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Dallas Estate Planning Law Blog

Estate administration usually follows the dictates of a will

When a person dies in Texas, his or her will provides for appointment of an executor to handle the estate's administration. If there was no will, the statutory law of Texas designates persons who may qualify as an administrator of the estate. An executor or administrator will have to take certain steps and perform certain duties to properly administer the estate. Both executors and administrators may be generically referred to as the personal representative of the estate.

In a general sense, the biggest tasks for the personal representative are to collect the assets, pay the bills, and distribute the remaining funds to the beneficiaries. In some cases, the estate will be supervised by a probate judge, but that is not necessary if no special issues are involved. It is generally appropriate to administer the estate, perform all tasks and distribute the assets without formal court supervision.

Estate planning should be managed by an experienced professional

Estate planning for Texas residents requires experienced professional assistance. The process goes beyond the preparation of a simple will. Instead, estate planning entails a number of legal instruments and strategic planning decisions that must be geared to the special financial needs of the individual or married couple.

It is important to find experienced, knowledgeable estate planning professionals in order to assure a comprehensive and effective plan. Some of these may include lawyers, accountants, insurance planners, investment experts and others with relevant expertise. The most logical place to start is to arrange a consultation with an estate planning attorney.

Elder law planning can achieve substantial assets protection

Elder law planning in Texas is a critically important process that goes hand-in-hand with estate planning. In elder law planning, the concern is more focused on the care of the elderly loved one during those late years when incapacitation may become an issue. The majority of persons will unfortunately face the fact that they will need either institutionalized care or that they will need to pay for in-home care.

Nursing home care and some aspects of home care can be addressed through a process of Medicaid planning. Medicaid provides funding for elderly care in nursing homes to those who qualify. Generally, people can lose their assets to the government if they take Medicaid while having neglected to protect their real estate and other assets.

Insurance may be a vital part of long-term care plan

Long-term care insurance may be more of a necessity than some people think. The statistics say that almost 75 percent of senior citizens in this country, including in Texas, will need some form of long-term care prior to death. The cost of  the insurance and the care itself are continuing upwards. However, there are a variety of products on the market that may make the choices easier for those wanting to devise a long-term care plan via partial or complete insurance funding.

Certainly one's assets, income, needs and projected life span are things to look at first in deciding how to handle the problem of long-term care, both at home and in an institution. The policies to cover later life care are becoming more attractive and offering options for people who do not want an expensive policy that may never pan out. For example, now there are life policies that will pay a part of the death benefit upon the covered person's need for in-home or institutional care. If the person never needs that care, the policy will pay the designated death benefit to the person's heirs.

VA pushing estate planning penalties on some veterans pensions

In Texas and nationwide, many persons in private industry had to make adjustments to their estate planning over recent years as their pension plans took a hit from the recession and other economic pitfalls. The problem is now surfacing with respect to some veterans and their military pensions. VA benefits may be denied or discontinued under new rules, thereby making it imperative for some veterans to revise their estate planning strategies accordingly.

It appears that veterans over 65 with nonservice related pensions, and with income over $119,220.00,  may be singled out. Estate planning attorneys and investment advisers may have to make asset protection adjustments to estate plans previously created for some clients who are veterans. The same applies to new and future estate planning.

Early family discussions can make estate planning less stressful

Family members will greatly benefit from discussing how they may handle future caregiving issues regarding an aging parent. This is best done prior to any problems occurring, and may result in cutting down on stress, lost time and money in future years when health problems do begin to occur. Planning out the role of each family member if future long-term care needs arise is a part of the estate planning process, both in Texas and elsewhere.

The prospects for long-term care needs should be discussed and worked out. Both in-home and nursing care possibilities must be dealt with in candid conversations carried out with mutual care and respect. According to experts in the field, the best way to start the process is to gather everyone in an older person's circle of close friends, loved ones and family members and discuss what each person is able and willing to do in the future.

Divorce should prompt estate planning changes

When a Texas couple goes through a divorce, a number of tasks must be accomplished in the transition from one household into two. Estate planning is one of those items, and one that should rank near the top of any post-divorce to-do list. Newly divorced spouses will want to set aside the time to sit down and ensure that their estate planning documents are in line with their current wants and needs.

The transfer of assets at the time of one's death is generally the first thing that comes to mind when considering how an estate plan should be altered following a divorce. However, there is another facet of estate planning that may be even more important than ensuring that one's ex does not inherit money or property. Drafting new incapacitation documents should be a top priority for spouses who are considering filing for divorce, or for those who have recently emerged from the divorce process.

Key part of elderly planning could be long-term care insurance

The statistics for Texas and the rest of the country say that seven out of 10 people over age 65 will need some level of nursing home care at some point. It is an unfriendly topic, one that most would prefer to file away in that special drawer called "procrastination," but the economic figures are so foreboding that it is a topic that needs to be discussed. The fact is that paying for long-term care is such an expensive proposition that many people may be well-advised to consider long-term care insurance.

The harsh details are that nursing home costs generally range from $5,000 to $10,000 per month. That can come to at least $300,000 for an average stay. The bad news is that this tab is not covered by health insurance or Medicare. That is a big chunk of worry to digest at one time, at least for those who do not have ice water flowing through their veins.

Power of attorney may be most effective if made earlier in life

It is prudent to take the steps to create an estate plan early on so that everything will be prepared in case some untimely health problem arises in one's later years. If a person becomes disabled and unable to care for his or her own financial affairs, there are critical estate planning tools here in Texas and in other jurisdictions that should be in place. Thus, for example, a power of attorney giving authority to the maker's chosen representative, if put in place early enough in life, will assure that the right person will be taking care of one's affairs.

Furthermore, a disability that leads to incompetency will be a costly matter for one's estate where there is no power of attorney. It will create a need for a court-appointed guardian of the incompetent's estate, and even if that guardian turns out to be a family member, legal fees and administrative costs will eat up substantial funds. The guardian, even if it is a trusted family member, will have to present costly accountings to the court periodically and, in that way, continue to reduce the funds available.

Sibling rivalries don't mix in the elderly planning process

When siblings are called upon to take care of an elderly parent, the stage is set for conflict, especially where the siblings do not communicate freely and regularly on the problems and issues that may arise. A first issue in elderly planning that often arises in Texas and elsewhere is who will be the primary caregiver. Where one sibling resides close to the ailing parent, that will often be the deciding factor.

Caregiving duties can be divided by schedules and other family needs, but this can only be done with siblings who are communicating and frankly offering their opinions in a free interchange of ideas and information. Other divisions of labor can take place based on what skills each of the siblings possesses, so that a financially capable sibling may take over the financial records and payment of bills through the power of attorney. Another sibling may be more adept at the caregiving aspect of the job.

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
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Austin Office
3 Lakeway Centre Court
Suite 120
Austin, TX 78734
Phone: 800-569-2663
Fax: 888-545-9847
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Addison Office
14135 Midway Rd.
Suite G-250
Addison, TX 75001
Phone: 972-685-5202
Fax: 972-685-5206
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