Monthly Archives: January 2014

Seniors and town embroiled in residential property dispute

Senior citizens are a blessed part of society, but not all members of society share that view. Proposed plans to build a senior housing development in Port Arthur has met with continued resistance by residents there who continue to oppose the construction of the facility in their neighborhood.

One district councilman has stated that the citizens in the area are not unsympathetic to housing plight of seniors. They just don’t want the housing project near their back door. Seniors have countered, saying they are being treated unfairly due to their low incomes.

One resident in Port Arthur, who lives with her family in subsidized housing states the options are limited if an individual is unable to pay higher rents in more upscale areas.

The director of the Port Arthur Housing Authority claims there are 67 elderly residents on the waiting list for low-income housing, but that not all live in Port Arthur. The Edison location had originally been chosen for being close to pharmacies, stores and hospitals. The mayor, as well as city developers, expressed disappointment with the vote, stating the ongoing battle against approval of the location shows disrespect for seniors. One developer attested that the disputed project could mean our elderly citizens might not be able to spend the last few years of their lives in pleasant dwellings.

While the project is estimated to cost about $12 million, that cost would have been offset by about $5 million if the Department of Housing had awarded tax credits. Due to the presence of other public housing projects in the city, a resolution had to be passed stating the city would not stop the construction of a new one.

While locals protest the project at the hearing, they claimed they would support it in someone else’s backyard. Those voicing complaints cite concerns about higher crime, but one law enforcement officer, who had experience with other senior facilities, denied there was a relationship between the two. A human rights advocate, the officer requested the people on the waiting list not be turned away.

Seniors have worked their entire lives to be able to spend their twilight years peacefully and in pleasant surroundings. Now a group of seniors has been placed in a situation where they feel unwanted and unappreciated. Residential property disputes take on a more emotional toll when the best interests of senior citizens are questionable.

Source: The Port Arthur News, “Edison Square plans derailed in tie Council vote” Sherry Koonce, Jan. 21, 2014

Guardians can only do so much if client refuses care

More and more accounts of controversial guardianship decisions have come up in recent years. They can be fraught with life or death decisions when a patient is mentally incapable of taking care of herself. At issue in this Pennsylvania case is whether a guardian was justified in allowing a mentally ill patient to refuse to continue her life-sustaining dialysis treatment.

A guardian’s hands may be tied when a client refuses a prescribed treatment. When one 47-year-old patient refused to continue her dialysis, the staff in her personal care home tried to dissuade her. Due to her mental illness, the woman refused, claiming the dialysis was a trick. Upon her death, questions arose regarding this decision. The woman not only refused to continue her kidney treatment, she exhibited erratic behavior in the dialysis treatment facility and frightened other patients.

The patient, diagnosed with psychosis, was taking psychotropic drugs along with a prescribed course of treatment for renal failure. She repeatedly refused both, leaving her caregivers no other options but to make decisions for her. One staff member stated the woman had no idea she would die if she stopped her treatments. Although staff might convince her to go back to treatments when she got sick, one administrator called the woman’s life at the care facility a “roller-coaster.”

Final reports indicated that after consulting with her guardian, the decision was made to stop dialysis.

Now the issue remains if the guardian and health care agency could have done more to save her life. One spokesperson for the National Disability Rights Network said this case underscores the need to implement a better health care system designed to help mentally ill patients with more effective support systems to manage their quality of care.

In other cultures around the world, families and relatives step up to take care of ailing members. Here in the United States, some families are not willing to take on this responsibility, so a public health agency appoints a legal guardian, who makes decisions for the incapacitated person. Some experts say the issue is an ethical one that places a great deal of responsibility on the shoulders of a stranger. A guardian may struggle with the final decision of when to allow a patient the right to forgo treatment that will ultimately result in her death.

Source:Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “When a guardian decides on life or death” Joe Smydo, Jan. 18, 2014

Make sure your estate is prepared for the new year

It’s a brand new year, and you may be thinking about making some changes – maybe losing a few pounds, exercising a little more, or saving some money. Those are all good things, but it may also be a good time to get your affairs in order for your family in case something happens to you. Yes, it might be a morbid subject to think or talk about, but it’s unfortunately a fact of life that we are not immortal. A lot of people put this off until tomorrow, but unfortunately, no one knows what tomorrow might bring. Protecting your family could be the best thing you do this year.

Will execution can be a bit like doing your taxes – complicated and perplexing. It helps to have an El Paso estate-planning attorney to make sure you remember all of the things that need to be included and taken care of. There are a lot of little things that most people never think of.

Your pet, for example, is one. If you have pets, you want to ensure that you list a guardian for them. You may even want to plan for their medical needs in advance.

Another thing to know is that you need to ensure that beneficiaries are updated and correct on your life insurance policies and pension funds. Even if you have a will, the beneficiary listed on these items will override the will. So, it is very important to ensure these are kept up-to-date if you divorce and remarry.

Who will get your car or your house if something happens to you? You may want to do a “Transfer on Death.” This means that when you complete a T.O.D. document, the property is immediately transferred over to the beneficiary you have named. This too, will overwrite a person named in your will.

There are multiple things to consider, which is why it is helpful to have the assistance of an attorney who is thorough. He or she can help you think of things that need to be included or updated in your will. Finally, you need to ensure that your documents are where they can be found, or designate your attorney or another trusted individual to handle matters if something happens to you. When you are finished, you will have peace of mind!

Source:, “Are you ready for death? Resolve to get your affairs in order” Tim Engle, Jan. 19, 2014

Death of family member offers financial lessons for Texans

Until death of a loved one occurs, the average American family just doesn’t want to think about it. When it inevitably darkens our door, we seek help from an estate planner.

In one family, the mother passed away after a long illness. The father had been diligently taking care of the financial matters accumulated in their twilight years. It took the gentleman about six months to finish the financial tasks and paper work settling his wife’s estate. He discovered the funeral home sends out a death notice to the Social Security Administration. This stops all social security checks. The SSA will send a death benefit check of $225, but you have to request it.

Filing for a lump sum benefit is fairly simple if one follows the steps. In this case, the husband went to his local SSA office and saw the lines extending twice around the building. Instead, he opted to call and was informed him it would be a 40-minute wait to speak to a live person. He waited and learned that he could file for the death benefit by mailing a copy of the death certificate, marriage license and his birth certificate to SSA. He could also set up an appointment and bring the documents into the office. He was in and out of the place in less than 30 minutes.

Another obstacle was with the car insurance. When the gentleman called to remove his wife’s name from the policy, the company tried to charge him $200. So, he got three new auto quotes and chose the lowest one. Don’t accept rate increases as a penalty for a death.

The third problem that arose was a credit card in the wife’s name. The husband had been an add-on account holder. Although the gentleman called the company to request having his wife’s name removed, the company canceled the card and turned it over to collection without providing the opportunity for payment.

The ensuing nightmare included recurring monthly charges and numerous collection agencies. According to one spokesperson for the American Collectors Association International, this is nothing new. The man asked for the bill, confirmed the charges and paid them.

There are some very simple procedures to follow if you plan accordingly for your distribution of assets, so your heirs won’t have to. The death of a loved one is never easy but there are ways to make the end of one’s financial path an easier one.

Source: Star-Telegram, “Mother’s death offers lessons for managing affairs after a loved one passes” Teresa McUsic, Jan. 10, 2014

Argyle votes no on proposed zoning change

The residents of Argyle, Texas, have spoken – sort of. When a much needed supermarket interfered with zoning laws, the community said more no than yes. Not that the issue is closed by any means and neither is the zoning dispute. The town is in dire need of a supermarket.

While the project has the potential to bring the area many benefits, it will also bring jobs and a push to a sluggish economy. Then why did so many Argyle residents storm out of the town meeting called to push this proposal through?

With a vote of 6-1, the result seemed inevitable, but when town commissioners announced the deciding numbers, the residents made it clear they weren’t happy.

Some town dwellers claim that while the grocery store is a necessity, the location is less than stellar. Planned to be at the intersection of Country Club Drive and Highway 77, most vocal in their complaints felt the project would spark new problems for the area.

While the Zoning Commission chairperson felt it was in keeping with the town’s future plans, and that development will bring bountiful advantages to the town, residents’ worry that the location is a poor chance as it will sit right across from Hilltop Elementary School. This will increase the nightmare already present with traffic.

A grocery chain is proposing a massive store inside the town center, and it’s development partner is located right behind the existing retail center. The move is already predicting between 60 to 80 new jobs.

While everyone agrees that traffic is a growing concern, planning officials blame it on growing pains. Proponents of the plan say the commission did a poor job of communicating such a zoning change to the community.

One parent says that if the vote goes before the city council later this month, they will have an altercation on their hands. As that date rapidly approaches, the citizens can only hope that some of their concerns may be addressed.

The town of Argyle is like any town in American, where laws and zoning issues come into play. Sometimes, they are due to hidden agendas at city halls, but other times, they are there for the purpose of making of healthy and safe conditions for the communities’ citizens.

Source:Denton Record-Chronicle, “Proposed development near school prompts concerns in Argyle” John D. Harden, Jan. 08, 2014

Texas law forces pregnant woman to remain on life support

Although a 33-year-old Texas woman was pronounced brain-dead after collapsing in her kitchen last November, her family has been unable to say good-bye. Not because they are not ready to let her go, however, but because of a state mandate that automatically invalidates a woman’s advance directive when a pregnancy is involved.

The woman, who was found by her husband after she collapsed from a blood clot in her lung, remains on life support in the intensive care unit at John Peter Smith Hospital. Hospital staff continue to monitor the heartbeat of her fetus, which is now in its 20th week of development.

While all 50 states recognize advance directives, some states such as Texas have statutes in place that override a living will if a pregnancy is involved. Since the woman was 14 weeks into her pregnancy at the time of the incident, it is now up to the doctors to determine whether they believe she can still carry her unborn fetus to term.

As her husband and parents continue to prepare for the loss of a loved one, some in the community remain critical of the hospital’s decision to keep the woman on life support. They are quick to point out that since the fetus has not yet reached the point where it is viable outside the womb, under normal circumstance she would still have the constitutional right to have an abortion.

Meanwhile, the family hopes the law will be overturned. They have for the moment, however, chosen to not take any legal action against the hospital, but state that they have also not ruled it out.

Dealing with the loss of a loved one can be difficult under any circumstance. A Texas attorney can make the process easier by helping to establish a living will and health care proxy to fit each individual person’s needs.

Source:Huffington Post Politics, “Here’s Where Your Living Will Can Be Ignored When You’re A Pregnant Woman” Alissa Sheller, Katy Hall, Jan. 08, 2014

What comes first on the ranch, business or family?

A family business does not need a lower Manhattan address but it frequently has to make some complicated decisions as to what comes first, business or family. One consultant, after working with contractual family transactions explains the common pitfalls ranch families make and how to translate these into success.

Since most ranching businesses live by ‘family first’ philosophies, there may not be a will or specifications on how the business operates. If the priority is to build an empire and lasting legacy, advisors stress putting some more casual family attitudes aside and focusing on the business at hand.

Behavior that is typically regarded as detrimental to the family business should be dealt with as any other non-family-based endeavor. A worker should not be entitled to a job in spite of poor work ethic, emotional instability, or addictions.

Experts advise that the operational plan of the family business should establish clear and evolving roles based on sound judgment, trust and training.

Senior members must be comfortable in their financial security as well as ensure the business will grow as a family operation. At the time of retirement, most advisors say about half the income should come from outside the business. Otherwise, micro management could become your scourge, especially if they are not meeting with your approval. Your business figures significantly in your retirement so financial precautions should be taken.

Youth can bring tremendous life to a family operation and senior members appreciate and utilize that energy through the cycle from labor to leadership, but this must preclude arrogance. Avoid pitfalls and plan an exit strategy, how this is to be carried out, who has the option to buy, how the business will be appraised along with a precise payout plan.

Transition of assets is critical and a process that takes time. Parents bequeathing a business to children should have conditional contingencies. Estate plans must include clear parameters for business ownership and transfer of management as well as when to buy and sell. The next in line should be privy to all your final wishes including documents, your final resting place, account access and what’s in your will.

Personal relationships make business a challenge, whether it’s on the ranch or in the family corner office. Honoring your heirs by honoring your business is a cycle through which the legacy is passed and production continues.

Source:Beef Magazine, “Is Your Ranching Operation Business First Or Family First?” Heather Hamilton-Maude, Dec. 30, 2013

State Medicaid keeps tab for elder care

Nothing is free, as they say; and neither is Medicaid, according to one shocked individual who received a bill from the state following the death of her mother. The mother had been getting elder care at her daughter’s home instead of at a nursing home and a year after her mother died, she discovered that Medicaid was charging her over $43,000.

The bill is claiming recuperation of funds from Medicaid since the mother owned a home. This is part of the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program. Clients like this need to be aware that if an individual is receiving Medicaid, they run the risk of losing a home or other assets if the loved one has been getting Texas Medicaid.

In this case, the mother had received Medicaid Long Term Care, so the beneficiary was slapped with a notice of intent to file against the deceased’s estate. The state seeks to receive the monies that the Medicaid program paid for the care of the mother, in spite of the fact that the mother’s care was not at a nursing home. According to the new health care legislation, Medicaid has the right to recover all medical expenses including hospital services, prescription drugs and Medicare expenses covered by Medicare premiums.

The woman’s daughter is required to pay Medicaid back and the state is within its rights to appropriate the mother’s house. Any claims against the estate must be paid before any property can be distributed as specified in a will. While the state does not specify that an heir should sell a house to pay the bill, a lien may be applied or the bill can be paid through other means.

The processing is done via the Texas Medicaid Estate Recovery Contractor, who may state the amount sought will not exceed the estate’s value. If the estate is not worth anything, there would be nothing to recover.

Individuals in similar positions should investigate how to handle elder care in order to protect the estates and property our loved ones have worked a lifetime to achieve. Estate planning tips might include saving money to prepare for such emergencies, obtaining advice regarding Medicaid planning and preparing oneself for long-term elder care., “TONI KING: What is the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program?” Toni King, Dec. 30, 2013