Category: End-of Life-Planning

Should I Pre-Plan and Pre-Pay for my Funeral Expenses in Texas?

Many people come into our Houston estate planning law firm seeking to pre-plan their funeral so that they can relieve their loved ones of the burden of doing so when they are gone.  Because of the growing demand for funeral pre-planning, local funeral homes are also responding by offering different plans that allow people to pre-plan the service they would like, pick out a casket, and even pay for everything in advance. Pre-planning your funeral here in Texas can be a wise idea, but you might want to think twice before pre-paying for your final expenses in advance.

You should be aware that here in Houston the state of Texas, there are rules that often require the funeral home to invest the money paid to them so that it is available when needed. Some funeral homes put that money in a trust fund or buy an insurance policy naming itself as beneficiary.  With that said, if you are considering a pre-paid plan, you should find out the following:

  • If your funeral home goes out of business, will you lose part or all of your investment?
  • If you move out of the area, is there a penalty or complete loss of your plan?
  • If the funeral home invests the money you pay them, do they get to keep the interest or do you?
  • Can you change or cancel your plan?
  • If you sign up for a payment plan and you die before it is complete, does the funeral home have an insurance policy that will cover the remaining costs?

Because pre-paying your funeral here in Texas often comes with risks and a lot of “unknowns”, an alternative (and sometimes better option) is to work with an attorney to create a trust which will allow you to provide detailed instructions about your final wishes and set aside funds to cover the expenses.  This is all set up and controlled by you, removing the funeral home as the middle man, while still providing you with the same same peace of mind that your end-of-life affairs are taken care of.

If you would like help to independently pre-plan and pre-pay your final affairs, including your funeral,  call our Houston estate attorneys at (281) 218-0880 to  set up a consultation. If you would like, we have an expert that can review the funeral home contract that you are currently considering and tell you what other options may be available.

Alzheimer’s Patient Spoon-Fed Because Directive Wasn’t Specific

In 40 years, Bill Harris built up a lifetime of memories with his wife, Nora, but since she was diagnosed with early onset of Alzheimer’s seven years ago, things have changed.

“She doesn't really make words sometimes,” said Harris in an article on KGW.com entitled “Man says state ignoring wife's wishes in advance directive.” 11-07-16

For Harris, this tough situation got even more difficult with the decision of a southern Oregon judge this summer. The judge, in effect, “condemned her to ride out Alzheimer’s to the bitter end,” said Harris. He says it’s exactly what she didn’t want.

When Nora was told of her diagnosis, she completed an advance directive to be certain that her illness wouldn’t be prolonged. She believed when it wasn’t mechanically possible to eat by herself then she wanted to let nature take its course. However, now she’s stopped eating by herself and is being spoon-fed at a nursing home because, according to the judge’s ruling, her advance directive wasn't specific enough.

Still, the advance directive forms usually only cover getting fed through a tube, creating a conflict between two laws. An advance directive allows you to elect what happens if you become incapacitated, but the state law is there to make sure that care facilities do their job.

Advanced directives should be as specific as possible.

“What they did was basically sentence her to have to experience the full gamut of Alzheimer's,” said Harris. He said he also wishes the judge would have ruled in the spirit of the law and not the letter.

The advance directive law has limitations, but the legislature could amend the law so someone can make decisions on a loved one's behalf. However, now the best option is to be as specific as possible when filling out an advance directive.

Reference: KGW.com (Sept. 19, 2016) “Man says state ignoring wife's wishes in advance directive”

Bonehead Mistakes Retirees Need to Avoid

With the excitement of retirement, money can be the last thing you would have on your mind. However, if you have a careless approach to your money, you can be headed for financial pain. 10-25-16

Starts at 60 recently published an article, “Three silly money mistakes retirees can make,” that identifies three big mistakes you could be making with your money as a retiree.

  1. Spending too much, too soon. It can be difficult to fight the urge to spend money when you’ve retired, but spending too much early on in your retirement has severe consequences. Not only does it make your wallet lighter, it also means you don’t get the returns the money could have made for you in the next five, ten or twenty years.

If you’re planning on retiring, plan well in advance. Review your superannuation, pension and savings to create a budget for your retirement. If you’re already retired and spending too much in the early days, see a professional and modify your budget and investments.

  1. Heeding the investment advice of family and friends. While they may only be trying to help, these folks may not be the best people to ask for financial and investment advice. Seek advice from a financial planner or investment advisor.
  2. Failing to plan your estate. Who wants to think about and plan for their death when they are busy enjoying retired life? However, failing to plan your estate could have consequences for your loved ones after you pass away. Without an estate plan, you might not be able to transfer your wealth to your family when you die. Plus, it can create a huge tax bill, meaning less for your spouse and family. Talk with an experienced estate planning attorney and take care of this ASAP.

Reference: Starts at 60 (September 6, 2016) “Three silly money mistakes retirees can make”

Taking Care of Your Furry Friends When You Die

Pets are part of your family and can give you a lifetime of love and companionship. A recent 12 News Phoenix article, “What if your pet outlives you? Here are some options,” says that being a responsible pet owner means much more than the day-to-day care of your animal. You must think about possible life-changing circumstances that might leave you unable to care for your pet—as well as what happens if your pet outlives you. 10-24-16

Pet trusts and estate plans can be created to help your pets—along with some other legal options. To set aside some money, you can create a fund inside a trust and have that money managed for the pet guardian. If you can’t find someone to take responsibility for your pet, there are several options to prevent Fluffy from going to a public county facility or shelter.

For example, there is Gilbert's Furever Friends Rescue in Arizona that helps pets who outlive their owners. They help those in need pass along their pets before they’re unable to care for them. With all of the retirees in the Copper State, it’s common for people to move to the Southwest; however, their families haven’t all moved with them. As a result, there’s no one in the retirement community to help them out.

The rescue is totally nonprofit, and it aims to decrease the number of intakes and euthanasia cases in Maricopa and Pinal counties. Since it started four years ago, Gilbert's has managed to adopt out more than 1,500 dogs and cats and has helped more than 300 families.

Gilbert's doesn’t charge for animal surrender, but pets must be vetted, spayed and neutered, and have up-to-date vaccines.

A little planning can go a long way to give pet owners peace of mind. Talk to an estate planning attorney about pet trusts and estate planning. It is best to make these decisions about your pets before you have to. Be certain your pet will be cared for, even if it’s not with you.

Reference: 12 News Phoenix (September 5, 2016) “What if your pet outlives you? Here are some options”