Tag: Houston Elder Law Attorney

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.

The Daughters of Casey Kasem and Peter Falk Lobby for Elder Law Legislation

MP900399669The daughters of two late celebrities are looking to find easier ways for family and friends to visit ailing elders. They've brought separate pieces of legislation to Washington State in memory of their fathers' end-of-life struggles.

KOMO News recently ran a news item, "Daughters of Casey Kasem, Peter Falk tackle elder visitation," which tells their similar stories. Both Kerri Kasem and Catherine Falk were blocked from visiting their fathers, Casey Kasem and Peter Falk, because of personal disagreements with family members. Both men were suffering from serious illnesses.

The daughters had to take legal action to see their fathers. As a result of their experiences, the women are independently working in several states to provide a way for close friends and relatives to visit ailing or incapacitated elder family members without needing to file for guardianship.

Kasem introduced legislation in 11 other states this year and fought for previously passed legislation in Texas and California, as well as a successful bill in Iowa. Falk introduced legislation in more than 20 states this year. However, in Washington, their proposals haven't found overwhelming support, as some feel the new legislation is unnecessary and that the current laws protecting vulnerable elders are adequate.

Radio personality Casey Kasem had dementia. His three adult children from a previous marriage and Jean Kasem, his second wife, fought a heated legal battle over his care. Peter Falk, star of the 1970s TV series "Columbo" became incapacitated in 2008 due to dementia. Likewise, Catherine Falk battled her father's second wife in court to win occasional visits with her father.

Falk's Washington bill says a guardian can't restrict an incapacitated person's right to visit and communicate with anybody. Their consent is presumed based on their history with people, such as close relatives with positive relationships. However, the guardian could block visitation if they showed good cause. The bill would also require guardians to notify close relatives and others if the incapacitated person moves to a new home, spends time in the hospital, or dies.

Kasem's main bill permits a person to petition a court for visitation rights. Another proposal Kasem supports is one that requires a guardian to tell close relatives and friends if an elder spends significant time in the hospital or has died.

None of the bills has been scheduled for a vote.

Kasem said she would be interested in joining forces with Falk or others for guardianship reform legislation.

Reference: KOMO News (January 31, 2016) "Daughters of Casey Kasem, Peter Falk tackle elder visitation"

The Cost of Caregiving

Th (1)Over a recent 12-month period, more than 43 million adults provided care for a vulnerable family member or friend—the contribution to family and society is staggering. One report puts the annual value of unpaid caregiving just for the elderly at $522 billion. That's more money than it would take to retire the 2015 federal deficit.

Kiplinger's recent article, "How to Support a Caregiver," reports that not only do caregivers provide mostly free care, but they also frequently sacrifice their own financial security in the process. The majority of care­givers are women, and for them, the total cost of caregiving amounts to an average of $324,040, according to a MetLife study: $142,690 in forgone wages, $131,350 in lost Social Security benefits, and $50,000 in reduced pension benefits. It doesn't reflect forfeited career opportunities or the expenses caregivers cover out of pocket—several thousand dollars or more a year.

For all their efforts, most people don't think of themselves as caregivers. Rather, they think it's just something you do as family. They don't know there are resources for them. It doesn't have to be done as a solo enterprise. Here's how to find help.

The job of caregiving often falls on the child who lives closest to the parent or on the child who is single. Daughters are more likely to provide basic care, according to the MetLife study, and sons tend to contribute financial support. Discuss roles with your siblings as soon as you realize that your parent or elderly relative needs help. Set up a family meeting—by Skype, FaceTime, or via conference call and have a social worker, mediator, or care manager facilitate the discussion. He or she, as a neutral party, can identify assignments for each of you and help the family navigate emotions that often arise when ailing parents are involved. Also discuss how caregiving and related expenses will be covered and look at it as a business proposition. If you're the primary caregiver, your family might agree to pay you as an independent contractor. If so, it's good to have a formal contract, known as a personal care agreement, to detail the terms of the arrangement. Or your parent might pay you—either from income and savings or by adjusting his or her estate plan to give you a bigger piece of the pie. Whatever the plan, get buy-in from your siblings right away.

Even with your siblings' help, you may need somebody to stop by your parent's place to fix meals or to provide transportation. A local area agency can provide direct support to caregivers, including respite care (usually on a limited basis), counseling and emergency assistance. They can also connect you with local providers for such services as home-delivered meals, transportation, and help with chores. Some of these services may be free, but if a volunteer isn't available, check out caregiving agencies. If you need a supervised setting for your relative while you're at work or so you can take a break, look at adult day care. They offer meals, supervised outings, and sometimes health services. Consider hiring a geriatric care manager if your parent has complicated needs or lives out of state.

Remember that Medicare doesn't pay for personal or homemaking care, but it does cover home health care for people who are homebound and intermittently need skilled nursing or physical or occupational therapy. The services must be part of a plan that is established and reviewed by a doctor, and they must be provided through a Medicare-certified home health agency. Medicaid has specific income eligibility rules, which vary by state.

Long-term care insurance also pays for in-home care, but you may have to wait up to 120 days, depending on the policy, before coverage starts.

Your ability to balance caregiving and your day job may depend on your boss. Recently, some employers have begun programs that educate employees on elder-care resources and create a more receptive atmosphere for discussing work accommodations like job sharing.

The stress of working a full-time job while caring for an elderly relative can be overwhelming, and if you're considering quitting your job, try to work at least long enough to vest in your pension or 401(k) plan (which may require vesting for employer contributions) or to accumulate enough credits to qualify for Social Security. Prepare a budget for paying expenses after you leave your job. Rather than quit altogether, see if you can switch to part-time status, and be sure to find out how this would impact your benefits.

Talk to your parents while they are still healthy about their expectations for later care and how they plan to pay for it. If you do this before someone's ill, it's easier and you make better decisions.

Reference: Kiplinger (January 2016) "How to Support a Caregiver"