Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Supporting the Caregivers of Persons With Dementia

If you are a caregiver for a person who has dementia, you need all the support that you can get. Luckily, support is available.  Here are some resources, and some things that you may be able to do to make your daily life go a little more smoothly.

  1. Support Groups online.  Many online resources exist for caregivers. Social media sites such as Facebook have pages and groups that you can join.  Some of these are "private" groups and you will be checked out before you are admitted. This is to allow honesty in posting and prevent advertisers.  
  2. Dementia and Alzheimer's Association. is a treasure trove of information. You can find information about daily care, stages of the disease, free e-learning, a community resource planner and financial planning information. 
  3. Local groups. Your area may have Caregiver's Groups or seminars. For instance, here in The Woodlands, Texas, Interfaith has a Caregiver's Support system which includes monthly learning luncheons, and 2 no-cost conferences a year (the conferences provide care for your loved one if you bring him/her with you). Local hospitals also have support groups that you can attend. 
  4. Private companies and individuals.   You may require additional help from private companies or individuals for daily care, respite care, adult day care, legal assistance, financial planning or other needs. 
  5. Your own family, friends, neighbors, and spiritual advisers.  Don't neglect asking for help from those close to you.  If someone offers help, consider taking it.  Offering to sit with your loved one for an hour, cooking a meal for your family, or running an errand for you are small things that can provide great relief. 
Above all, don't neglect yourself. In order to help your loved one, you must be healthy! 

Wills, Probate & Family Law
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Sunday, January 22, 2017

What Will Happen to your Pet if You Die?

Our pets are family members.  They are also very vulnerable to changes in family situation. Just like other family members, they deserve consideration when you are planning for the future. 

  1. Have the conversation.  Regardless of your age, if you have a pet, you should always consider what would happen if you were gone. If you have a spouse or partner, what would happen if the two of you were deceased at the same time? It is worth discussing with the family members in your home, and talking to the potential guardians for your pet.  
  2. If you have several pets, it can be a more difficult situation. Family or friends may be willing to take one cat, for instance, but not 7.  However, you may have 7 people who are willing to take one each.   Take the time to ask and keep a written summary of who has agreed to do what. 
  3. You can put your wishes into your will.  If you do have arrangements made for your pets, it is worth putting into your will. Your will has legal authority.  In order to keep your will from getting outdated, you can keep the language general. For instance, "I leave any pet(s) that I may own at the time of my death to Jane Doe. If Jane Doe is unable to take them, it is my desire that either John Smith or Bill Jones do so." Or, you can specifically ask your Executor to make arrangements for your pet if you trust him/her to do so responsibly.  In the event that more than one person wants the pet, putting your wishes in your will can settle the dispute. 
  4. You can write a letter and sign it.  Another option is to write a letter, date it and sign it and keep it with your will or your important papers. It won't have the legal authority of a will, but it can guide your family as to what to do with your pet. 
  5. Animal Rescue Groups. Some animal rescue groups may let you make arrangements in advance or may have policies about taking certain types/breeds of animal. Some groups, such as Houston Beagle & Hound Rescue will take a hound back if she was adopted from HBHR and the owner has passed. Other groups may help place animals whose owners have passed. 
  6. Facility home through endowment.  The Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center at Texas A & M has a  program that can provide lifetime care for a pet through enrollment and an endowment. If you have the financial means to afford this type of plan you can be assured that you are helping your own pet, as well as others. 
  7. Reciprocal plans. Have a friend or neighbor that is in the same situation? You can agree to take his/her pets in exchange for a promise of the same. 

Wills, Probate & Family Law
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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Your Minor Children and Naming a Trustee in Your Will

Most parents of minor children know that they need to have a current Texas will. But not everyone understands how important it is to name a Trustee to take care of financial matters and how doing so can decrease the time and money spent in legal fees and court time later on. 

Naming a person whom you trust to be the Trustee of your minor children's finances is crucially important.  This position is also sometimes called the "Guardian of the Estate" or "Guardian of the Finances".  

The person who "guards" your child's finances does not have to be the same individual who is "Guardian of the Person" for your child, but, if you prefer, both positions can be filled by one person.

The Trustee (Financial Guardian), will decide how money is spent for your child.  This person will decide when to distribute money and allow unusual expenses, and how to plan for college.

If you are deceased while your child is still a minor, the probate judge will make decisions based upon your Will. If your Will does specifically name a Trustee for the children, the Judge can allow the Trustee more latitude in decision-making (independent administration- that is, more independent from court involvement).  This saves time and money and is preferable to having to have frequent hearings and/or continuous requests for the Judge's approval.   

However, the Judge must look out for the interests of your child, try to follow your wishes, and must also follow the law.  Leaving things "open to interpretation" or worse, not addressing the issue at all can create uncertainty, expenditures and delay. 

If you have minor children, make sure that your Will has appropriate provisions regarding Guardians and Trustees!

Wills, Probate & Family Law
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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

What Happens to Social Media Accounts When Someone Dies?

Have you ever considered what would happen to your social media accounts and digital assets if you were to die? 

There are steps you can take right now, AND you can make "digital asset planning" part of your Estate Plan.   

  1. You can have language put in your will that ultimately leaves your digital assets to a certain beneficiary and/or specifies that your Executor will be able to access and terminate or distribute these accounts. 
  2. Some sites allow you to name a "legacy" owner. Facebook, for instance, allows you to name someone who has your authority to take over your Facebook account if you pass away. 
  3. Some password programs allow you to "share" the information with another person immediately, insuring that the person that you trust will have access to all your passwords should something happen to you (even a temporary disability that leaves you unable to act.)
  4. Powers of attorney that allow someone to act for you if you are unable to do so are part of a complete estate plan.  You can specify access to digital accounts as one of the powers that you give your Agent.  This will allow someone to access these accounts if you are living, but unable to act for  yourself. 
  5. Don't put your specific passwords, screen names, account numbers or login information in your legal documents.   Your Will and Powers of Attorney will eventually be seen my many eyes and may even be filed in court records.   Keep a separate list (digitally or hard copy) in a safe, accessible place, free from prying eyes. Update it as needed. 
  6. Don't use the same password for everything, and don't use "common" passwords like "1234".
  7. Keep in mind that many things today are tied to online access. For instance, if you no longer accept hard copy billing statements and pay all of  your bills online it may be difficult or impossible for someone to get access to your accounts to pay your monthly bills without some type of legal documentation such as a power of attorney, court order, or letter of representation from an estate attorney). So you may need to be certain that you make certain passwords accessible to a trusted person. 
  8. You may own digital assets that are intellectual property. These include graphics, websites, platforms, apps, blogs and the like. This is property that will pass to your beneficiaries so make sure that you leave the proper identification, access information and practical instructions in an accessible place and make sure you include these in your estate plan. 
  9. Untended accounts that are left to languish can create a security and privacy risk for your estate if a hacker obtains private information from an unguarded account. 
  10. A wills and estate attorney can help you plan for the practicalities of your individual situation, as well as drafting your legal documents for you.

Family Law, Business Law, Real Estate Law, Probate
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