When discussing how to help your elderly parents, friends, and loved ones, often attorneys and other professionals will use legalese to describe specific people, places, and things. We are here to help you decipher these legal terms so that you understand what we are discussing before we meet with you for your initial consultation or ongoing client meeting. Here is a brief list of words that have a unique meaning in the legal context:
- Homestead: a homestead is defined in Texas as the place of residence for a family or individual and is secure from forced sale by general creditors. The Texas Constitution guarantees the only way a person can lose his or her homestead rights is by death, abandonment, sale of property, or foreclosure of a lien against the homestead. These laws are predicated on the theory that preservation of the homestead is of greater significance than the payment of debts. Significantly, the law protects the people who live in the homesteaded property as well as the owners' children and surviving spouse who continue to live in the residence after one or both of the owner's pass away.
- Incapacitated: according to the Texas Estates Code, an incapacitated person is: a minor; an adult individual who, because of a physical or mental condition is substantially unable to provide food, clothing, or shelter for himself or herself, to care for the individual's own physical healthy, or to manage the individual's own financial affairs. Some legal documents such as statutory or medical power of attorney designations become effective only after an individual is designated incapacitated by a medical doctor.
- Power of Attorney: A power of attorney is a legal document, whereby one person, called the "principal," gives another person, called the "agent" or the "attorney in fact," the authority to take certain actions on behalf of the principal. In Texas, there are two distinct types of power of attorney that a person can grant to an agent: the statutory power of attorney authorizes an agent to take action on behalf of the principal for a variety of financial transactions and the medical power of attorney authorizes an agent to make medical decisions on the principal's behalf. Important Note: these documents are only effective when the principal granting the power is alive. Once that person dies, the power of attorney is void and his or her Last Will & Testament determines who is responsible for acting on behalf of his or her estate.
To discuss the way the law impacts how you care for your elderly family members, please call us to schedule your initial consultation so we can discuss your particular scenario and guide you through the difficult but rewarding task of taking care of your aging relatives and to ensure that the twilight of their lives is as safe and stable as possible.