Tiny Habits to Improve Your Life

One of life’s rewards is having great friends that are bright, successful, articulate, and full of valuable information. For those of you that don’t know Mary Kelly, I am pleased to introduce you to my friend, Mary. Mary is an international speaker and the author of 15 books on topics such as leadership, business, and economics. After graduating from the United States Naval Academy and devoting over 20 years on active duty in intelligence and logistics, she retired from the Navy as a commander. She has a master’s degree in history and economics, a Ph.D. in economics, and always has a wealth of information to share. You can read more of Mary’s wisdom at https://productiveleaders.com. But first, enjoy Mary’s article on Tiny Habits You Can Do Today to Improve Your Life.

Tiny Habits You Can Do Today to Improve Your Life

Living your best life means something different to everyone. Your definition may be drastically different from the people close to you or your co-workers.

One of my favorite moments last week was talking to my Lyft driver. A retired chemical engineer, he drives because it is how he gets other people’s honest perspectives. “No one is trying to impress anyone during a drive,” he pointed out. “Passengers are honest about their lives and their opinions, and I learn from everyone.”

I love his perspective. He is fascinating! Why waste time when you can learn from talking with other people? His role of driving for a few hours a day evolved from his tiny habit of learning from someone else every day.

It is important to remember that there is a lot we cannot control, but we do have control over small amounts of time, and tiny changes in attitude and perspective make a difference.

Many people do not realize that small things add up to big things.

For example:

1. Walk a mile a day. That is 365 miles you walk that year.

2. Drink four ounces of water every hour from 7 AM to 7 PM. That is forty-eight ounces of water.

3. Write for 15 minutes a day and you have a manuscript in 90 days.

No matter where you are, you can improve by making minor changes. Tiny habits, compounded over time, produce amazing results.

Here are nine things you can do right now to change your life and increase your level of happiness:

1. Practice habit stacking. If you have been meaning to read more, but cannot seem to find the time, take the 5 minutes it takes your coffee to brew in the morning to read. Do not reach for your phone. Grab your book instead. This commitment is much easier because it is not a lot of time, and you are already spending that time waiting for your coffee. Another example is to floss right after brushing your teeth. You are already in the bathroom, so flossing is the next logical step.

2. Incorporate the 2-minute rule. Instead of committing to something for 20 minutes every day, commit to 2 minutes. Decide to walk for 2 minutes every day. Relieve stress by doing deep breathing exercises for 2 minutes. Clean out a drawer for 2 minutes. It is much easier to do something for 2 minutes than it is to carve out time for 20 minutes.

3. Set clear boundaries. Boundaries are necessary to keep us sane in both our personal and professional lives. Do you want to be available for clients 24/7, or would you like to handle business only during standard business hours? I know that I habitually work on weekends, but I don’t expect others to if those are not their working hours.

4. Identify the person you want to be. Use the right words to describe the type of person you want to be. Are you trying to quit smoking? You are a non-smoker. You are trying to become less messy? You are an organized person.

5. Find your community and join them to further commit to your habits. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people helps you keep that positive mindset. Think about going to the gym. We may not feel like going to the gym, but once we get there, we see other people who are working out and making an effort, so we do the same thing. It is the same at work. Align yourself with others in your industry or others who share your goals. Allow other people’s success to be a source of motivation.

6. Get back on the wagon. None of us are perfect. Donuts are my kryptonite. I really like donuts. One of the best donut stores on the entire planet is Horseshoe Donuts in Monument, Colorado. They have apple fritters, that way about 4 pounds. And they are delicious. Everything they have is delicious. I have dreams about their donuts. But I also don’t get to eat donuts every day. I might treat myself once every few months, but eating one donut is a treat. Eating donuts three days in a row is a habit. There are consequences for the donut. If I have a donut, I have to be extra healthy for a few days. If I skip a workout, I recommit to working out tomorrow. Most of us have good habits, so we cannot allow slip-ups to derail progress. Get back into positive habits right away. It is far easier to restart the habit immediately than to start all over again days later.

7. Don’t break the chain. Tracking your habits gives you a visual reminder of the progress you are making, and make sure tracking is a visual reminder of your attainable goal. For instance, if you want to improve your writing speed and skills, consider a goal of writing five hundred words per day for 30 days. Every day that you write, draw a giant x or smiley face on the calendar. After a few days, you may not feel like writing, but you don’t want to break the chain. At the end of 30 days, consider tracking for another 30 days. Seeing your progress gives you increased energy to keep moving forward.

8. Choose concrete goals instead of abstractions. “Getting healthy” or “start going to the gym” are not concrete goals. They are too abstract, and they do not lead to healthy habits. Instead, choose to do one easy health-related commitment, such as doing five sit-ups a day. You improve health, but the time investment is minimal. At some point, sit-ups every day will become second nature – a new habit – at which point you can add another tiny habit.

9. If you start too big, make your tiny habit tinier. We often set habits that are still too big because we are used to thinking big. If you cannot run for 30 minutes, drop it down to 30 seconds and add 30 seconds every day. If you cannot get motivated to go to the gym, let your first tiny habit be doing a jumping jack at home. Then your second tiny habit can be filling your water bottle. These tiny habits are meant to become automatic movements that you just do not think about once they are ingrained. In the end, all these tiny habits build on each other, and you will find yourself at the gym or running for 30 minutes.

Tiny habits are the stepping stones for our lifestyle. If something is not working, or we are not living our best life, then it is time to explore how to change our tiny habits, so we receive the outcome for which we work so hard.

My Pet Is My BFF!

If your BFF is a furry friend, you love and adore them; they are an important part of your life. So it only makes sense that you want the best for your pet even after you are gone. But estate planning for your beloved furry friend may be more complex than you think. When it comes to providing for your pet, it is important to know two things:

  • A pet is considered property under the law &
  • When someone receives your pet in your Will, they can do whatever they want with that property.

Your Will Doesn’t Cut It

Under the law, a pet is considered personal property, just like your money, furniture, and clothes. Because of this, you can’t leave money or possessions to your pet directly through your Will. If you leave money directly to your pet in your Will, the money will instead skip your pet and pass to the beneficiaries you named to receive the remainder of your possessions. And if you didn’t name anyone else, the court will give your possessions, including your pet, to your next of kin.

Worst of all, the person that receives your pet and any money left for the care of your pet in your Will, has absolutely no legal obligation to use that money for your pet’s care or even to keep your pet at all.

A Will Provides No Guarantees

For Their FutureBecause you can’t leave money to your pet directly, your first thought might be to leave your pet and money for its care to someone you trust through your Will instead. This option is not likely to work.

That’s because the person you name as the beneficiary of your pet in your Will has no legal obligation to use the funds you leave for your pet’s care for that purpose. Even if you leave detailed instructions for your pet’s care, your beneficiary does not have to accept the responsibility of caring for your pet. Nothing stops them from changing their mind and abandoning your BFF.

You might think that the person you’d leave your pet to would love them and would never abandon them. (Ask the local shelter how often they see this happen). Even if your chosen person is committed to caring for your pet, it’s simply impossible to predict what circumstances might occur in the future that could make it impossible for them to provide for your pet for the rest of your pet’s life.

And a Will Isn’t Fast Enough

The other issue a Will creates for your pet is that a Will is required by law to go through the court process known as probate before any of your property can be distributed to the people you’ve named, and of course, it only operates in the event of your death, not your incapacity.

The probate process itself can take months (a minimum of 8 months on a good day) or even years to complete. During that time, your pet could be passed around between those who argue over who should care for it. In the worst-case scenario, no one may even think to check in on your pet regularly while the court process is unfolding.

Plus, a Will only goes into effect upon your death, so if you’re incapacitated by accident or illness, it would do nothing to protect your companion. This leaves your pet in limbo and vulnerable to being rehomed to someone you would not have chosen or wanted to care for your pet. In the worst scenario, your pet could be surrendered to a shelter by the time everything gets figured out.

Provide Long-Lasting Care for Your Pet Through a Pet Trust

In order to be completely confident that your pet is properly taken care of and that the money you leave for its care is used precisely as intended, ask us to help you create a Pet Trust.

By creating a Pet Trust, you can lay out detailed, legally binding rules for how your pet’s chosen caregiver (the trustee) can use the funds you leave for your furry friend. And unlike a Will, a Pet Trust will go into effect immediately in the event you become incapacitated or pass away.

Do Right By Your Pet

With a Pet Trust, all of the care decisions and financial distributions for your pet will happen in the privacy of our office in the event of your death or incapacity. Unlike a Will, a Pet Trust doesn’t go through probate, which means it goes into effect immediately if you become incapacitated or pass away. We’ll guide your decision-makers about how and why you made your decisions and how they need to care for your pet to receive distributions. And, while that may seem excessive for some, it is perfect for those clients who care so much about the well-being of their pets and want to ensure their pet gets plenty of tender loving care in the future.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation and ensure you’re doing right by your pet.

Lesson Learned? Or Not?

You probably read recently that Len Goodman, the long-time judge on “Dancing With the Stars,” died. Len was a sage in the world of dance and was known for his wry and witty humor. It’s too early to tell if he left his loved ones holding the bag or if he had his affairs in order. It never ceases to amaze me the number of people with the time and resources to plan well for the eventuality of their death and fail to have a plan in place.

We all know that we are definitely going to leave this world. We all know that having a plan in place is essential. It’s perplexing that so many people fail to have an estate plan in place or whose plan is outdated and won’t work for their family now.

Earlier this year, Stephen Laurel Boss, also known as “tWitch,” died. TWitch wasn’t familiar to me, but he was to millions of others who knew him as an American DJ, hip-hop dancer, choreographer, television producer, and actor whose personality lit up the stage on So You Think You Can Dance. He was also a producer and frequent guest host on The Ellen Degeneres Show and co-hosted the TV show Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings alongside his wife and fellow dancer, Allison Holkers.

tWitch and Allison shared a seemingly happy life together in Los Angeles, California, where they were raising their three children, ages 3, 7, and 14. Sadly, on December 13, 2022, tWitch died by suicide at the age of 40. His death came as a complete shock to loved ones who reported the star seemed happy in the weeks leading up to his death.

Boss died without a Will or Trust in place, meaning his wife, Allison Holker, has the task of petitioning the California court system to release Boss’ share of their assets to her. Allison, his widow, will need to wait months before she can formally take possession of the property her husband owned with her, as well as property held in his name alone, including his share of his production company, royalties, and his personal investment account.

Do you know how many people have plenty of notice of their death and fail to protect their families? Celebs and regular people like you and I just fail to do what it takes and leave their loved ones to handle details that they are ill-equipped to handle.

Unnecessary Court Involvement in a Time of Grief

Now, mind you, this happened in California. However, the process that one has to go through in most states is strikingly similar. In order to have access to her late husband’s assets, Allison, his widow, will have to make a public filing in the Probate Court by filing a petition, which asks the court to transfer ownership of a deceased spouse’s property to her as the surviving spouse. Hopefully, there will not be any difficulty in proving that they were legally married at the time of his death.

While the probate court has become more efficient in recent years, the court’s involvement nonetheless delays a spouse’s ability to access the assets of a loved one that has passed – a hurdle no one wants to deal with in the wake of a devastating loss. In addition, the court probate process is entirely public, meaning that the specific assets that loved ones are trying to access are made part of the public record. When your financial affairs become part of the public record, they become available for anyone to discover.

This isn’t just a problem for the wealthy. Even if you own a modest estate at your death, your family will need to go through the probate court process to transfer ownership of your assets if you don’t have an estate plan in place.

How to Prevent This From Happening to Your Loved Ones

When someone dies without an estate plan in place, the probate court’s involvement can be a lengthy and public affair. At a minimum, in Colorado, you can expect the probate process to last at least six months and oftentimes as long as eighteen months or more. How long it will take depends on many variables that we cannot necessarily predict before death. The sad part is that court involvement can be completely avoided IF the couple had created a revocable living trust to hold their family’s assets. If they had, the widow would have had immediate access to all of the couple’s assets upon death, eliminating the need to petition a court or wait for its approval before accessing the funds that rightly belong to her.

A Trust would have also kept the family’s finances private. With a Trust, only the person in charge of managing the Trust assets (the Trustee) and the Trust’s direct beneficiaries need to know how the assets in a Trust are used. There is also no court-imposed timeline on the Trustee for taking care of your final matters (with the exception of some tax elections), so your family can move at the pace that’s right for them when the time comes to put your final affairs in order.

The privacy that a trust provides also helps to eliminate potential family conflict because only the parties directly involved in the Trust will know what the Trust says. If issues between family members arise over the contents of the Trust, the Trust will lay out all of your wishes in detail so that all family members are on the same page and understand your wishes for the ones you’ve left behind.

Guidance for You and the Ones You Love

When you create a revocable living Trust at our firm, we ensure your loved ones have someone to turn to for guidance and support during times of uncertainty. No one expects the sudden loss of a loved one, but when it happens, your world is shaken. Even the simplest tasks can feel overwhelming, let alone the work involved in wrapping up a loved one’s affairs.

That’s why we welcome you to meet with us to discuss your wishes for when you die or if you become incapacitated. If you’re ready to start the estate planning process, contact us today for a complimentary 15-minute discovery call.

Estate Planning Before You Travel: Why It’s Critically Important

Vacations can be the perfect opportunity to relax, disconnect from work and responsibilities, and enjoy your spouse, partner, kids, or friend’s company. But before you head off on your next getaway, there’s something else you should consider doing that might not sound quite as fun—creating an estate plan. While it may not sound like the most exciting way to spend a day, here are some reasons why you need to think about your estate plans before you travel.

  • An estate plan ensures that your minor children will be placed with the person you choose in the event that you and your spouse have a medical emergency while on vacation. Do not risk your children being placed in the foster care system based on the laws of the state in which you are traveling.
  • An estate plan ensures any medical decisions needed while away from home will be handled according to your wishes and with as much ease as possible, no matter where in the world you are when something happens. If you fall ill or become injured and can’t make medical decisions for yourself, your estate plan will ensure that decisions will be made by the person you choose and with your indicated desires for your care at the forefront.
  • Without an estate plan in place, your family or friends could have a heavy lift to get you back home, locate your assets, keep your bills paid, and even ensure your children get taken care of by the right people in the right way.
  • Lastly, an estate plan ensures that any debts or liabilities are taken care of properly in case something happens while on vacation. This can help prevent creditors from trying to collect from surviving family members after the fact — something no one wants to deal with during such a difficult time.

Yes, Even Married Couples Need an Estate Plan

You might think that because you are married, you don’t need an estate plan. Or you might even think your Will is enough and would just handle everything. But that’s generally not the case.

Even if you are married, you still need medical powers of attorney, making it clear that you want your spouse making medical decisions for you and  adding in additional decision-makers. You still want a Living Will to give clarity on how you want medical decisions made for you.

Finally, if you have dependent children, you want to ensure you’ve made it as easy as possible for their care to be continued by the people you want, in the way you want. Without a plan in place, decisions around their care could be tied up for months, including access to the financial assets their caregivers would need to ensure they have what they need along the way.

The Benefits of Working With an Attorney

While you can create an estate plan without legal assistance, there are serious risks to the people you love if your plan is not completed, not updated after it’s been done once, or not completed properly. The only real guarantee for the people you love to have as much ease as possible is if you work with an experienced attorney specializing in estate planning, particularly Life & Legacy Planning. As an Estate Planning Law Firm, we understand what needs to go into a thorough and complete estate plan — as well as the potential pitfalls or issues that could arise due to your unique personal and family dynamics — so you can rest assured knowing everything is being taken care of properly before you embark on your trip.

At Cris Carter Law, LLC, we can advise you on other important documents such as Wills, Trusts, powers of attorney (POA), health care directives (HCD), and guardianship paperwork (for minor children) so you can make informed decisions based on what you want to have happen if you become incapacitated or die. All these items should be considered when creating an effective estate plan — especially when one or both parties will be traveling outside their home country at any point.

Don’t Let a Lack of Planning Dampen Your Vacation Spirits!

Taking a few simple yet critically important steps now can save you and your family considerable headaches down the road if anything were ever to happen while on the road—not only do we want you to enjoy each moment spent together, but we want peace of mind knowing that whatever comes your way is handled according to your wishes!

We can help put a plan together now so that you don’t forget about this important task before packing up for your next adventure. Making sure all your affairs are in order will ensure nothing stands in the way between you and enjoying time together! Contact us today to get started.

Better Together!

Today is a huge happy Tuesday for me, and I am beyond excited to share my joy. But first, for those who don’t know my story, let me share some bits and pieces with you.

I was raised in Florida, was educated in Florida, raised my family in Florida, and practiced law in Florida. Fifty years of life in Florida, and I never thought I would ever leave Florida.

As we know, life changes, and at the prospect of my grandchildren being born and raised in Colorado, Florida lost its hold on me. I happily moved to Colorado to assume my grandmotherly role and become CoCo (my grandmother name). What could be more perfect than a part-time position on Tuesdays and Thursdays where love, relationships, connection, stretching, and learning with the grandchildren was the reality? My life was beyond wonderful.

But, as we all know, sometimes life changes, and the unexpected happens. When my husband died, I hurt. Frankly, I had never experienced such a tremendous loss, and I didn’t think I could go on. However, there were others that were not willing to let me give up. With the love and support of my children, grandchildren, and many close friends in Colorado and Florida, life changed. It looked different, but it did go on. I developed a new rhythm because I had to. And two short years later (time pretty much stands still as you grieve the loss of someone you dreamed of living out your life with), my daughter and her family announced that they were moving to Dallas, Texas.

They were kind and invited me to move with them to Dallas. However, it just didn’t seem like I should tag along. So, I stayed put. And again, I grieved a loss. I hurt, and I was alone. I spent a lot of time in Dallas. I would go to Dallas for holidays, special occasions, and grandchildren’s events. A new rhythm developed. Not ideal, but the best I could make of it.

And it bears repeating that we all know that sometimes life changes and the unexpected happens. And so it does. I have been walking on cloud nine as my daughter and family announced at the end of last year that they were coming home to Fort Collins. And today is THE day that they arrive!!!!

This (grand)mother’s HEART is so full. Not much more to say than that. So let me leave you with words from Jack Johnson’s song, “Better Together:”

“Love is the answer, at least for most of the questions in my heart.

Like why are we here? And where do we go? And how come it’s so hard?

It’s not always easy, and sometimes life can be deceiving.

—- Well, it’s always better when we’re together.

Yeah, it’s always better when we’re together!”

Listen to the full song here.

Adulting 101: Your Living Will

You may have heard people speak of a “living will” and wondered what they are talking about. A living will is also called an advance health care directive. But, no matter what you call it, every adult needs a legal document that tells your loved ones and doctors the medical care you want if you cannot make those decisions yourself.

Your living will outlines the procedures, medications, and treatments you want or do not want to prolong your life when you cannot make those decisions for yourself. Additionally, it can address if and when you want life support removed and whether you want hydration and nutrition supplied if that is the only thing keeping you alive. If these decisions need to be made and you haven’t provided specific instructions, decisions will be made, and they may not be the decisions that you would have chosen.

Don’t confuse a “living will” with a “last will.” A “last will” sets forth what happens to your property and wealth after you die. A living will sets forth what medical treatment you want while alive.

A healthcare or medical power of attorney is another part of advanced healthcare directives. The healthcare power of attorney is the legal document that names who will make the healthcare decisions for you. Simply put, a medical power of attorney names those who can make medical decisions in the event of your incapacity, while a living will explains what medical care you want.

A living will is a vital part of every adult’s estate plan, as it can ensure your medical treatment is handled exactly the way you want if you cannot communicate. Without a living will, your loved ones are left to make difficult decisions which can result in conflict, stress, and guilt.

We all know that unforeseen illness or injury could strike at any time. Don’t wait to plan. We can assist you to ensure your medical treatment and end-of-life care is tailored to suit your unique needs and wishes and provide counseling and guidance in decision-making.