The Livens Law Firm CPAs and  Attorneys

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Estate Planning Professionals Providing Peace of MindCPAs and Attorneys

Dallas Estate Planning Law Blog

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.

Helping loved ones plan through elder law in Texas

Older loved ones often need assistance or specialized care as they enter their Golden Years. In Texas, there are legal professionals who are experienced in elder law and long-term care issues. If you are committed to helping a family member conduct Medicaid or elderly planning, or if you, yourself are getting on in years and wish to secure plans for the disposition of your estate, then seeking a consultation with a legal team is a good first step to take in the process.

The Livens Law Firm  offers individualized services so that you can develop a customized plan for the future of your estate. It is never wise to assume that your family will know your wishes should you become incapacitated or deceased. Rather, planning ahead as much as possible allows you to take charge of your own directives while you are still of sound mind and in good health.

Estate administration may be required where there are assets

If a person dies with assets, Texas law generally requires the filing of an estate proceeding. An estate may be administered pursuant to the specifications in the decedent's will or, if there is no will, pursuant to the dictates of state law. If an executor or other personal representative is appointed in the decedent's will, that person will act to carry out the directions in the will, within the confines of state law.

Where there is no will, a personal representative qualified by state law may file an estate and receive letters of administration to administer the estate. In general, the duties of the personal representative entail gathering the decedent's assets, paying the bills and distributing the remainder to the decedent's heirs. In Texas, an estate can be administered as an 'independent' estate.

A life estate could be important in long-term care planning

The elder law attorney has several different tools to use to assist a family in keeping the family home when expensive long-term care costs would normally threaten its loss. Because Medicare does not cover long-term care expenses in Texas and all other states, the need to have an elderly parent placed in an assisted care environment, or the costs of home-care services, could turn out to be an expense that will wipe out the family residence and other assets. Sometimes, elder law attorneys will recommend the use of a life estate planning tool as a potential way to protect the family home.

A life estate is a legal concept that allows someone to put the ownership of real estate in his or her name for life only. When that life estate owner dies, the property passes to the holder of the remainder interest. The property thus passes automatically, by operation of law, to the owner of the remainder interest without having to go through probate or any estate administration process. The creation of the life estate is done by deed.

Elderly planning features many varieties of residential living

Many older people will someday have to confront the issue of living accommodations. If staying in the marital residence is not a feasible option, some alternative housing choice will have to be made. This is ideally a joint effort between the elderly parent, or the elderly couple, and their children. In Texas and all other states, the good news is that the choices for post-retirement living are greatly expanded and take in a wide variety of lifestyles and assisted living options, but elderly planning should be done in advance of the time when there is an immediate need.

By planning in advance, the parents and their children can get things worked out and in place, without having to find a place and a plan under emergency or rushed conditions. If the parents are in good health, they may just need help in selling the bigger house and finding one that is smaller and more affordable. If health concerns are important but not a present problem, there are numerous community living situations in which elderly people are active and engaged in daily activities of their choice.

Long-term care for beloved pets provides great peace of mind

Many persons find that they and their families are attached with a lasting bond to their beloved and faithful pets. Few people in Texas, or anywhere else for that matter, have done anything to provide long-term care for their pets in the event that they are left without the care of their owners at some time in the future. Fortunately, it is not that difficult to set in motion certain contingencies to take care of pets should an unfortunate separation occur.

The Humane Societies throughout the country have taken up this subject and may have valuable information and assistance for the interested owner. Some protection for pets can be as simple as having neighbors and relatives assigned to care for the pets in the event of a temporary or even permanent separation. Perhaps the ideal situation would be to have relatives who already know and love the animals ready and willing to take over if and when necessary.

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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