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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.

Estate planning may require sharing of financial information

When children have to confront a developing medical condition or other incapacity in an elderly parent, they should promptly try to have a frank conversation with that parent prior to a worsening of the situation. Unfortunately, human nature often makes parents unwilling to share their financial information. An aging person, whether located in Texas or another state, may be ultra-conscious about retaining a position of strength and may resent any attempts to suggest estate planning, elder law planning or even just the sharing of financial information.

That may not be a problem for many families where openness and sharing of thoughts is the cultural norm. But for a significant number of situations, the children will have to tip-toe over eggshells to handle the communications. Despite the need for delicacy, however, a lack of action may leave family members with a physically or mentally incapacitated parent and no legal direction or authority to act. These are the most difficult scenarios in that they can cause excessive stress to surviving children who are in effect left to struggle in the dark.

Living will and power of attorney are strong planning steps

It is a natural inclination for someone who becomes incapacitated and in need of medical care to want to have a say in what happens. The appropriate way to set up that kind of assurance for an elderly family member is to have the forms drawn up and signed while the loved one is mentally competent and able to know the nature of the document being signed. In Texas, these forms are essentially comprised of two operative documents: an advance care directive, also called a living will, and a medical power of attorney.

The advance care directive essentially tells one's doctors and care providers what kind of medical treatment is desired if something happens in the future to make the person unable to communicate his or her wishes. This may dictate that all artificial life support and resuscitation methods be used to keep the individual alive or it may direct the opposite approach. If properly witnessed or notarized, the living will is generally a legally enforceable document.

Estate planning needed for the elderly single woman

The divorce rate for first marriages is hovering at almost 50 percent and that for second and third marriages even higher. Also considering that some women stay single by choice, some experts recommend that women should think in terms of estate planning and elder planning needs as though they will someday be single. The monetary funding of one's future needs in Texas and elsewhere is often the first and foremost challenge of the planning process.

Because a 65-year-old woman today may expect to live another 20 years, it is expected that many women will need help at some point with basic needs such as bathing, feeding, dressing and toileting. Our government's ability to plan for our custodial and chronic care needs has not even been a topic that can be reached in light of the massive attempt to simply provide a health care system that will take care of the basic needs of all citizens. This void leaves it up to the individual woman to engage in some estate and elder law planning that will make sense.

Take advantage of smart steps for elder law planning

The amount of money a person will need to survive in old age is not something that can be precisely pinned down – indeed, determining age expectancy involves a bit of guess work. However, based on one's background, general health, genetic predispositions and current lifestyle, it may be possible to get a ball park figure that's fairly accurate. The amount needed will usually turn out to be significantly more than the individual had in mind. In Texas and other states, individuals will be best served by consulting with an elder law attorney and devising a long-term care plan as early in the game as possible.

There are some smart steps that experts recommend in generally establishing one's sufficient reserves for the future. One of the first suggestions is always to consider putting off the year that you first claim Social Security retirement benefits. In general, the benefit amount can go up by 8 percent per year for each year delayed up until age 70.

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Austin, TX 78734
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Addison, TX 75001
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