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Houston Estate Planning Law Blog

Upcoming Events - January

At Hayes & Wilson, we love to provide information to the community about Estate Planning, Guardianship, Trusts, and Probate. Sometimes we attend events to speak and impart knowledge and sometimes we attend to continue our own education. Here's what's coming up on our agenda:

What is a Miller Trust, and how might it help my family?

Just as American life is marked by rapid change and flux, constancy, too, is an overriding theme in many areas of our society.

That is, some things that loom large in everyday life remain essentially the same over time, notwithstanding broad-based efforts to modify them.

Take health care costs, for example. High outlays for care have been a sobering concern of individuals and families in Texas and across the country for years, with a great national debate ongoing that is focused upon possible solutions for combating ever-escalating expenditures.

Yet while that debate goes on, medical costs for many Americans continue to spike, to the point where affordability and the availability of care for millions have become fundamental national concerns.

Probate: What is it, and what is an attorney's role?

The term "probate," being a description for a technical and highly detailed estate administration process, is likely not fully understood by many lay persons.

Indeed, that is similarly true for many lawyers as well, especially attorneys who practice professionally in fields other than estate planning.

'Probate' has been somewhat narrowly construed as a forum/process for resolving questions and issues surrounding a will. Was one executed? Did it satisfy all of a state's particulars for being a valid legal instrument, or was it infirm for lacking something essential, such as a witness, a testator's signature or a sufficient description regarding an inheritance?

With Medicaid, advance planning is of critical importance

At Hayes & Wilson , PLLC, we believe it would be a great disservice to mince words about the importance of Medicaid planning for our clients who will likely need to qualify for and use Medicaid in the future.

Frankly, Medicaid is not something to gloss over or visit in tardy fashion without close assistance from a proven elder law attorney. As we candidly state on the Medicaid Qualifications page of our firm’s website, “simply filing for Medicaid without sound legal counsel could result in a tremendous and unnecessary loss of income and available assets.”

The reasons for that distinct and adverse possibility are several, and should be clearly understood by all individuals who will need to rely upon this important government program in their senior years.

Advance healthcare directive: What is it, and do I need one?

No one can predict the future, especially when it comes to health-related developments. As much as most of us would like to think otherwise, life sometimes intervenes in ways that take us and our loved ones by surprise.

In the realm of personal health, that might mean that a medical emergency suddenly arises that no family member has even remotely contemplated. Alternatively, it can simply mean that a person is reaching the end of his or her life, but has failed to engage in any timely planning that will provide guidance to family members regarding potentially important health care decisions that will need to be made.

In short, and as noted in a primer on advance healthcare directives, families often find themselves unprepared when the time comes to discuss what a loved one who can no longer communicate might want -- or does not want -- regarding medical treatment or intervention. Moreover, it can be unclear who is entitled to make decisions and act upon such things.

Is there more than one type of guardianship under Texas law?

The answer to the above-posed headline is that, indeed, Texas statutory law provides for more than one type of guardianship.

In fact, two distinct guardianships are frequently cited to and distinguished within the state, namely, guardianship of the person and guardianship of the estate, respectively.

As noted in an online question-and-answer overview of Texas guardianships, the care rendered pursuant to those two types of appointments is quite different.

Trusts: flexible and widely applicable estate planning tools

As noted in a recent article on estate planning, select trust instruments are eminently useful and powerful legal tools for still-living grantors that can be readily modified or revoked during their lifetimes.

As that article states, trusts command broad-based utility, indeed, having instant applicability and tremendous flexibility for use across a wide universe of planning concerns and considerations.

Does an adult who is single need an estate plan?

Many single people in Texas and nationally likely shrug off recommendations that they pay attention to estate planning, thinking that doing so doesn’t really begin to make sense for them personally until they marry, have children and/or accumulate substantial wealth.

Is that true? Is there a bona-fide need for single persons to focus upon estate administration considerations when they have only themselves to think about?

Most financial planners and estate experts would say that, yes, single people have strong -- even compelling -- reasons for crafting a sound estate plan.

Moreover, they would add that having “only themselves to think about” is more often further from the truth than what is actually the reality for many single people.

There are useful alternatives to appointing a guardian

Appointing a guardian to make important decisions for a loved one can be a difficult process for many families in Texas. When a loved one is apparently disabled, the emotional toll on family members is often a concern. The rules and standards that apply in appointing a guardian can also be cumbersome.

In October, we discussed the standards and explained some of the terminology involved in guardianship proceedings (including emphasizing that the concept of a conservatorship involving an incapacitated adult is addressed under the legal term guardianship). We also discussed how having a guardian appointed can allow a family to choose a trusted person to make decision on behalf of the disabled family member.

If you are thinking about long-term care insurance, note this

Given the roller-coaster ride that has centrally marked the stock market in recent years, it is eminently understandable that many soon-to-be retirees and persons already embarked on their post-career lives fret over market dislocations when they review their so-called nest eggs.

Many of those people should be more concerned about their health than they are about their money.

As noted by a recent article on long-term care, it is an extended stay in a care facility that eats up savings more quickly for most Americans than does the occasional downward churning of the stock market.

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