Month: April 2017

Houston Estate Planning for the Chronically Ill

More than half of Americans now have at least one chronic health condition, mental disorder or substance abuse issue. That is a staggering statistic, even for me as a Houston estate planning lawyer that works with sick and disabled clients every day.

There are two common definitions for chronically ill. The first definition is a disease that a person will live with for many years. This types of illness include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, lupus, MS, hepatitis C, and asthma. The legal definition of chronic illness states “the person is unable to perform at least two activities of daily living such as eating, toileting, transferring, bathing and dressing, or requires considerable supervision to protect from crisis relating to health and safety due to severe impairment concerning mind, or having a level of disability similar to that determined by the Social Security Administration for disability benefits.”

Everyone needs estate planning, but for the chronically ill there is a high sense of urgency. For healthy people, a will or trust plans for the “what if?” When you have a chronic illness, you are planning for the “here and now.”  We can help you set up a plan for your care and well-being by naming someone who can make medical decisions if you are not able to do so yourself. Without a plan that includes a HIPPA authorization and healthcare directives, the person that you choose may not legally be able to speak for you.

Additionally, an estate planning lawyer in Houston can help you utilize tools such as trusts to protect assets so that you can be eligible for Medicaid without totally scrambling your nest egg.  A living trust can also give you the peace of mind knowing that your estate will easily be passed to your heirs without going through the probate process when you do eventually pass away.

The bottom line is this: do not assume that because you are suffering from a chronic illness that it is too late to take steps to better your financial situation or safeguard your family.  Even if you are (or have a loved one) currently in a nursing home, there may still be options!  The first step is to simply contact our office. We will schedule a planning session with you and walk through all of the avenues of protection that could work best for your family.

Houston Elder Lawyer Answers, “When should I start planning for long-term care?”

One of the most frequently asked questions our Houston elder lawyers receive is, “When should we start planning for long-term care?” The short answer is, “Long before you need it!”

When it comes to your home, your health and your finances, you want to be in the driver’s seat. That is why it is so important to plan now for any future care you may need. Even if you have a nice nest egg set aside for retirement, it could quickly become cracked and scrambled if you require a stay in a nursing home or need assisted living. A nursing home stay could easily cost you $6,000 to $12,000 per month. How long would your money last at that rate?

Many people realize that long-term care is a rising concern for elderly individuals. While it is true that most people living in long term care facilities are older, planning for long-term care is not something you should put off. At any point, any one of us could require long-term care. Just one accident could place you in long-term care facility for the reminder of your life.

Unfortunately, we have seen families forced into debt and even bankruptcy to meet the needs of their loved ones. This is why we discuss the need for long-term care insurance with all of our clients. Additionally, we make sure that you have all of the proper legal documents such as powers of attorney and healthcare directives in place in the event something happens to you and someone has to step in and make financial and medical decisions on your behalf.

A solid Medicaid Plan and/or Irrevocable trust may also be a wise idea in order to protect your family’s finances from the grasp of long term-care facilities, without jeopardizing your loved one’s access to benefits such as Medicaid down the road.

When setting up your plan, it is important to meet with an attorney that not just handles estates, but also elder law issues, in order to create a strategy for long-term care that will protect your family and provide total peace of mind.

If you have any questions about a long-term care plan or would like to discuss the documents that you need, contact our Houston elder attorneys at (281) 218-0880.

Harris County Probate vs. Non-Probate Property – Know the Difference

Many people think that as long as your will clearly defines how you would like to transfer your property at your death, it will be an easier, straight forward process. However, this is not always the case.  Especially when it comes to probate in Harris County. There are many different rules that can impact how assets are transferred in a way that maybe you had not intended.

Probate is the legal process of overseeing the transfer of property of an individual that passes away without a living trust.  During the creation of your will, you will name an executor to oversee the process of carrying out your final wishes and the transfer of your assets that are in your name.

But, does everything you own have to go through this probate process—which is public, easy to contest and can take a long time?  It depends.  Property can become non-probate property depending on whose name is listed as the owner. Property will be considered non-probate property if:

  • There is a joint owner with right of survivorship
  • A beneficiary is already designated on a life insurance or a retirement account
  • Property is owned by a trust with named beneficiaries

In these cases, joint owners and beneficiaries displace the request of the will. At the time of death the property will pass automatically to the joint owner or beneficiary without the approval of the probate court.

The bottom line is that your will is not necessarily the final authority on where your property and assets will go at the time of your death. Knowing the difference between which assets are subject to probate and which are not can save your family a lot of heart ache. If you want to be certain that your family gets the money and property that you want to leave to them, call our office at (281) 218-0880 to schedule a consultation.

Houston Asset Protection Lawyer: Learn How To Reduce Your Chances of Being Sued

As a Houston asset protection lawyer, I can report that statistics show that there were approximately 20 million lawsuits last year.

Let that sink in a minute.

20 million lawsuits.

There are many con-artists and scammers just waiting to take advantage of the legal system to deprive you of your hard-earned wealth. Many of the lawsuits above were what I would consider frivolous, but even frivolous lawsuits are often settled for staggering amounts of money.

If you are a business owner, property owner or a professional service provider such as a doctor or dentist, you are particularly vulnerable. Here are a few examples of some of the most common lawsuits against professionals:

_          Personal injury on your property

_          Personal injury as a result from a motor vehicle accident

_          Malpractice liability

_          Lawsuits from former partners

_          Liability arising from misconduct

These are just a few examples of vulnerabilities that businesses face. But the number of ways you can get sued is only limited by the imaginations of the disreputable people waiting in the wings.

The best way to prevent these types of lawsuits is preparedness. There are various asset protection strategies that will protect your business and yourself. By using a series of asset strategies you can protect yourself from future creditors.  In addition to protecting yourself, you may also deter potential con-artists and creditors from filing frivolous lawsuits against you in the future.

Asset protection can only help you if you have it in place before someone sues you. You cannot put one in place today to protect your assets from current debtors or current complaints against you. It is important to act now to protect your assets from those that seek to make their own fortune at your expense.

If you would like to discuss what type of asset protection strategies you can employ, give our Houston asset protection lawyers a call at (281) 218-0880 to schedule a consultation B before you need it!