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Houston Estate Planning Law Blog

Is it worth getting Long-Term Care Insurance?

There is a cost to getting older. It is inevitable. The vigor most of us in Texas enjoy through most of our lives doesn't usually last to our dying day. For some the decline can be sudden. For others, issues related to aging can strike relatively early and last for years.

Private insurance can help cover some of the costs with a properly structured policy. Medicare and Medicaid will help, but only so far. Long-term insurance is available, but a lot of insurers have stopped selling the product. When it's available, it can be expensive and rates just seem to be going higher. You have to ask if it's worth it.

Deadline could be looming for 1 popular family trust tool

Have you ever heard of a family limited partnership or family limited liability company? Forgive yourself if you haven't. If you have and you're among those in Texas who have thought about setting up an entity using one of these trusts as part of a comprehensive estate plan, you will want to read further.

Those with experience in this area of law know that these vehicles have been used for quite some time as a way to reduce taxes. However, the Treasury Department recently announced its intention to change the rules to make them less beneficial. The reason for the action, officials say, is abuse by wealthy families that has cost the government millions in revenue.

Making an advanced directive known in an emergency situation

You're a thoughtful person. You understand you won't live forever. That's why you take advantage of one or all of the estate planning solutions available to everyone in Texas – working, of course, with an experienced attorney.

As we noted in our previous post, a number of different options exist. In particularly serious situations, when a person is clearly incapable of making decisions to protect his or her own interests, it might be wise to have someone named as a guardian. Even if you are of sound mind and body now, you can't be sure you'll stay that way. For those situations, alternatives such as assigning power of attorney for medical or financial decisions might be recommended. There is also the advanced medical directive or living will.

Is there something shy of seeking guardianship over a loved one?

The application of available tools to create a conservatorship is not something that should be done in an off-handed way. Those with experience in helping Texas families with such estate planning needs know how valuable the assignment of a guardian can be for a loved one who can't make crucial life, health and financial decisions for themselves, but the process can be daunting.

Indeed, establishing a guardianship situation is legally complicated by design. It's one way officials ensure that whoever is appointed to the task on behalf of a ward understands the responsibilities and the consequences that could be possible if they fail to act in the ward's best interest. It can also be so expensive to administer that it is legitimate to explore if other options exist.

What factors might influence how estate assets get divided?

When individuals in Houston are building an estate, they might not give much thought to what form that structure is taking. They might not even give much thought to the fact that an estate is being created.

You buy a home with the idea that it will be shelter for your family right now, you don't necessarily think about what the place will represent in the event you die. The same could be said for pieces of art you purchase. You typically buy such things for the pleasure they deliver today. Maybe one of your heirs will develop a sense of attachment to a particular piece. Who knows? Moreover, does anyone really think much about the tax implications down the road? Qualified estate planning, administration and probate attorneys do.

A will is all I really need, right?

Let's begin this post with what we think should be a given: Adults, regardless of their level of income or size of estate, should have a will. That so many people in Houston and the surrounding communities don't have even this rudimentary estate planning document in place is disconcerting, especially since it does not take much to create.

However, while a will may be the foundational element of any estate plan, it would be a mistake to think that it represents the peak and pinnacle of possible actions. The array of tools available is broad and can be immensely confusing. That's why it's always wise to consult with an attorney, especially one with demonstrated experience and skill in estate planning matters.

The good news and bad news about parents aging

The aging process can be hard. Some people face it calmly. Others might be fearful. One thing is certain; aging is inevitable. What is less certain is how we deal with it.

The good news is that this is not new territory. Issues related to getting older have been understood for a long time. Texas attorneys with experience in elder law matters appreciate that concerns generally fall into four main categories; health care; housing; finances and, eventually, distribution of the estate.

There may be options if you don't have long-term care insurance

People are living longer today than they used to even 50 years ago. According to the Social Security Administration, the average man in Texas turning 65 today may expect to live another 19 years. The average woman can expect to live until age 86.6.

As much as we would all like to think that we will be hale and hearty our whole lives, it makes sense to plan for the possibility that we might require a certain amount of hands-on care in our final years. Such care is expensive now and will only become more so. With solid estate planning, however, it may be possible to marshal the necessary resources. In some cases, it might even be possible to structure things so that a person can become eligible for Medicaid support.

Timeshares: Secondary assets that can complicate Texas probate

Everyone in Texas probably has an ideal notion of what a vacation getaway should be. For some it might be a second home on the Gulf coast. For others, it might be a condo in the desert. Timeshare properties may be the allure for others. But as we wrote about back in February, such purchases can make things complicated in probate if the owner dies.

This is especially true for any real estate that might exist in a state other than Texas. Whether it is a business asset, some sort of investment or a vacation property, the fact that it is in another state means another jurisdiction is involved. Every state has its own laws regarding probate and they can raise questions about estate administration.

Is there a way to know if a loved one or I will suffer dementia?

There is no definitive test to tell you if someone is suffering from dementia. There are some cognitive tests that can be administered but as the National Center for Biotechnology Information acknowledges, many doctors hesitate to conduct them or even broach the issue with relatives of patients who may appear demented because of the distress it can cause. There is thus a major element of guesswork in making a diagnosis.

Still, there are things individuals can do to anticipate and plan for the possibility that someone could develop one of the various brain diseases that fall under the dementia umbrella. Considering the high cost of providing the care that's required and the fact that dementia leaves the stricken individual unable to make decisions for him or herself, it becomes clear that setting up the legal framework to support long-term care matters. Don't expect that Medicare will be enough to cover the tab.

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