deathcafe.com
Anita has been interviewed by Colorado Public Radio, and the Denver Death Café has been featured in Westword, The Best of Denver and in the Intermountain Jewish News. The number of attendees continues to grow. She would like to add FCSC information packets to their resource table at their meetings.
Stewart Fleisher - spoke on Colorado rules, regulations and new taxes:
Stewart Fleisher, long-time past FCSC Board Member, spent the majority of his address on the subject of probate---why it exists, who opens probate and how it can be avoided. Probate is a court proceeding in which it is assured that any creditrs are paid before estate assets are distributed. It can be opened by an executor or an attorney representing the executor. If an executor decides not to open probate, he or she is liable for paying all debts, including outstanding bills, credit card charges and a mortgage. There are a number of tasks that can be done ahead of time which can help avoid probate.*Property can be put in joint tenancy.*A Beneficiary Designation can be added to some assets, such as investment accounts. These are normally designated as either Pay on Death (POD) or Transfer on Death (TOD.)*A carefully written Living Trust can avoid probate.*A Beneficiary Deed on real estate, recorded with the County Clerk, can avoid probate. *Portability allows an estate willed entirely to a surviving spouse to not be liable for estate taxes.Stewart made note of several other important items: *A Death Certificate, in many cases an original, must be obtained for each bank account and for every investment business where the deceased had an account. Stewart advised that before assets are distributed, the executor ask for release of funds so an account can be set up for the purpose of paying final expenses such as funeral costs, utility bills, income taxes or even a needed water heater or new roof on a house. *For estates under $60,000 and no real estate, there is a Small Estate Affidavit which allows an estate to be liquidated quickly. The affidavit must be sworn to in court.*In 2013 the Federal Government ruled that an estate under $5,000.000 is exempt from Federal estate taxes. This amount was indexed to inflation, so currently the cap is at $5,0030,000. *The State of Colorado has no inheritance tax nor estate tax. *He explained A Step-up in Basis, which readjusts the value of appreciated assets for IRS tax purposes. The Step-up in Basis determines the value of assets to be the current market value, not the value at the time of the original purchase. This minimizes the beneficiaries' capital gains tax.*A challenged will can be so complicated that an executor should use an estate attorney.*Currently, gifts of under $14,000 a year incur no tax to either the donor or recipient. The gifts can be made to multiple individuals.
Josh Slocum - traveled from Vermont and spoke on May 3, 2014:
Josh Slocum is the Executive Director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA),
the ‘umbrella’ organization for the eighty groups across the country who are
affiliated. He has held this position for nine years and is highly knowledgeable in
end-of-life issues. The FCA was founded in 1963, prompted by Jessica Mitford’s
book “The American Way of Death.” In collaboration with Lisa Carlson, Josh has
written the book, “Final Rights” which educates and alerts consumers on how to
deal with the end-of-life industry.
Josh is very concerned about the fact that many funeral businesses have been bought up by huge conglomerates which have much more interest in profit than serving consumers fairly. There are cases where state governments and the funeral industry work together against consumers. They have perpetrated myths which are simply not true; e.g., that a sealed coffin can explode, that a body has to be embalmed, that pre-paid funerals are a good idea, that a casket is required, that a deed must be relinquished to the funeral home. In 1975 the Federal Trade Commission published many pages of documentation about abuses by the funeral industry. They use pressure techniques to get consumers to spend more money, urging heirs into ‘conspicuous consumption.’ They take advantage of the fact that too often, death is a taboo subject in families.
Funeral Homes are required by law to give you a price list by phone or in writing. Beware of funeral ‘packages.’ Josh’s comment, “Death is not an optional life style choice” produced rousing laughter. FCA’s mission is to educate, to get rid of bogus assumptions, and to explain legal, burial, cremation, and body disposal rights. In the 1800s and early 1900s, most funerals and burials were held at home. In spite of what funeral directors might say, there is no current legal requirement against continuing this practice. Undertakers do not have a right to the body; do-it-yourself is still possible. Getting a death certificate from a doctor or coroner, completing the biographical section, filing with the coroner or registrar, obtaining a disposition permit within five days of death can all be done by the executor.