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Dallas Estate Planning Law Blog

Elderly planning includes setting future financial parameters

One of the main goals of estate planning clients is that they not become a burden on their children during their twilight years. Lifestyle independence is a primary objective for many of these clients. If they have to obtain the services of a caregiver at any time in the future, they much prefer that their children not be burdened with that job. Elderly planning in Texas thus involves adopting a financial plan that will prevent depletion of one's resources through long-term care costs and, ideally, still leave an inheritance for one's children.

Of course, a part of the equation depends on the degree and length of long-term care that may be required in the future, and that is an unpredictable factor. However, federal government sources do indicate that a 65-year-old senior today has a 70 percent chance of needing some form of long-term care at some point in the years ahead. The planning process requires analyzing the options and choosing what is within the financial scope of the client's abilities.

Online accounts and assets require treatment in one's last will

People in Texas and throughout the country are becoming increasingly aware of the need to provide for their online files and "assets" in their estate plan. At the least, many people want to assure that their personal representative has the legal authority to either maintain, modify or shut down their online pages and accounts. For some online matters, the testator will provide in his or her last will that the personal representative may take certain requested actions and make certain specified dispositions.

One general option that may be effective is to give one's personal representative the power to access all of his or her online accounts in order to carry out the decedent's wishes. The types of accounts to be accessed may include social media, commercial, social, financial and government benefits. Additionally, records of one's health care insurance details and choices may be primarily located online, along with similarly important financial records.

Single persons need a will or trust as much as married couples

When a single person dies without estate planning in Texas and elsewhere, the assets are generally divided among their children, and if there are none, then to the parents, siblings, and so on. The statutory order of asset division may vary slightly from state to state. If there are no blood heirs, the estate may pass to the state government of residence. The unwanted results caused by intestacy (having no will) can be avoided by drawing up an estate plan that includes a will and/or living trust.

Additionally, the testator should appoint a personal representative to administer his or her estate after death. With those items in place, the assets can be distributed according to the testator's wishes. Thus, where there are no heirs, the testator can specify beloved friends and/or charities to receive the assets in whatever proportions desired.

Long-term care insurance requires a long-term commitment

There are pros and cons about buying long-term care insurance. Because the average annual cost for nursing home care nationwide and in Texas is up to $91,250, it is at least worth it for a person approaching retirement to consider whether it is the right move. One caveat: purchasing a long-term care insurance policy requires a confirmed commitment that if one defaults on the premiums, all of the money paid to date is forfeited.

According to the Center for Retirement Research, about one-third of persons who purchase long-term care insurance after age 65 allow their policies to lapse. The study further concludes that it is the people who need the coverage the most who usually can't keep up with  their payments or forget to renew them. That group usually consists of persons with impairments and people with low-income who would be in a financial crisis if care is needed.

Estate planning twist emerges with cloud-based storage services

It is timely to discuss a new option in estate planning that is available nationwide, including in Texas. With the growing availability of digital tools, it is not surprising for online start-ups to emerge that offer certain estate planning services. These services offer the benefit of storing estate planning documents and other pertinent information in a cloud-based "vault" and to maintain the information perpetually. In some cases, interested families may even keep a historical record of all estate information pertaining to generations of family members.

A guaranteed storage location for vital documents helps to solve one common estate administration problem faced by many personal representatives. They often have difficulties finding the locations of a decedents' vital papers. This new option will make everything available with the entry of a password and the click of a button.

Long-term care planning can avoid spending down of assets

Despite the fact that many elderly persons lose substantial assets to long-term care expenses, the fact is that there are abundant remedies and planning tools that could have been used to avoid such disasters. Seeing one's home go to reimburse Medicaid, for example, is generally avoidable with a  bit of early planning. To construct a plan that will protect assets and allow for long-term care assistance in accordance with federal and Texas laws, it is necessary to consult with one's estate planning attorney and, in many cases, with a financial planning  professional.   

Where there are two or more professionals onboard, they will work as a team and coordinate their efforts to assure maximum asset preservation. Some of the legal tools that are used are irrevocable living trusts, qualified annuities and veterans' benefits. If a person starts early enough, there is likely a strong long-term care planning strategy that can be implemented to preserve the bulk of one's assets for the designated heirs.

Long-term care rights are honored nationwide this month

Long-term care residents are often treated like forgotten people due to their physical limitations and incapacities. However, this is a time to reflect on their contributions to society and their absolute right to enjoy a good quality of life in their residential facilities. In Texas and other states, October is National Long-Term Care Residents' Rights Month. This makes it an appropriate time to mention and reaffirm the rights of residents to receive person-centered care.  

That means a level of care tailored to each person's unique needs. Every long-term care resident has, over a lifetime of activities, contributed in various small and large ways to the betterment of their communities and society in general. Federal and state laws guarantee them their basic rights as citizens and afford them additional rights as health care residents. They enjoy the enforceable right to respect, dignity and to receive professional and competent care. They have the right to complain, to privacy and to be free from abuse and neglect.

Serving as Executor of a decedent's estate is a demanding job

Serving as the executor of a decedent's estate in Texas and elsewhere is an important responsibility that requires serious commitment to the duties that must be performed by law. If the estate is not administered properly as required, there is potential liability against the executor. An executor must use sound judgment and must be committed to following the letter of the law.

The executor will likely have a good working relationship with the attorney handling the estate. This will assure legal propriety in the process as it transpires. The attorney will also provide credibility to the executor's actions, as long as they are the result of cooperation between the two. The executor can also get to know the testator, i.e., the decedent who made the will, while that person is still alive.

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.

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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