Why We Love Estate Planning.
We don't only treat Estate Planning as a career - we share a passion for it that was formed by our personal experiences. Those experiences aren't only why we do what we do, they're why we care so much about protecting you and your family.
As you will see throughout my website, my business cards, my marketing materials, etc…, I use the color of slate blue. What does that have to do with why I practice in estate planning, probate and elder law? Well, it’s a long story, but I would like to share it with you because it is a reminder to me of a person I loved and admired all of my life – my Mom.
Although I grew up in New Orleans, I moved to Texas in my 20s, went to law school at South Texas College of Law in Houston and, upon graduation, I practiced as a litigator in Federal Court for many, many years. Interestingly, although I was not in estate planning at the time, per se, I was many times on the other end trying to defeat trusts and other estate plans which gave me an invaluable and side-line education on how estate plans should be drafted.
While my Mom (who I was very close to) was in her early 60s, she started having memory issues and was eventually diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's (actually Lewy Body Syndrome). Before we even knew what we were dealing with, my Dad had a stroke that left him mentally and physically incapacitated. He recovered somewhat, but he was never quite “the same”. My Mom and Dad hid things well and, in fact, we thought they had a long term care plan in place, i.e. savings, insurance, investments, . . . something since they worked all of their lives. That would soon be tested as the truth of my Mom’s condition began to surface. She began having problems at her job and her office tried to fire her thinking that she wasn’t doing her job well anymore. Now, in hindsight, we know that it was the disease. Anyway, she was going to lose her “pension”. So, I represented her and negotiated a deal so she would be able to leave the company with dignity and keep her pension. “OK,” I thought, “[s]he has a pension – GREAT!” But, I never found out how much that “pension” was...
Eventually, my sister and I started realizing and admitting to ourselves that something was REALLY off with my Mom and Dad. When we asked about a Will, etc…, they said they had none. So, of course, I contacted some lawyers in New Orleans and we had both my Mom and Dad execute their Wills, Powers of Attorney, Medical Powers of Attorney and Directives naming my sister and me as the Agents under the Powers. My sister lives in New Orleans and she took care of them for a long time there. Eventually, after my parents refused to evacuate for Hurricane Katrina, we moved them here to The Woodlands and sold their house– I knew my Mom was meant to be near me. We put them in Assisted Living at a very nice place near me, but I quickly learned that nice places are outrageously expensive. This is when the truth of their financial situation hit! As it turned out, they had NOTHING but less than $100,000 and their house (which was even less than that) to their name. That “pension” my Mom had only paid $70.00 a month. That $100,000 they had was because my Dad — who remember was not “all there” mentally — cashed in their IRAs and took a severe penalty – they lost at least half of the value of their IRAs. Then, after we moved them to Assisted Living near me, we found out that my Dad was not treating my Mom well and my Mom was deteriorating more from her disease. So, we moved my Dad to a different Assisted Living facility and my Mom to a Memory Care unit (which is even more expensive) in the same place close to me. So, NOW they were having to pay for TWO units — they were having to pay around $11,000 per month!!! YEP – do the math for long term care and compare to what they had financially and time and their financial resources were not on our side! My sister and I were blessed to have what we had, but neither of us could have afforded our own family situations and paid for my Mom and Dad to remain in a nice place. Now with the knowledge of my Mom and Dad’s true financial situation, that “Oh my gosh! What are we going to do when Mom and Dad run out of money?” feeling hit. So, my sister and I began the journey through an unbelievable maze and tried to get my Dad covered by VA benefits because he had served in Korea. Ultimately, we successfully navigated our way through and my Dad received his benefits but it took two (2) years. So, he moved to a VA home in New Orleans and was very happy there being with colleagues of war and close enough to get visits from his brother.
Meanwhile, in 2005, I had boy/girl twins and cut back to part–time work lawyering because they required a lot of attention, even though I had full time assistance with their care, and my Mom and Dad required attention. I watched that awful disease my Mom had slowly steal away her memory, her dignity and eventually all of her body. My Mom died in 2012 at the age of 74. Much to my surprise, my Mom did have a funeral plan and when I walked into the room with her casket, there she laid in a slate blue casket, her favorite color, and she was finally at peace and rid of that awful disease.
The very next year, 2013, my husband, Steve, had a heart attack. Yes, “IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU” became a reality for me. Thankfully, his surgery was a success and we are blessed to be able to continue to raise our family and practice law together. Then, two years later, in 2015, my Dad passed away unexpectedly.
Although I already knew about Estate Planning, etc…, with what I experienced with my parents, I learned the hard way about Elder Law. So throughout this whole process, I gradually started focusing my practice in the Estate Planning and Elder Law arena to educate people in various independent and assisted living facilities about the importance of estate planning, how it all works and the reality of what happens when you don’t plan and it led me back to full time practice in this area. In addition to seniors, I try to reach a lot of the younger generation too because you need to start planning when you can qualify for things like Long Term Care Insurance (which will pay for nice facilities when you need it, instead of you paying $11,000 per month out of your pocket).
I love what I do. And, every time I walk into a senior community, whether to give a workshop or design a plan for a client, my Mom is with me. The slate blue that I use on my cards, my website, my marketing materials, etc… reminds me of my Mom’s journey and my own journey with her and it reminds me of why I do what I do. Whether I am teaching a workshop or sitting at a conference table working on an estate plan, I am not just there as a lawyer – I am a daughter, a sister, a mom and a wife that understands the importance of having a plan that provides you and your family with financial protection to the fullest extent possible and mental peace of mind.
Unlike Blanche, my parents died a long time ago. However, I was blessed with an aunt and uncle who were free spirits, living life to the fullest, and friends to many people. In 2007 they, in their late 80’s, were moved to assisted living. My uncle was falling a lot and we suspected he was having memory problems. My aunt was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
My uncle, always the gentleman, confessed to me one evening that he was O.K. with the changes he was experiencing except for the perceived loss of control and of his dignity. That made a lasting impression on me – the importance of maintaining control and dignity, at least to the extent possible. He died shortly thereafter and my aunt’s mental conditioned worsened.
Although they were not well off, my uncle had planned well. His “estate” was in order and we were able to provide for my aunt in a good memory care facility until her death several years later. Her estate was easily administered because of his planning. Because of his planning he was able to provide the continued quality of life to both previously enjoyed. By his planning, he helped my aunt and he, clearly, helped me – my orders were clearly spelled out on what he wished for himself and his wife and then his heirs. He gave voice to his plan so that there really was no opportunity for the typical family dysfunction. There was nothing unclear or to fight about.
From these events, I realized how important it is to plan well and in advance – purchase long term care insurance or other insurance or annuity, have your estate in order with a will or probate avoidance transfers triggered upon your death, medical and financial powers of attorney and Directives to Physicians properly prepared, and, to maintain your dignity, have a Personal Care Plan stating, when you are no longer able to communicate your wishes and desires, your wants and do not wants, your likes and dislikes. All of this will afford you and your family peace of mind. A good plan is always about family.
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Main Office & Mailing Address:
32935 Tamina Rd, Ste 101
Magnolia, TX 77354
21 Waterway Ave, Ste 300
The Woodlands, TX 77380