Monday, June 29, 2015

How to Report Abuse of the Elderly or Disabled in Texas

In Texas, abuse of an elderly person or disabled person should be reported to Adult Protective Services which is a part of the Department of Family and Protective Services.

Adult Protective Services investigates allegations of abuse against elderly and disabled persons whether they occur in home or in a facility. If a person is found to be a victim of abuse they may be eligible for short-term help with medical care, transportation, food, shelter, home repairs, managing money, home healthcare services, or mental health services.

For fiscal year 2014, APS intake totaled 18,701 complaints for the Houston area.  Abuse of elderly and disabled persons has gained more widespread awareness in the past few years. 

Elderly or disabled persons may be abused or exploited in a variety of ways whether physical, sexual, financial, or they may be neglected. Unable to speak for themselves, the elderly and disabled are vulnerable and may suffer verbal abuse, broken bones, cuts, bruises, bedsores, or malnutrition.

A person may also be neglected and living an unsafe or unsanitary conditions. Financial exploitation can result in funds or assets being stolen by a third party.

In addition to reporting suspected abuse, there are other ways that you can help. The Department of family and protective services maintains resource rooms that contain medical supplies and other supplies necessary for daily life in order to help elderly and disabled persons. There are also volunteer opportunities. To learn more about this click here.

If you live outside Texas, your area will have similar methods of reporting.  Check the internet, or call Protective Services or local law enforcement in your area. 

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Involuntary Mental Health Commitment in Texas

If someone is considering suicide, may harm him/herself or others, is unable to make a rational decision about care, is suffering severe distress, or is deteriorating significantly, an involuntary mental health commitment may take place.

The first responders to such a situation may be local law enforcement, a crisis intervention team (in counties where these teams are available), or a responder from Adult Protective Services.  Health care professionals may play a role in initiating the investigation into the person's circumstances. Friends, family or neighbors may also initiate a check into the circumstances or welfare of the person involved. Any adult may apply for emergency detention of a person who needs help.

In some cases, the person who needs help may be found to be living in unsafe and unsanitary conditions because they are mentally unable to make rational decisions or follow through with self-care. 

The goal of the involuntary mental health commitment is to see that the person does not harm him/herself, is properly evaluated, and has access to needed medications.

Within 72 hours of being detained, the patient has the right to a probable cause hearing.  At that hearing, the evidence will be considered by a judge, magistrate, or justice of the peace.  A medical certificate will be sworn to by a physician and other evidence will be considered. An attorney ad litem will be appointed to represent the patient and guard his/her rights. 

A final hearing will occur within 30 days of the initial commitment.  A determination will be made as to whether temporary (90 days) mental health services are warranted. 

This information pertains to initial involuntary civil commitment (versus criminal competency hearings) in the State of Texas.  Title 7, Subtitle C of the Texas Health & Safety Code contains the law relating to involuntary commitment.

If you are concerned about someone who is in a crisis situation and want to know more about Texas laws and procedures or you want to help make a difference, check out Treatment Advocacy Center.

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Adult Adoption in Texas- Why, When and How Does it Affect Inheritance?

There are many reasons why an adoption may be commenced after the potential adoptee turns 18. 

In an adult adoption the biological parent or parents do not have to be contacted or give their consent as they would if the adoption were for a minor child. Therefore a stepparent who had wanted to adopt their stepchild for years but knew that it was impossible to get a biological parent’s consent may be able to successfully adopt their stepchild once that step child is an adult.

Waiting until a child turns 18 will prevent the need to contact an absent biological parent who has an unhealthy lifestyle.  If that parent has disappeared after participating in family violence or abuse of the child or has substance addiction problems, it is advisable to think long and hard before contacting that parent and bringing them back into the picture.  In this case, waiting until the child is 18 may be a good strategy.  

Another common adoption situation is one in which the child and biological parents simply had no relationship for many, many years. In some cases the child may have never met their biological parent and someone has been the functioning parent . 

A stepparent adult adoption is the most common, however, non-stepparent adoptions involve situations in which people are "just like family" and want to make that family relationship official. This can happen at any age.

Once a person is adopted the parent-child relationship between one or more of the biological parents will be terminated. Therefore it is important to really think this through before taking action. Once a person is adopted, he or she will have lost the legal ability be involved in emergency medical decision-making for their biological parent, and vice versa. 

The adult adoptee should be aware that the adoption will prevent him/her from inheriting anything from his/her biological parent as a matter of law.  Some complicated situations involving inheritance and probate can occur, especially if the biological parent was unaware of the adoption at the time of his/her death.  As probate attorneys, we can assist with these issues. 

Adopting an adult does not give them any immigration benefit under US law, and the adoptee cannot petition to bring their biological parent to the U.S. after the adoption is final. 

For an adult adoption to take place, a petition will need to be filed with the district court in the proper county. A name change may be sought as well.

If you are interested in  adult adoption, contact an adoption attorney to see if this is the right option for your family. 

Kalish Law Office - Adult Adoption-- Probate attorneys - The Woodlands, Texas 

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

How to Report Animal Abuse

Animals abuse is heartbreaking.  Animals are innocent and trusting and cannot speak for themselves.  If you witness animal neglect or abuse, it is important to report it to the proper authorities.

In Houston, animal abuse should be reported to the SPCA.  You can report by telephone or online.
Here is a link to report animal abuse in Montgomery County Texas to Crime Stoppers or to Animal control.

If you see animal abuse or neglect, get as many details as possible. For instance it's important to give as much location information as you can. Cross streets, ZIP Code and landmarks, are all helpful. If you see a person involved, try to give a description.

You can call in a report or you can file it online. If it is an emergency situation you should call it in, or even try both methods.

The following actions are illegal in Texas; torturing an animal, failing to provide food care or shelter to an animal, killing seriously injuring or poisoning an animal, injuring the animal of another, seriously overworking an animal, making animals fight with each other, using a live animal as a lure in a dog race, or tripping a horse.

A person found guilty of animal cruelty may face criminal charges (misdemeanor or felony), civil charges and fines, and loss of their animals.

For other areas, here is a link to the SPCA. 

Here is an excellent resource from Michigan State University (Table of Reporting Animal Cruelty in the United States) that includes information about where to report animal abuse in other states and areas. This site includes information for livestock and includes information about federal animal welfare law.

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Monday, June 1, 2015

Spouse Refuses to Share Retirement Plan Information

Depending on how long you have been married and when your spouse earned his or her retirement, you may be entitled to a share in your divorce. An individual may even have more than one retirement plan - (due to employment with the government/armed services, or multiple positions during working career).

Some people know little to nothing about their spouse's retirement plan and may not even know whether or not their spouse has one. Some people tend to be very private or secretive about their finances, even with their spouse.

However, there are ways to discover this information during the time that the divorce is pending. You and your spouse will both be under court orders to be honest and reveal this financial information. Some information will be exchanged automatically between the two attorneys.

In addition, there may be discovery in the form of written requests, deposition, or subpoenaed information. Information can be exchanged informally between the two attorneys and can also be exchanged during mediation process. There may also be hearings in the courtroom about these and other issues.

Of course the best way to have this information is by being informed in the first place or by exchanging information during the divorce in a cooperative way.  This takes less time and costs everyone less money. However, if you are one of the unfortunate people who has a spouse that absolutely refuses to share this information be aware that the legal process of divorce has procedures in place to help you can get information that you are entitled to know.

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