Tag: Elder Law

Encourage Your Parents to Meet with a Houston Elder Law Attorney Early to Avoid Serious Complications

Unfortunately, many elderly people wait until they are already experiencing problems to meet with a Houston elder law attorney. The reason this is so tragic is because by then it may be too late to put a plan in place that would help them as they go through the difficult stages of life they will soon experience. Without a plan in place, the family’s life can hit a tailspin when the elderly parent is diagnosed with a serious medical issue. The adult children suddenly become caregivers which can wreak havoc on their own family and the elderly person can be facing sudden changes in living arrangements and everything else they know.

At our offices, we have seen many situations where the family waited too long to get our help. We find that the reasons given for waiting so long vary a bit, but here are a few that are very common.

A slow decline becomes an instant problem.

It is not unusual for older people to become forgetful; they say it is a normal part of aging. It is easy to overlook some of the benign behavior like forgetting birthdays and missing appointments. But, many families do not realize the extent of the elder’s problem until something major happens – like they struggle to find their way home or they forget to turn off the stove. If you see signs of memory problems in your parents, take them to their doctor for a full medical evaluation and get them to a qualified elder law attorney in Houston. The attorney can only help you if the elder is capable of legally signing documents.

The elder fears losing control.

It is really hard to modify the parent-child dynamic. Even as an adult, your parents may still see you as their child who needs them. Other times, it can be difficult for formally independent people to ask for help – especially from their kids. The best way I have found to help here is to simply explain to them that by planning their future now, they are actually staying in control of their future. Planning now means they get to pick their living arrangements, the type of medical care they would like and even the type of intervention they would want at the end. There is really no better way to stay in control of your destiny!

They want to keep their private information private.

Many elderly individuals tend to be very private about their finances. Discussing money with children can be an uncomfortable topic as many in their generation found it improper. Or, they may be embarrassed that their financial situation is not what they wanted it to be. Either way, this is a barrier I encourage you to get past. Not having access to financial information is a great deal of stress on adult children who are suddenly left with incapacitated parents. One way I have worked through this with families is to let the elder know that they can work with a qualified elder law attorney who will keep their information confidential until such time as it is necessary for their designated representative (it may or may not be their child) needs it.

Breaking though these challenges can be very difficult on your own. Our Houston elder attorneys have experience discussing these and other uncomfortable topics and have a great track record of putting families at ease. Do your parents a favor and encourage them to get started. Planning early will give them the opportunity to make their own decisions about the future of their finances. Give us a call today at (281) 218-0880.

Houston Elder Lawyer: Extra VA Benefits Are Available for Wartime Veterans to Help Pay for Long-Term Care

Long-term care is expensive, and many seniors in the Greater Houston area struggle to pay for the costs associated with aging and their declining health.  Fortunately for older veterans that served the country during a period of war, additional tax-free benefits may be available through the VA to help offset their out-of-pocket costs.

This benefit is known as the Aid and Attendance Pension, and it is a 3-tiered tax-free benefit for wartime veterans and their spouses who need financial assistance, or simply need help covering the costs associated with long-term care or un-reimbursed medical expenses.

Aid and Attendance is designed for veterans who need help with performing functions of everyday living including, bathing, feeding, dressing, toileting, etc. The benefit can even be used to pay a family member who oversees or provides the care for their loved-one.

There are 4 criteria for eligibility:  service, income, net worth, and medical expenses.  You do not need to have a service-connected disability to qualify.  The VA will look to ensure that you:

  • Are permanently and totally disabled, or 65 or older
  • The veteran must be honorably discharged
  • The veteran must have served at least 90 consecutive days, with at least one (1) day during a period of war.

How to Plan for Eligibility

There are strict income and asset requirements that must be met in order to qualify for Aid and Attendance benefits. However, even if you have assets or money in your name, you still may be able to secure Aid & Attendance benefits.  Similar to Medicaid, the government allows veterans to utilize financial tools and planning strategies with the assistance of an attorney in order to legally reallocate assets to fall within the VA’s guidelines.  Once approved, older veterans and their spouses can be eligible for up to $25,525 per year, tax-free, to help pay for their care.

Get Help When Seeking A & A Benefits!  

Our Houston elder attorneys recognize that securing A & A benefits and working with the VA can be difficult. Many veterans are turned away because they do not understand the VA’s rules or the planning available to help meet the VA’s asset and income requirements.  Our attorneys are available to assist you in order to determine the best legal and financial tools necessary to qualify and quickly help you get the benefits you deserve. To schedule a consultation, simply call our office at (281) 218-0880.

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.

Mom Might Have Dementia, Can She Still Write a Will in Texas?

If your elderly parent is becoming more forgetful or is demonstrating other unusual behavior, you should get them to a doctor right away to be checked for dementia. More than 3 million cases of dementia are diagnosed each year and is most prevalent among people 65 years old or older. Dementia is often overlooked at the beginning because sometimes the symptoms are very vague, but if caught early, there are steps that you can take to improve your loved one’s cognitive health.

Unfortunately, many people fail to put an estate plan in place and only take action during a medical crisis or after a diagnosis such as dementia. In some of those cases, it is too late due to the client’s diminished capacity. You should not, however, assume that it is always too late.

In order for the legal documents to be valid you must be able to prove that the signer had mental capacity at the time they signed. So even if an individual is suffering from dementia as long as they still have periods of lucidity they may still be competent enough to sign a will in Texas.

The following criteria must be met in order for an individual to be considered mentally competent:

  1. They understand the nature and extent of the property that they own.
  2. They remember who their relatives and descendants are and are able to select who should inherit their property.
  3. They understand the function of a will.
  4. They understand how all of these things are put together to form and estate plan.

It is extremely important that all 4 of these criteria are met when executing the will or you could be leaving the door open for other family members to contest the will. If the will is successfully contested it will be considered invalid and the estate would have to pass through the state’s intestacy laws. Or, if there was a prior valid will, that would be used to settle your parent’s estate. If your parent is showing early signs of dementia, call our office right away for a free consultation. We can make sure that your parent’s wishes are known and documented in a way that will avoid a court challenge.