Monthly Archives: March 2014

GPS shoes new technology in elder care field

Texas residents may be interested in a device that a George Mason University assistant professor in Virginia has developed that could prove valuable for tracking seniors with Alzheimer’s who wander away from their homes and caregivers.

The professor, who in addition to his academic duties is a consultant on issues involving senior housing, created a shoe with a GPS chip inside it to track the movement of seniors suffering from dementia in all its forms.

The technology does have its drawbacks. Namely, the initial cost of almost $300 and the monthly service plan ranging from $20 to $40 along with the necessity of charging the shoe on a daily basis. But for those who can afford it, it’s one more gate in the often complex gate-keeping system family members and loved ones of aging seniors with dementia employ.

Caring for a parent or loved one with declining mental and physical health can be a grueling and thankless task, and there are many facets to keeping senior citizens safe. Keeping not only their physical but their psychological health and financial affairs afloat in the event of their mental incapacity can be a real challenge. Other family members may refuse to cooperate or worse, try to exploit your loved one for nefarious reasons, such as their own financial gain.

In cases like that, loved ones with the senior citizen’s best interests at heart can step up to the plate and obtain a guardianship for them so that their affairs can be successfully managed and their assets preserved. If you are concerned over a loved one’s worsening dementia and possible financial exploitation, the advice of an El Paso estate attorney can be beneficial to protecting him or her, as well as a lifetime of assets.

Source:El Paso Inc., “Va. professor champions shoes with GPS tracking” No author given, Mar. 23, 2014

Virtual divorce in Texas: Who gets the farm?

When Ben Franklin left over 400 diamonds to his daughter in his will over two hundred years ago, no one could imagine it might be setting a precedent for probate and estate planning in Texas in 2014. The Age of Technology is upon us, and it has affected every aspect of our lives, including the laws pertaining to inheritances, will planning and probate.

Today, divorce agreements often include digital and virtual assets. A digital asset might be an electronic book or piece of music, a movie, blog, Web site, domain name or other intangible wealth. Domain names belonging to Facebook or real estate may come with million dollar price tags. was purchased for $4 million under two years ago.

A virtual asset is different from a digital asset. Like digital assets, these are intangibles and have no physical form. Avatars, online possessions or even land on a virtual farm are considered virtual assets. They are a massive financial endeavor, enhanced by widely-popular online computer games with virtual players from all over the globe.

A recent study in Forbes magazine reports that virtual assets have limitless movement in the online world, which has translated into business transactions in the physical world. In the U.S. alone, virtual buying and selling is in the billions and growing. Purchases can be traded or converted to real dollars in the physical world.

Digital and virtual assets must be considered in a divorce, whether they are categorized as separate or community property. A court decision can determine community property, but separate property gets more complicated. An individual must be able to prove virtual or digital property is a separate item with an assigned value. Will planning in the 21st century has to include the distribution of digital or virtual assets to heirs and beneficiaries.

Ben Franklin could never have imagined how the times would change as he pondered passing on his diamonds to his next of kin. Now, more than ever, here in Texas or in other states, we must integrate sound estate planning in leaving assets to our beneficiaries. As the world changes around us, so do the laws surrounding the value we leave behind. It is in our best interests to keep up with these changes.

Source:Allen Publications, “WHAT!? My Spouse Can Get my iTunes and My Virtual Farm?” No author given, Mar. 21, 2014

While El Paso grows, who pays for the cost of growth?

It’s no secret that El Paso is a growing city in Texas. But, for a city to grow, land development must take place. This might mean new homes, businesses and neighborhoods are being built where there once was nothing but undeveloped land.

However, to build these new structures, you need water. Water lines and waste areas must be planned and put in place. Electricity is also a necessity for new development. There are costs involved with this part of the land development also.

The El Paso Water Utilities has a plan already drawn up for the expansion of a water treatment plant that should be able to handle growth for five years in the northeast and eastside of El Paso. A proposal to implement an impact fee to cover these costs has been initiated, which according to the EPWU can offset the costs without raising rates for existing customers.

Opposition to the impact fee, as expected, is coming from those who will be affected by it: the Capital Improvements Advisory Committee, developers and homebuilders. This means they would have to pay an impact fee for every new home built in the area.

According to the vice-president of the El Paso Association of Builders, this may cause builders to buy land and build in other locations outside the city limits. He also alleges that the costs will be pushed down to the homebuyers making it harder for Texans to qualify for mortgages.

Implementation of this impact fee may end up being a negotiation between real estate brokers and the homebuilders. Homebuilders may chose to tack on the cost of the impact fee to the price of a new structure or negotiate with the borrower’s real estate broker to add it to the purchasing fees.

Source:El Paso Inc., “Impact fees spur debate over who should pay for new growth” Alberto Tomas Halpern, Feb. 28, 2014

Bringing home parents — El Paso elder care options

Baby boomers with aging parents are increasingly concerned about their loved ones’ needs as they live out their twilight years. The question of what to do about parents’ living situations is not always easily solved, as there are many factors to consider.

Adult children who live near their parents are better able to assess their mental acuity and physical ability to manage on their own. But when many miles separate them, the issues become murkier.

If you are considering inviting aging parents to share your home, there are some issues to consider. How well do you get along? Do you have personality clashes? Are there long-simmering issues between you that would bubble to the surface under one roof?

Even if you get along well, other factors to mull include your personal ability to participate in their hands-on care should that become necessary. Primary caregiving is often a thankless and stressful task

How do other family members feel about the potential addition to the household? Are spouses supportive or grudging? Do children and teens get along well with grandparents, or are their huge generation gaps?

What about finances? Would parents be comfortable with adult children handling their financial decisions or would they worry about exploitation? Do the parents have savings set aside for healthcare? Is there a long term care plan in place?

If there are siblings, how do they feel about the situation? Are they on board, and can they contribute — financially or otherwise — to their parents’ ongoing care needs?

If parents have mobility issues, consider the access in your home. An upstairs bedroom might be inaccessible to them now, or could become so in time. What modifications can be made to accommodate them?

Lastly, is this something parents would even consider doing? Some seniors are perfectly happy in assisted living centers and even nursing facilities, while others would construe such arrangements as familial abandonment.

Whatever your final decision, it may be helpful to consult with an El Paso elder care attorney to cover all of the bases and make sure parents’ changing needs are met and wishes are taken into consideration.

Source: El Paso Southwest Senior, “Moving Mom or Dad: Should they live with you?” Lisa M. Petsche, Mar. 05, 2014

Chapter 11 averts hotel foreclosure

While the economic world went about its business in 2006, none suspected they were inside a bubble about to burst. When it did deflate, so went the dreams, hopes and savings of many, down the drain. There were multiple victims to this housing bust, including commercial property, as evidenced this week by a hotel chain that is facing the loss of another property.

The manager of the former Doubletree property on NW 53rd street has 183 rooms and had been in deep litigation five years ago when a bank in Texas filed a foreclosure suit against the hotel parent company and a “managing member.” That individual is now facing a federal indictment.

After the Texas bank won a previous foreclosure judgment against the Boca chain, with mortgage interest and fees in excess of $25 million, the hotel was scheduled to be auctioned. But, the owner filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection a day before the auction in order stop the foreclosure auction and an almost $37 million judgment.

Identifying unsecured claims were over $100,000. The parent company of the hotel chain had lost properties in Detroit, Pittsburgh and Palm Beach County.

The managing member is listed as the same person in the litigation two years ago. Although he was indicted in Chicago two years ago on federal fraud charges, he was allegedly also accused of misappropriation of funds on a charge related to the hotel loans in Pittsburgh and Boca Raton.

While the indicted individual’s criminal case is pending, the debtor’s legal spokesperson indicated the manager is out of the country,. Since he failed to appear at his court arraignment, he has been declared a fugitive by the federal court.

She has issued a statement that regardless of the charges, the hotel remains in good condition, and there has been interest by various outside groups to purchase it.

Regardless of what state you may live in, many homes and commercial businesses were lost during the mortgage crises several years ago. Foreclosures and bankruptcies are words that strike terror in the hearts of most people, but there are factors to consider on all sides of real estate issues. It is vital to make sure you have proper advice and professional care during all financial and legal aspects of any property transfer. Your financial present and future may depend on it.

Source:South Florida Business Journal, “Boca Raton hotel owner files Chapter 11 to halt foreclosure” Brian Bandell, Feb. 28, 2014

Elder care and guardianship decisions for Texas residents

Not planning for health care crises and financial matters that might accompany one’s golden years can have a potentially negative impact on family members. While most people agree that these kinds of conversations are difficult at best, preparing estate planning documents ahead of time can bring peace of mind to everyone involved. The legal documentation used in assigning elder guardianship can be as general or as specific as the family desires and has the benefit of changeability over time. If the elder in question or a legal guardian decides the existing plan doesn’t work for some reason, they can make changes at any time.

Research conducted by adjunct professor, Todd Whatley with the University of Arkansas School of Law revealed that up to 80 percent of elder Americans have not prepared advanced directives regarding their end-of-life care. Legal experts agree that it’s never too soon to address important decisions like estate planning and elder care, but most people don’t think about it until faced with aging or a serious medical condition.

Even though broaching subjects like elder care and end-of-life instructions is uncomfortable, it can ease the way toward a peaceful resolution for those left behind. Consider this: even a young adult can benefit from estate planning in the event of a debilitating injury due to accident or a life-threatening illness. Without the necessary documents assigning family members or close friends for guardianship, a judge would intervene to appoint a legal guardian to make important decisions of behalf of the victim.

A range of legal documentation exists to provide instructions for elder care including living wills, medical powers of attorney and documents that specify fiduciary duties for family members. Aging elders in Texas and across the country can also create other documents such as last will and testament, letters of instruction and financial powers of attorney if so desired. Under the guidance of a qualified guardianship attorney, Texas citizens have the power to determine their own end-of-life care and retain the dignity every American deserves.

Source:US News Health, “6 Decisions to Make Before You Die” Kimberly Leonard, Feb. 26, 2014

Avoiding extra tax burden for non U.S. citizens’ spouses

As the world comes closer together and embraces diversity, it is not uncommon for a citizen of the U.S. to marry a person who is not a citizen here.

The Internal Revenue Service’s term for a person living in the U.S. as a non-citizen is a “resident alien,” which can imply unusual tax implications in marriage. The normal tax guidelines may not apply so there is pertinent information one should know when estate planning so as to avoid hefty tax fines.

While some taxation rules will cover citizens and resident aliens, estate tax is vastly different. If a person dies and leaves a taxable estate of several million dollars, the IRS can claim up to 40 percent of it. One tip to avoid paying large federal estate tax can be to leave your wealth to your children via a trust agreement upon your death. In most cases, the surviving spouse will receive the rest. The IRS is fine with your leaving as much of your remaining tax–free estate to your spouse as long as he or she is a citizen.

This unlimited marital deduction privilege does not apply to a non-citizen spouse.

Possible solutions could be to persuade your spouse to become a citizen, which can be achieved up to nine months after your demise. Another option could be to make large gifts to your spouse over time, which are generally non-taxable.

Finally, a qualified domestic trust can be established in your will. The QDOT money is deferred until your surviving spouse needs to withdraw funds, or he or she passes. This will not eliminate payment, just delay it.

Love has no bounds and interracial marriages are one form of proof. Unfortunately, the IRS is not known for its romantic tendencies, but if you inform yourself in advance about non-citizen spouse estate tax threats, you can potentially lead a long and happy life without worrying about estate planning. Assistance from an experienced estate planner or attorney in Texas will also take away any unexpected or disarming surprises down the road.

Source:Market Watch, “Estate planning with a non-citizen spouse” Bill Bischoff, Feb. 19, 2014