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Experienced Elder Law Guidance

The population in Texas and throughout the nation is aging, and our elders face many legal challenges that must be handled with care. At Dawson Springman, our Elder Law, estates, and probate section emphasizes Elder Law and is dedicated to helping our clients navigate these complex legal issues.

What is Elder Law?

In the simplest terms, Elder Law consists of legal services that senior citizens need.  Many of these services are required by people of all ages, but some aspects are more important to seniors.  We handle a broad range of Elder Law issues for clients throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex as well as Midland and the surrounding communities.

The scope of our Elder Law practice includes:

Estate Planning: A major part of assisting senior citizens is ensuring they have the correct estate planning documents. Of particular importance is a Power of Attorney which allows senior citizens to name family members or friends to care for their financial and physical well-being when the senior can no longer do for themselves. Additionally, a Will or Trust is used to direct the division of property the person owns after they have passed away.

Guardianship: Too often, people wait until there is a diagnosis of dementia or a sudden downturn in their health to prepare and sign their estate planning documents, especially a Power of Attorney. By that time, a person’s intellectual health has sometimes deteriorated so far that they can no longer legally execute a Power of Attorney.  When a person cannot care for themselves or lacks the capacity to manage their financial affairs, unless that person has a valid Power of Attorney, the State of Texas implements its own solution, which is guardianship.  Guardianship allows a local probate court judge to appoint court investigators, auditors, court-appointed attorneys, and others into your family’s private life.  It is intrusive and expensive. However, it is often the only solution to manage the care of a person who did not make a plan and cannot care for themselves.  We guide clients through this process with patience and respect when they must seek guardianship over a loved one.

Medicaid Planning: Paying for long term care can bankrupt a family. The only government program that pays for long term care in Texas is Long Term Care (LTC) Medicaid, and it only pays for care in a skilled nursing facility. To qualify for LTC Medicaid (or nursing home Medicaid), a person and their spouse must meet strict income limits and limits on the amount of assets they can own.  We can assist you or your loved ones who may need nursing home care in preparing a plan to preserve as much of their property as possible for themselves, their spouse, and their family and still qualify for LTC Medicaid.

Applying for Medicaid:  The actual application process for nursing home Medicaid is full of traps for the unwary. Many people who try to apply on their own are denied. Nursing homes can assist residents in applying for Medicaid, but the nursing home staff is not always equipped or motivated to preserve the applicant’s and their spouse’s property. Also, it is illegal for nursing home staff to prepare trusts, deeds, and agreements that are often necessary to create a quality plan because this is the unauthorized practice of law.  We can assist in obtaining public benefits to pay for nursing home care under the Medicaid program while retaining the maximum amount of assets and income the resident and their spouse may legally keep.

Qualified Income Trusts / Miller Trusts: A nursing home Medicaid applicant often needs to transfer a part of their income to a Qualified Income Trust (QIT), also called a “Miller Trust.”  A QIT allows a person whose income exceeds the Medicaid limit to qualify for benefits. We can help prepare a QIT / Miller Trust and guide your family in managing it.

Lady Bird Deeds: If a person wishes to transfer real estate upon death and remain in control of that property while they are alive, a Lady Bird Deed can help them. This is especially important for a person receiving nursing home Medicaid.  The state can recover the funds expended on the nursing home resident’s care from their probate estate. These deeds allow real property to pass outside of probate, and the state cannot take the property to pay back Medicaid benefits.

Medicaid Asset Protection Trusts: Medicaid penalizes people who give away their property within five years of applying for Medicaid. A Medicaid Asset Protection Trust (a MAPT) is still subject to the five-year look-back period. However, as part of a careful overall plan made far enough in advance, a MAPT can shelter assets and still allow a person to qualify for benefits.

Helping You Help Your Loved Ones

Many of our clients come to Dawson Springman seeking legal guidance for their parents, who are elderly and not equipped to face legal challenges independently. Whether you seek legal representation for yourself or a loved one, you will find an experienced, compassionate legal team ready to help you at our law firm. To arrange your initial consultation, please call us at CALL or 432-255-5549 or send a message online, and we will respond promptly.