Tag: estate planning

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.

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.

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.

Houston Will Lawyers: Estate Planning Documents Everyone Needs Now

We have all heard stories of families that found themselves in a tailspin because a loved one passed away or became incapacitated without a proper estate plan. No matter what your age, you could really leave your family with a mess to clean up during an already very emotional time if you get sick or die without the right legal documents in place. It is important to help make things as easy as possible for the people you love by having your affairs in order. Here are five documents to consider creating right away.

  1. Last Will and Testament and/or Living Trust

A will is a document used to leave instructions about what should happen to your property after you die. In addition, you can use a will to name guardians for your minor children and even your pets. Depending on your situation, a Living Trust may add another layer of protection and control to your planning while allowing your family to avoid the potential costly (and slow!) probate process after you die. Your loved ones will be relieved to know that your final affairs will be administered smoothly using these documents and that they are properly carrying out your wishes.

  1. Durable power of attorney

A power of attorney allows you to choose someone to act on your behalf financially and legally in case you cannot make decisions. If you do not designate someone, your loved one’s hands could be tied if you are incapacitated. Many people put off creating a durable power of attorney because they think they are relinquishing control. This is not necessarily the case, as you can create a power of attorney that only takes effect if and when you are incapacitated if this is an issue for you.

  1. A medical power of attorney or living will

This document is different from the power of attorney described above. The medical power of attorney allows someone to make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to communicate to medical professionals. A living will also allows you to explain in advance what type of care you do or do not want in all types of medical situations.

  1. List of important documents

Make a list directing your family on how to find all of your financial and legal documents. The list should include life insurance policies, annuities, pension or retirement accounts, bank accounts, divorce records, birth/adoption certificates, real estate deeds, stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. If possible, include a list of bills and accounts so that someone can settle and close them.

If you do not have these documents in place, call our Houston Will and Trust Lawyers today to find out how easy and quick the process can be. Not only will your family benefit from your thoughtfulness, but you will be able to make your own decisions instead of leaving them to the courts. Schedule a consultation by simply calling 281-218-0880.