Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Friday, October 24, 2014

Planning for Alzheimer's Patients


According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2014 Americans will spend more than $214 billion to care for those affected by Alzheimer’s disease.  This number is expected to drastically increase in the coming years. 

Establishing a legal plan is critical for Alzheimer’s patients.  The sooner the planning begins, the more likely it is that the person with dementia will be able to participate in decision-making.  Every adult should have basic estate planning documents that include a financial power of attorney, advance health care directive, and last will and testament.   

Families confronting Alzheimer’s disease should also consider how they will cover long-term care costs.  At an average cost of more than $7,500 per month, some families are unable to cover this expense on their own.  Medicare may be available to cover nursing home costs, provided certain financial requirements are met.  Also, veterans and their spouses may be eligible for aid through the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

A good resource to consult on these matters is the Alzheimer’s Association free monthly “Legal and Financial Planning for Alzheimer’s Dementia” class.  This class gives you the tools to ensure you are legally and financially protected in the wake of this debilitating disease. 

See Patrick J. Haase, Legal, Financial Planning for Alzheimer’s Patients, UT San Diego, Oct. 23, 2014.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 24, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Conference on Planning Around Tax Entanglements

CLE Photo

Meadows, Collier, Reed, Cousins, Crouch & Ungerman, L.L.P. is holding the 16th Annual Conference entitled, The Web Our Clients Weave: Strategies for Helping Your Clients Plan Around and, if Necessary, Defend Tax Entanglements, in Dallas, Texas at the Cityplace Conference Center on October 28, 2014.  Provided below are just a few of the many topics that will be throughout the conference:

  • Estate Planning—Navigating the Potholes and Speed Bumps. This presentation will explore recent estate planning cases, their holdings and planning techniques.
  • The Affordable Care Act—Employer Planning Opportunities. This will focus on new employer provisions that take effect January 1, 2015.
  • Family Limited Partnerships. This presentation will discuss how family limited partnerships remain the least expensive and most flexible method of estate planning. 

October 20, 2014 in Conferences & CLE, Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Special Needs Estate Planning Considerations

ChecklistSpecial needs children often need additional medical care and financial assistance. In addition, they may need additional assistance throughout their adult life, which may be provided for by their parents in a will or trust. Here are four considerations when including special needs children in an estate plan:

  1. The amount of financial assistance that is needed in addition to the child's other financial options to adequately provide the needed care
  2. How an inheritance may affect the child's ability to receive benefits such as Supplemental Security Income or Medicare
  3. If the child's siblings will feel left out or treated unfairly if unequal inheritances are received
  4. What safeguards should be put in place to make sure the funds are used for the intended purposes

See Janet Brewer, 4 Considerations When Estate Planning with a Special Needs Child, JD Supra, Oct. 9, 2014.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 14, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Estate Planning for the 30-Somethings

30 somethings

With thirty being the new twenty, the last thing this generation wants to do is plan for their demise.  Yet, financial experts suggest that his could be the best time to protect your family and your assets in case the unexpected occurs.  “It is imperative that those in their 30s have their estate plans in order, because they have as much to lose as their elders—in fact, sometimes more.”  To get started, experts recommend meeting with an attorney to get the following in place:

1. Last Will and Testament. A will establishes who will inherit your assets when you die, along with other vital aspects including information such as who you want to place in charge of administering your estate and who you want to be the guardians of your minor children.

2. Living Will. This outlines your wishes if you are incapacitated or death is imminent.

3. Power of Attorney. This will identify someone who can make financial decisions for you if you are incapacitated.

4. Health Care Proxy. You will specify a person to make medical decisions on your behalf.  “It even may make sense to have a conversation with the person you identify so that they clearly understand what your wishes are—God forbid these circumstances arise.”

5. Life Insurance. Term insurance is an effective way to cover current debts that you do not want to burden your significant other with should something happen to you.

6. Retirement Fund. It is vital that 30-somethings start saving for retirement, especially if their employers offer incentives such as profit-sharing or matching contributions to a 401(k).

See Michael Lerner, 6 Estate Planning Moves You Should Make in Your 30s, Daily Finance, Oct. 10, 2014.

October 13, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally, Non-Probate Assets, Wills | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Article on End-of-Life Law

Shepherd, loisLois L. Shepherd (University of Virginia Center for Biomedical Ethics and Humanities; University of Virginia School of Law) recently published an article entitled, The End of End-of-Life Law, 92 N.C. L. Rev. 1693 (2014). Provided below is the abstract from SSRN:

“End-of-life decision-making” in the health care arena is increasingly governed by special rules that insist on legally exact, complex documentation, depend on idealized notions of patient autonomy, and may be driven by political ideology rather than concern for patients. These rules — though often well-intended — can impede rather than honor patients’ wishes, values, interests, and relationships. This article analyzes the effects of these special rules through discussion of patient stories, the empirical literature on advance care planning and patient preferences, and state surrogate decision-making statutes and living will forms. It argues that questions about medical care at the end of life should be approached like other important questions about medical care. Reducing the legal distinctions between these types of decisions can bring good legal/ethical practices in caring for patients generally to caring for them when they are dying and also bring important lessons learned from decades of end-of-life law and ethics to the care of patients at any stage of life and health. The article provides a blueprint for reform through eight general principles that should guide the law relating to all health care decisions, including those we now think of as end-of-life decisions.

October 13, 2014 in Articles, Disability Planning - Health Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Financial Concerns May Be Causing Senior Divorce Boom

DivorceIn the last year, 28% of divorced individuals were older than 50-years-old, and the divorce rate is twice what is was in 1990 for seniors. Increases in unplanned medical costs, such as nursing home care, may be helping to create the increasing senior divorce rate. A commonly named reason for older divorcing couples is increasing costs for long-term health care.

See Bonnie Kraham, Long-Term Care Costs a Problem for Older Couples, Times Herald Record, Sept. 25, 2014.

October 8, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Keys to Being a Health Care Proxy

Hospital care

Being a health care proxy can be one of the most serious responsibilities conferred upon you.  This power to make medical decisions for your loved ones in case he or she cannot, encompasses talking with your loved one’s medical tam about treatment choices and deciding on a course of action.  It may also entail making end-of-life decisions.  Below are some guidelines in taking on such massive responsibilities:

  • Be able to say no. You do not always have to be someone’s health care proxy if they ask.  “It may be hard enough coping, even without the added responsibilities of making health care decisions.  But it is an important way to help someone you care about.”
  • Understand the lingo. There are three kinds of health care proxies: agent, surrogate and guardian.  In all cases, a proxy is a person who can make health care decisions for someone else.
  • Talk it over. “Spend time discussing the wishes of the individual at the time you agree to serve as the agent.  Discuss religious and moral beliefs to know how they would make decisions on medical care.  Do not be afraid to address the issues.”
  • Get access to records. You should have access to your loved one’s medical records and any information you need about the patient’s health or health care.  Ask for clear explanations so you can understand the patient’s medical condition and what treatment options are available.

See Pamela Yip, Learn Your Loved One’s End-of-Life Wishes While You Can, Dallas News, Oct. 3, 2014.

October 7, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Guardianship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, October 3, 2014

Family Goes to Court to Have Teen Declared Alive

Gavel2As I have previously discussed, last year the disagreement between hospital doctors and the family of Jahi McMath illustrated the difficult legal issues surrounding a determination of brain dead. The doctors were successful in getting a legal judgment that the 13-year-old was legally brain dead after suffering from cardiac arrest during a routine tonsil surgery. However, her family were able to get an injunction that prevented the doctors from ending life sustaining measures, and had her moved to a private medical facility where they have been financially responsible for her care. McMath's family is now returning to court, seeking an order to have her declared alive.

See Annabel Grossman, Family of Oakland Teenager Declared Brain Dead 10 Months Ago Petition Court for Her to be Declared Alive Again, Daily Mail, Oct. 2, 2014.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.

October 3, 2014 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Using a Special Needs Trust


For disabled patients under 65 in need of Medicaid, a special needs trust can be an effective way to maintain Medicaid eligibility and preserve an inheritance or lawsuit settlement to enhance the patient’s standard of living.  Generally, parents or grandparents can set up a special needs trust for a disabled son or daughter which does not require a Medicaid pay back provision like that of self-settled trusts.  There are three main types of special needs trusts a person can use to protect assets:

  1. The Special Needs Trust. This is a common trust used to protect lawsuit or insurance proceeds or inheritances for someone who is disabled and needs or may need long-term care. 
  2. The Pooled Trust. This is similar to the special needs trust in that the same types of assets can be protected, but the pooled trust is established by a charity which runs and administers the trust for a number of disabled beneficiaries.
  3. The Third-Party Special Needs Trust. This is often referred to as an “Amenities Trust,” and is often established by a parent or grandparent to leave assets in trust for the benefit of a disabled child or grandchild.  The trust funds can be used to cover those things not covered by government assistance, referred to as amenities.  Since a third party establishes it, the remainder in the trust can pass through to other heirs or beneficiaries at the death of the disabled beneficiary. 

See The Importance of Special Needs Trusts, Examiner, Sept. 29, 2014. 

October 1, 2014 in Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Questions Remain in Joan Rivers' Death

Joan rivers

Although Joan Rivers passed away on September 4th, details surrounding her death are still unfolding.  According to the Guardian Liberty Voice of Las Vegas, Rivers was undergoing endoscopic surgery at a clinic in New York when her respiratory system became compromised.  She was then rushed into the emergency room where she fell into a coma and placed on life support.  Shortly thereafter, her daughter Melissa authorized medical staff to discontinue life support.  New York health officials are continuing to investigate the clinic where Rivers’ final surgical procedure occurred. 

“It is very likely that Melissa Rivers was following the wish of her mother when she took her off life support . . . In New York, relatives cannot make end of life decisions automatically.  An advance directive must be in place and proper procedure must be followed prior to execution.  In this case, we can assume that Rivers had planned ahead.”

Rivers was outspoken about aging, death and estate taxation.  She once said that show business had hardened her to the point that she was not afraid of dying.  Thus, it is fair to say that Joan Rivers was not shy when it came to estate planning.  While her death may have come as a shock to fans, it was something that Rivers was ready to face, and planned in advance.  

See UltraTrust.com Exposes Postmortem Why Joan Rivers Joked About Her Estate Plan and Paying Taxes—Now Estimated at $45M, Insurance News Net, Sept. 18, 2014. 

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

September 19, 2014 in Current Affairs, Disability Planning - Health Care, Elder Law, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)