The Livens Law Firm CPAs and  Attorneys

Free Initial Consultation | Se Habla Español

Bedford (Fort Worth) 817-545-3425 toll free 800-569-2663

Austin 800-569-2663 Addison (Dallas) 972-685-5202

Estate Planning Professionals Providing Peace of MindCPAs and Attorneys

Dallas Estate Planning Law Blog

New marriage ignites complex issues of estate planning strategy

Getting married for a second or third time complicates the estate planning picture for a person living in Texas, and all other states for that matter, by raising new issues and questions to resolve. For one thing, it adds to the potential number of heirs that one may want to provide for after death. The assets may have to be spread thinner or other investment vehicles may be needed to take care of every one's needs. Estate planning in this situation starts with taking stock of one's assets.

It should first be pointed out that with each subsequent marriage the estate planning task becomes considerably more complicated. Going over the total picture with an estate planning attorney will bring the best results in terms of efficiency, accuracy and economy in planning. Generally, one of the first things one does is to make a list of all assets. The spouse should do this also. If there is a prenuptial binding the couple, then some issues may already be settled through prior discussions and agreements. 

It's not too early for millennials to discuss long-term care

It's not too early for millennials in their 20s and 30s to start discussing the framework for long-term care solutions. Millennials here in Texas can easily access information on this subject by consulting with a qualified financial planner and with an experienced elder law attorney. One organization reports survey results indicating that 56 percent of millennials believe that they will plan better for long-term care than previous generations.

Millennials also indicated that they expected to get involved in the responsibility of providing such care to their elder immediate family relatives. Their general receptivity to discussing the subject may be because they've observed first-hand how their elders have failed to plan in many instances and have suffered the consequences of it. The same study indicates that young adults will respond to conversations about the high cost of future long-term care.

Widespread changes of elder law regulations are under review

Getting a loved one in failing health checked into a nursing home in Texas is often a harrowing experience that tends to wear on one's emotions. There are a slew of papers to be signed, some of which contain releases of liability and other promises that may have significant elder law consequences. One popular provision favored by the nursing homes and put into their final care agreements is that any disputes between them will be heard in an arbitration hearing and not in a court of law.

The clause in which the patient agrees to submit any future disputes to arbitration for resolution has the impact of preventing a claim or legal action in a court of law to litigate the dispute. An arbitrator instead will be appointed to hear the case and render a decision. The arbitrator is theoretically neutral, but statistics show that they tend favor the company that is mandating the arbitration. Additionally, there is usually no appeal allowed from an arbitrator's position.

Long-term care planning will benefit from early action

It's probably true that no one thinks of being one of the many persons who will need an elder law plan for nursing care in those twilight years to come. We all tend to feel invincible, even as retirement becomes a living reality. However, the statistics nationwide, including in Texas, say that most people over 65 will someday need some level or extent of long-term care.

The very rich and the very poor likely don't have to do too much in the way of planning, because the first group can afford any costs that come down the road and still have plenty left; the second group will be supported by Medicaid with no assets to lose. That leaves the vast majority somewhere in the middle or upper-middle economic ranges who will need to plan for nursing home or other types of long-term care. The recommended economic vehicle to protect against losing one's nest egg to long-term care costs is to buy a long-term care insurance policy.

Long-term care costs may be partnered with the state of Texas

When the children are grown and out on their own, it is a good time for an individual or married couple to consider long-term care plans in the event of future incapacitating disabilities. An effective way of taking care of this need is to purchase a long-term care insurance policy. Medicare does not cover long-term care in Texas or anywhere else. Medicaid is a program designed to pay for long-term care, but without proper planning, one's assets that were earmarked for immediate family beneficiaries may be depleted.

Life and disability insurance are staples of a good estate plan in that they attempt to prevent a disruption of the family income stream in the event of disability or death. These policies are purchased early during the work years. When retirement arrives, it is time to consider preparing for long-term care. The best preparation would likely be a long-term care insurance policy.

Some women may need earlier estate planning due to many factors

Many American women face a greater retirement savings crisis than men. The retirement savings shortfalls for those on the verge of retirement is roughly double for women as opposed to men, according to a nonpartisan research organization. In fact, poverty in old age is looking more like a woman's problem due to pay disparities, greater life expectancy, higher health care costs and large numbers of divorced and widowed women living alone. These are all reasons why many women living in Texas and elsewhere should engage in an estate planning program even earlier than is usually foreseen.

Women also get behind the retirement eight-ball when they take time off to care for a parent or other immediate family member. The loss of wages, Social Security benefits and other items is far greater than what a man will lose in the same situation. The organization that lobbies for older people, AARP, asserts that elder care should be included as an employee benefit.

Estate administration requires a step-by-step legal procedure

It is always difficult after losing a beloved family member to focus on administering the loved one's estate. Assuming that the decedent has died leaving assets in his or her name, then those assets will have to be administered through a process known as estate administration. In the ideal case in Texas and elsewhere, the decedent will have left an updated will specifying the disposition of his or her assets after death.

The decedent will also have appointed a personal representative in the will to serve as the person who will be in control of probating the estate. The personal representative is the coordinator and central administrator of the decedent's estate. His or her duties include identifying and collecting the assets, generally turning those assets into cash, using the funds to pay the decedent's valid bills incurred up to the date of death, and administrative expenses. If there was no will, a qualified family member may apply to act as an administrator. 

Singer's estate planning was not adjusted to meet changing need

In Texas and elsewhere, it is important to be thorough in one's estate plan, and to regularly review it for necessary revisions. For example, the arguably insufficient plan of deceased singing star Whitney Houston demonstrates some potential pitfalls of not being thorough and of not reviewing it regularly. In 1993, Houston executed a will leaving everything to her daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown. Unfortunately, the daughter died recently at age 22, apparently leaving no immediate family except for her father, Bobby Brown, who was estranged and divorced from Houston.  This scenario raises potential dilemmas and poses questions about a better way of handling estate planning under similar facts.

There is an estimated $20 million in assets left in the Houston estate, which is increasing with the regular receipt of royalties. The will had provided that Bobbi Kristina would inherit through a testamentary trust and would get 10 percent at age 21, one-sixth at age 25 and the balance at age 30. The daughter's 10 percent that she received at age 21 will likely go to her surviving heir, her father Bobby Brown, unless she had a will.

Estate planning requires an annual checkup for any changes

An estate plan should be given a routine checkup each year. This is done through a meeting or other collaboration between the estate planning professional and the client. This is a procedure that is universally recommended, both here in Texas and in all other jurisdictions.

There are some basic issues to update each year. One is whether the client has acquired any real estate or other substantial assets. These must be titled to be consistent with any trusts or estate planning mechanisms that have already been put into place. Furthermore, the legal professional must know whether there are any new accounts that require beneficiary designations or whether any prior designations have changed.

Proactive attention assures more effective elder law planning

When a crisis arises  with respect to the health of an elderly loved one, there may be remedies available in Texas and elsewhere to help ease the financial strain on the individual's family members. Those remedies, however, may be smaller and fewer if sought in the 11th hour. Elder law planning is best achieved when the individual is still lucid and competent to handle his or her affairs, generally at the age of retirement or older, or at the onset of a disability even if that happens prior to retirement age.                       

A last will and testament is not enough to plan for one's final years. The will, along with a power of attorney and a living will, are the foundation of the basic estate plan. However, the basic tools are often not enough to prepare for the needs of the future. A living trust may be ideal for some people and can eliminate the need for the paper-intensive probate process that occurs after the individual's death.

Our Office Locations

The Livens Law Firm
2516 Harwood Road
Bedford (Fort Worth), TX 76021
Phone: 817-545-3425
Toll Free: 800-569-2663
Fax: 817-545-9847
Map and Directions

Austin Office
3 Lakeway Centre Court
Suite 120
Austin, TX 78734
Phone: 800-569-2663
Fax: 888-545-9847
Map and Directions

Addison Office
14135 Midway Rd.
Suite G-250
Addison, TX 75001
Phone: 972-685-5202
Fax: 972-685-5206
Map and Directions

Free Initial Consultation | Se Habla Español

Member Wealth Counsel Elder Counsel Your success our commitment Excellence in elder law and  special needs Member NAELA National Academy of elder law Attorneys Inc. Member ASNP Academy of special needs planners members