Estate Planning and Elder Law

Estate Planning

Many people mistakenly believe that estate planning is only for the wealthy. In reality, if your estate which includes real estate, belongings, investments and money, equal at least $30,000, your estate could end up in probate.

Many people don’t understand what probate is beyond being something that should be avoided. Probate is a legal process that takes place after someone passes away that settles their affairs. The estate is tallied and inventoried. Debts including taxes are listed and tallied. The person’s will if there was one left is validated. Then what remains after debts are paid is distributed to the family according to the will. If there is no will then state law will dictate how the property is distributed. A family law lawyer can help you to better understand probate.

Probate

During probate, the executor of your will works closely with probate lawyers and judges to settle your affairs. If there is no will or if your will does not list an executor then the state will appoint someone to act as the executor. Anyone who has dealt with probate will cringe when they hear the phrase “stuck in probate” or “held up in probate” as these legal gears move quite slowly. Being “stuck in probate” never benefits your loved ones and costs them time and money.

Not all property will be forced through probate. A consultation with a family law estate lawyer can help you determine what the laws of Texas dictate. Estate planning is not hiding assets or eliminating assets. Estate planning shuffles and shifts elements of your estate into special categories that are not subject to probate or it arranges elements of your estate into categories to minimize the burden of probate. For example, assets that are part of a living will are not subject to probate.

Avoiding Probate

Another simple way of avoiding probate is to establish a savings or checking account as Payable on Death (POD). POD accounts work just like a regular savings or checking account but upon your death, the person who you named as a beneficiary can withdraw the funds without needing to involve a family law lawyer, a judge or the courts. As long as you are alive, the beneficiary cannot touch the funds in a POD account. You are free to change the beneficiary or even close the account if you wish to do so.

Trusts and other types of “estate planning” are not as simple as POD accounts and your family law estate lawyer can advise you as you plan your estate.

Elements of Estate Planning

Some elements of estate planning are more closely tied to end of life issues, or Elder Law, than distribution of wealth estate planning. As some people age, they live vibrant and full lives right until the very end. Others may face a debilitating illness. Regardless of your situation, you may want to consider naming a trusted loved one in a medical power of lawyer. Medical powers of lawyer are legal documents written up by a family law lawyer that allow someone to make medical decisions for you in the event that you become incapacitated.

Advanced Directives

An advance directive is another document that a family law estate lawyer can provide. For example, some people do not wish for their lives to be prolonged by artificial means. They want to be allowed to die a natural death. With a medical power of lawyer, your loved one can inform your doctors of your choice. These specific instructions, usually written up separately from the medical power of lawyer but enforced by the person you named as your medical power of lawyer, are called advance directives.

DNR: Do Not Resuscitate

Some people who are perpetually ill may even have a DNR drawn up. DNR stands for do not resuscitate. This means that you do not want medical practitioners to perform CPR and other emergency means of resuscitation in the event that you go into cardiac arrest. DNRs cover emergency medicine while an advance directive covers long-term care.

Elder Law

Another aspect of Elder Law includes the protection of our elderly. Just as children are tragically the victims of abuse, the elderly are also the victims of abuse. Sometimes nursing homes, home health care nurses or even other family members may prey upon the elderly when the elderly are at their weakest. If you have established someone trusted as your power of lawyer or medical power of lawyer, that trusted person can make sure you are not only getting care in accordance to your desires but that the care is executed in a proper manner.

Estate planning and “Elder Law” are two different categories of family law that often work in tandem. When put together, these two fields of law can protect your rights, the rights of your loved ones and your property in the future. A family law lawyer can explain both of these aspects of family law to you in more detail.

Additionally, in states like Texas, it is imperative that same sex couples seek legal advice and estate planning from a family law lawyer. The laws will not default to a partner like they would a spouse. Everyone needs estate planning but for same sex couples these legal documents are critical.

Elder Law, Estate Planning & Family Law Lawyers

“Family law lawyers” understand that estate planning and cases involving Elder Law require a special kind of compassion that isn’t necessary in other types of law. They have the expertise and experience to help you through difficult end of life issues and to help your family through the difficult time after your death.

Please call us today at 281-362-2865 or complete our contact form and let us assist you with your legal need.

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Garg & Associates, PC | 21 Waterway Avenue, Suite 300 | The Woodlands, Texas 77380 Please call 281-362-2865 | Fax: 866-743-4506
Serving The Woodlands, Spring, Houston, Conroe, Kingwood, Tomball, Cypress, Huntsville, Cleveland, Stafford, Montgomery County, Harris County, West Oaks, Memorial, Sugar
Land, River Oaks, Alief, Stafford, Missouri City, and Southwest Houston Texas.