Tag: Medicaid

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.

Come On, Do I Really Need a Will?

The answer to that question has always been an unequivocal “yes”—especially when there’s a spouse, children or stepchildren. However, there are some financial advisers that now say many Americans might not need a will. Forbes’ article, “Do You Really Need A Will?” says that a simpler life may mean you will need a less complex estate plan. However, few people’s lives are that simple. 10-19-2016

If you have minor children, you need a will to designate guardians for them. Also, a will or a trust will let you name someone to watch over assets for a disabled or elderly family member or a relative who may not be good with handling money.

Whether you have prized possessions or you want to bequeath some of your estate to the local animal rescue, a will is essential.

The state in which you live can make a big difference. In community property states, your surviving spouse will only inherit all your community property if all your children are also the children of that spouse. Otherwise, your one-half interest in your community estate will pass to your children. If there is any kind of animosity or resentment, they could make your spouse sell the house and send him or her packing because the kids own half the house.

Without a will, a pet can wind up in a shelter after you die if no one takes responsibility for it. A will can name a responsible person and make for a smoother transition for the animal.

A will can also help elderly parents avoid losing government benefits if you predecease them. If they are beneficiaries of your life insurance policy, a large payout may halt their government benefits unless you write a specific provision in your will.

Reference: Forbes (August 31, 2016) “Do You Really Need A Will?”

Create Your IRA Exit Plan

10-06-2016

IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s and other qualified accounts are popular tools for building a retirement nest egg. But after investing and saving with one of these plans for the last 30 years, as retirement nears you may ask yourself, "What should I do with my retirement account?"

The most common advice given is to withdraw as little out of your IRA as possible while taking your Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). MarketWatch, in its recent article, “IRAs are for retirement planning, not for retirement,” suggests that we should think a bit outside the box before simply following the masses, with regards to your IRA and its RMDs.

If your money manager is advising you to let your IRA sit and only withdraw the RMDs, remember that typically, money managers are making 1-2% in fees on the total amount of money under their management. As such, the money manager has a vested interest in you keeping most of your money under his or her care.

Here are few ideas:

If tax rates increase, qualified accounts don’t give you any protection from future tax liability. If you’re like most Americans who think that taxes will increase in the next decade, do you want to wait for your retirement savings to be taxed at a higher rate? If you're between the ages of 59 and 70½, you are at the perfect spot to start an IRA Exit Plan.

Another consideration is the way in which you’ve titled your IRA and the beneficiary designations. Talk with a qualified estate planning attorney when designating your primary, contingent, and tertiary beneficiaries, as well as when titling an IRA.

Remember that when you set up a trust, your IRA cannot be retitled to your trust. This inability to change ownership of your IRA can lead to gaps in planning for Medicaid and Veteran Benefits. The quick solution is to overcome this by simply changing the IRA's beneficiary to their trust. But beware—there can be dire consequences if your beneficiaries of your IRA are not done properly.

Talk with an estate planning attorney to be certain that the IRA's beneficiary is a trust that qualifies as "See Through Trust,” or else it can cost your families thousands of dollars in taxes by making it instantly taxable upon your death.

There’s no better time to start preparing yourself, as well as your investments, for retirement. Create your IRA Exit plan so that when you enter retirement your assets will be as ready for retirement as you are.

Reference: MarketWatch (August 17, 2016) “IRAs are for retirement planning, not for retirement”