Elder Law

Texas Guardianship Basics

Recipe for a contested guardianship: Take one senior, add a dash of dementia, mix in a dollop of assets, simmer with decades of resentment and hurt feelings, and garnish with one or more disgruntled family members. Guaranteed to cook up into a gut-wrenching and expensive guardianship case. A guardianship is a court proceeding that is initiated to have a person (the “ward”) declared legally incapacitated, take away one or more of...

Research Pays Off – Problematic Decisions When You Reach Retirement Age

Your retirement age, in case you are interested, is between 65 and 67, depending on the year you were born. So says a host of government agencies.   That does not mean that the government will force you to put down your pen and pick up a fishing rod when you hit that age. It just means that it is the key age when your friendly government will force you to...

Employer Retirement Plans – Where Wishes Do Not Count

In 1974 an undoubtedly very nice man by the name of William Kennedy worked for DuPont. He, like company employees are wont to do, participated in his employer’s retirement savings plan. William dutifully filled out the plan’s beneficiary form and designated his wife Liv as the sole beneficiary. Twenty years later William and Liv divorced. The divorce decree recited that Liv gave up all of her interest in William’s retirement...

Here’s an Heir, There’s an Heir, Everywhere’s an Heir

Let rich Aunt Meg die without a will and then just wait for the swarm of heirs to descend on her estate.  You won’t be able to move through her mansion living room without stepping on one. There is an orderly process of inheritance under the law.  It is called the law of descent and sets out the order that Aunt Meg’s kindred will inherit. A kin who steps into line...

Dash for Cash – Informal Funding of Inheritance Has Hidden Dangers

Several years ago I had a probate consultation with three very nice people whose great-aunt had recently died.  They apologized for their somewhat disheveled appearance and explained that they had spent the day dismantling furniture, prying up floorboards and digging up the backyard of their great-aunt’s residence.  It seems that their great-aunt did not believe in banks, and so she kept her savings in cash and hid it in...

Beware the MERP – Texas offers Huge Loophole to Recovery Program

MERP is the Texas Medicaid Estate Recovery Program. Its sole purpose is to seize money from the estates of deceased Medicaid recipients and then plop the recovered funds back into the state’s coffers. The government, acting through a contractor called Health Management Systems, Inc. (HMS), does this by filing a claim in probate.       Why is this a prudent financial maneuver by the government? Because although Medicaid is a needs-based program,...

Storm Scammers – Tips for Avoiding a Common Elder Fraud

Here is recipe for disaster: take one Texas hail storm, add a senior with an older home and some savings, mix in a shady home repair contractor, and season liberally with the Texas standard home insurance policy. Home repair or contractor fraud is a frequent flier on the top 10 lists for senior financial scams.  Let us take a moment and put home repair contractors, which includes roofers, in their...

Getting Past the Nursing Home Lock-Down – Government Letters Help

If the impact of COVID-19 were to be illustrated by only one picture, it would be that of a grandfather and grandson, separated by a nursing home window, reaching out to touch each other’s hand through the glass.      Pitiful as that scene is, even that amount of limited communication is not being offered by some nursing homes.  If you are one of the families being denied visits or information by a...

3 Ways That Grandparents Can Get Custody of Grandchildren

In recent years, the traditional nuclear American family that prevailed in the years following World War II – father, mother and children all living together – has undergone a number of societal strains and changes, including the frequency of divorce and an increasing number of single-parent households. Consequently, census figures reveal that today, 1 in 10 American children live with a grandparent, and that statistic includes approximately a quarter...

Rights of the Elderly

Super-Powers at Your Service Let’s see – are you a resident of Texas?  Check. An adult? Check. Age 60 or older? Check. Congratulations!  You are guaranteed Super-Powers.  These extra-special powers, which go by the catchy name of Rights of the Elderly, have to be accorded to you by convalescent and nursing homes, home health services, and alternate care services provided to you in your home, neighborhood and community. In fact, each one...

Social Security and You – New Advance Designation for Representative Payee

Finally, a column that is not related to the Coronavirus. Enjoy! For years, decades, even centuries, you have been able to designate in advance your agent to handle a multitude of different matters:  your will, your finances, your medical decisions, even your funeral. What you have not been able to do is designate a person to handle your social security.  Until now, that is. Ta-da! On April 6, 2020, with relatively...

Resources for Seniors during COVID-19

Changes In the Works With counties, states and the federal government imposing a variety of shelter-in-place orders, many seniors are running into roadblocks with finding help and getting answers.  Here are three resources that should be immediately useful, and a listing of a few interesting changes. The Area Agency on Aging They which can be reached at 800-252-9240.  Their job is to plan, advocate, coordinate resources and provide services for seniors (persons...
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