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Houston Estate Planning Law Blog

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.

Texas law sets priorities in how guardians are appointed

You may believe you know best when it comes to appointing a guardian for someone who needs one, but the state of Texas doesn't make the same assumption. State law lays out rather clear guidelines for courts as they are faced with deciding who should serve as a guardian.

Of course, as we noted in the previous post, the first thing that has to happen is that the court has to determine if and when a guardian is needed. The conditions for such an appointment might be that a minor child no longer has the benefit of either of his or her parents. In other situations, it might be that a person has become incapacitated due to injury or illness requiring that the naming of a guardian or conservator.

What does Texas law require in appointing a guardian?

Who needs a guardian? Most everyone in Texas would probably agree that children need guardians. But that's a role typically filled by one or both of the child's parents. Once a child becomes an adult that guardianship role may get taken off the parents' plate. However, if individuals can't take care of themselves for some reason, then the parent's guardian role might need to continue. A guardian might also need to be appointed if a loved one suddenly becomes incapacitated.

You may have heard of cases in which someone sought to have another person declared incapacitated and to have a guardian appointed to take care of their physical, medical and financial needs. Most of the time this is done with the best of intentions but sometimes the motivations aren't so altruistic. That's why Texas law requires certain criteria be met to prove a person is incapacitated and that a guardian is needed.

Create a will, other documents before traveling this summer

It is the time of year when many people in Texas are planning a vacation. While they consider destinations, lodging and entertainment, the importance of having a will and other estate planning documents may be far from their mind. However, some professionals advise that creating these documents could provide vacationers with peace of mind as they travel.

When traveling on roadways or in planes, a person could face additional risks. Also, while on vacation some people may tend to seek activities that could be more risky than their everyday activities. As a result, having estate planning documents up to date can ensure that a person's wishes are known in the event of an unexpected accident or illness. For example, having a will can help a person designate how one's assets will be distributed and who will serve as guardian of his or her children. A will could be especially important in cases of blended families as step-children, even those who a person raised from the time they were little, are likely not identified as heirs unless specified in a will.

A trust can help people in Texas manage their estate

When a person thinks of estate planning, the first thing that typically comes to mind is the creation of a last will and testament. While this is an important part of the process, the creation of other legal documents are just as important. For example, there are many people in Texas who choose to create a living trust in order to protect their estate and beneficiaries.

Despite the benefits of creating trusts, many people have some misconceptions about them. In most cases, creating one is a relatively simple process. Once the creator, also known as the grantor, decides the purpose of the trust and investment goals as well as who will serve as trustee, preparing the appropriate agreement is a relatively simple process for an experienced attorney. Unfortunately, some people believe that such an agreement is only for the wealthy. The fact is that many people, even those who do not have extreme wealth, have found a trust to be helpful in planning their estate and protecting their retirement savings, for example.

Estate planning for blended families in Texas

Families in Texas come in many different forms. While there are many traditional families, there are also blended families created by a parent's remarriage. These families may have unique estate planning needs in order to ensure that a person's wishes are known and followed after his or her death.

When remarrying, there are several issues that must be taken into consideration. One of those is whom to list as a beneficiary on retirement accounts, for example. These likely need to be updated to remove a former spouse. Additionally, it is necessary to decide how assets will be split. If there are children from a previous relationship, the person will likely want to ensure that those children as well as their current spouse are cared for if he or she should pass away.

Estate planning lessons to learn from Prince

Fans and the musical community in Texas and across the country are still reeling from the news of the tragic and unexpected death of the singer Prince. In the meantime, his potential heirs are scrambling to determine how his estate should be valued and divided. Significantly complicating matters is the fact that it appears that there are no estate planning documents in place detailing Prince's wishes.

In an initial hearing regarding his estate, a judge ruled that there does not appear to be estate plans, including a will, in place, leaving the administration of his estimated $500 million estate in turmoil. While questions regarding his estate are addressed, a special administrator has been appointed. It could be a significant period of time before his estate is settled.

Estate planning for single parents

Raising children comes with a great deal of concerns and decisions that must be made. One of the most important decisions focuses on who will care for the children if the parents become unable to do so -- this is especially important if only one parent is in the picture. Fortunately, by going through the estate planning process, parents in Texas are able to provide protections for their children when they are no longer able to do so themselves.

Many people have the misconception that estate planning is only for those with a large estate. However, it is equally important for parents of any economic means to prepare a plan as well. By creating a will, a parent can name a guardian for hir or her children in the event of death or incapacitation. If no guardian is named, children could end up in the foster care system even if there is a grandparent willing and able to take over custody.

Important decisions for the estate planning process

For some people in Texas, it is difficult to plan for death for a variety of different reasons. Many people believe that they will always have another day to go through the estate planning process. Unfortunately, unexpected accidents occur and medical issues arise that could ultimately prevent a person from creating the necessary documents that would both ensure that his or her wishes are known and provide for loved ones. If the estate planning process has been completed, families who are undergoing a great deal of stress may be better prepared for the decisions that must be made following the loss of a family member.

People who are anticipating the estate planning process must take stock of both their financial circumstances as well as the role they want certain people to play. A list of assets as well as their value, including real estate, life insurance policies and business interests, help create a better picture of the size of an estate. Additionally, a person going through the process will need to name people to fulfill certain roles. An executor will gather and distribute assets while naming a guardian helps ensure that underage children are cared for by a person of the parent's choice. Also, naming a medical power of attorney helps ensure that an individual who is aware of the person's wishes can make medical decisions if he or she becomes unable to do so.

Who/what is the federal estate tax on?

Different estates raise different sorts of estate planning/administration concerns. Some estates raise estate tax issues. When a person dies and their estate is a particularly high-value estate, their estate might trigger the federal estate tax.

When it comes to any tax, among the details it is important to know is who/what the tax is on. An important thing to note about the federal estate tax is that the tax, if it is triggered, is not put on the estate's heirs. Rather, it is put on the estate itself. So, when an estate triggers the federal estate tax, handling matters related to the tax is often among the responsibilities of the personal representative of the estate.

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