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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.

Long-term care planning is a process best started early

Experts in elder care planning in Texas and elsewhere recommend strongly that families have a conversation with an elderly parent about his or her preferences and desires for long-term care. The talk must take place when the individual has control of his or her faculties and can contribute to the conversation. Early planning for long-term care can ultimately assure financial and emotional stability for all of the concerned family members.

One tough problem is that people tend to put this subject at the bottom of their priorities. That is unfortunate because the truth is that 70 percent of persons over 65 will need some form of long term care services, and the majority are not prepared. Furthermore, people who investigate the facts will find that the contribution of Medicare to long-term care is virtually nil. Additionally, in order to qualify for Medicaid to fund nursing home care, one's assets must be spent down and gifted away years before requesting services.

Good planning will include ignore long-term care protection

It is difficult to engage people in a discussion of long-term care needs when they are busy making sure that their expenses today and tomorrow do not exceed their budgetary constraints. People in Texas and elsewhere are reluctant to talk about long-term care when those needs seem so far away and possibly unnecessary. However, ignoring long-term care planning can be a devastating mistake under most life outcomes.

The problem does need to be addressed, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which reports that 70 percent of Americans who reach 65 years will need assistance with everyday activities of life. This may be due to a chronic illness or disabling injury, including Alzheimer's, cancer, stroke, diabetes and the like. Despite this authoritative report, less than one-third of Americans age 50 or more have any plans for long-term care.

Long-term care plan needs to be studied early to plan options

One of the biggest challenges a person can face is preparing for the day when one may no longer be independent and self-sufficient. Due to a decline in physical or mental health, or both, the day may come when a person has to rely on others to make decisions about his or her long-term care. Lest one views the subject as too gloomy to worry about, it should be remembered that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 70 percent of those 65 and older, including residents of Texas, will need some form of long-term care.

The average period of long-term care will be about three years. Despite those surprising statistics, only 35 percent of Americans age 40 and older have any kind of planning in place. In prior articles, we have stressed the importance of an elderly person meeting with family members for a discussion on future needs, preferences and planning for such potentialities. This, however, is happening in only about 40 percent of the cases.

Long-term care planning requires careful evaluation of all facts

The key problem that arises with respect to elderly planning is the high cost of extended care facilities during one's later years. Many people do not begin to even thing about long-term care until they hit their eighties, but due to the five-year look back period it would be far better to take this up in one's early to mid-sixties. There are numerous rules in Texas that provide the qualifications for one to be able to get Medicaid services, and an early consultation with an elder law attorney would be a good way to becoming well informed and prepared.

There is a limit on the value of assets that one can have in order to qualify for Medicaid. Early planning, through appropriate gifting to family members, may be all that is necessary in some instances. Additionally, some assets are exempt and will be appropriately maintained in their current status. These include certain retirement accounts and the applicant's home under certain circumstances, such as where a spouse, minor or disabled or blind child is living in the home.

Elder law planning works best when a family meeting can be held

Elder law professionals and financial advisers in Texas and elsewhere generally recommend that a family have an honest and forthright conversation with an elderly loved one to discuss the elderly person's wishes and intentions for those later, advanced years in life. Elder law planning is best done early, when the individual is still in full control of his or her faculties and physical health. It will prove to be critically helpful when advanced age makes it difficult for one to function independently.

Preparation for anything in life always pays off in premiums. Pitfalls and obstacles generally emerge when a future event or change in lifestyle was not prepared and planned out in advance. This is particularly true when the subject is about advanced aging and care for the elderly loved one whom we want to make as comfortable and as independent as possible. One of the things to discuss is the elder person's preferences for final illness care and other decisions with respect to his or her medical treatment.

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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