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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Texas Meningitis Outbreak: FDA Warns Texas Health Care Providers Regarding NECC Contaminated Drugs By Texas Meningitis Lawyer Jason Coomer

Texas Meningitis Outbreak: Texas Medical Providers Ordered By FDA To Retain, Secure, and Withhold Potentially Contaminated Drugs That May Cause Meningitis By Texas Meningitis Contaminated Drug Lawyer Jason Coomer

The New England Compounding Center (NECC) meningitis contaminated drug outbreak that has claimed over 25 lives and has made hundreds of people sick may include several Texas medical providers that have been ordered by the FDA to retain, secure, and withhold any NECC drugs that may be contaminated and that the Texas health care providers may still have in their possession.

The following Texas medical providers that have ordered or used NECC drugs include: Medical City Dallas Hospital, Abilene Regional Medical Center, Alamo Heights Surgicare, Austin Medical Center, Cedar Park Regional Medical Center, Children's Medical Center Dallas, College Station Medical Center, Corpus Christi Medical Center-Bay Area, Corpus Chisti Medical Center-Doctor Reg, Corpus Christi Outpatient Surgery, Cosmetic and Maxillofacial Surg. Center, Convenant Medical Center-Lakeside, Dallas Plastic Surgery, Dallas Back Pain Management, Dell Children's Medical Center, Driscoll Children's Hospital, East Texas Orthopaedics, El Paso Specialty Hospital, Harlingen Medical Center, Harris Methodist Southlake Center, Hendrick Medical Center, KSF Methodist WB, KSF Orthopedic Center P.A., Lake Pointe Medical Center, Longview Regional Medical Center, Mansfield Surgery Center, Methodist Charlton Medical Center-Cardio, Metroplex Hospital, Michael E. Debakey V.A. Medical Center, Methodist Dallas Medical Center, Scott & White Memorial Hospital, Shannon Medical Center, Texas Midwest Surgery Center, Texas Orthopedic Hospital, The Baylor School of Medicine Ambulatory Surgery Center, University Medical Center, Valley Regional Medical Center-Cardio, Weatherford Regional Medical Center, and Williamson Surgery Center. 

There are several other health care providers in Texas and throughout the United States that have ordered or used these potentially contaminated drugs.  For a complete list of medical providers, please go to the following lists of health care providers that have ordered NECC drugs: FDA List of Health Care Providers.

It is not clear yet as to how many people and their families will be impacted by this contaminated drug meningitis outbreak, but it is important for people that have received potentially contaminated drugs and that are showing symptoms of meningitis to immediately contact a medical professional to determine if they have meningitis.  If the they are infected with meningitis, it is important to obtain medical assistance and report the contaminated drug.  For more information on the contaminated drugs, meningitis, and FDA actions, please feel free to go to the following web pages: Texas Meningitis Lawsuits and Contaminated Drug Meningitis Lawsuits.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Federal Estate Tax and Protecting Family Wealth by Texas Family Wealth Protection Lawyer:

Protecting Family Wealth From The Government Requires Giving Up Control of Wealth By Texas Family Wealth Protection Lawyer Jason S. Coomer

The current Federal Estate Tax will expire on December 31, 2012 and the exemption could reset to $1 million and a 55% maximum tax rate on non-exempt assets.  Many families are facing difficult decisions as to if they should transfer large amounts of wealth to the next generation through gifts and into irrevocable trusts to avoid the federal estate tax or hope the federal estate tax laws will be revised again to extend large federal tax exemptions. 

Major Estate Tax Change Looming - Don't Be A Last Minute Louie - Forbes

"The case for making a large gift in 2012 to use up the unified credit against gift and estate taxes is compelling for people who can afford it.  Right now, taxable gifts totaling $5,120,000 can be made in a lifetime without incurring liability."

The Medicaid 60 Month Transfer Rule
Many families will also face the decision as to whether to transfer assets to allow loved ones to qualify for Medicaid and avoid large medical expenses and large Medicaid liens.  The person seeking to qualify for Medicaid benefits to help pay for nursing home care and other medical benefits will need to transfer their property at least 60 months before qualifying for Medicaid.

This 60 month look back period forces families to make difficult decisions well before a situation arises.  On a personal note the person transferring their assets has to be sure they know what they are doing and greatly trust those that to whom they are transferring their assets.

How Do I Protect My Assets From The Government Under Current Law?

Under current federal law, it is necessary for the person transferring their assets to give up control of their assets in order to take advantage of the current federal exemptions or to qualify for Medicaid benefits.  For a person to give up control of their assets, the assets need to be transferred through gift, death, or irrevocable trust. 

In all of these options the person transferring their assets will have to give up control of their assets and cannot take back their assets if their situation changes.  Giving up control in assets is difficult for many people as transferring their assets will make them dependent on others and place them in a vulnerable position.  For some people and their families, it is worth the risk to protect assets from the government.  For other people and their families, the risk of losing control of their wealth and relying on those that they transferred their wealth to is not worth the risk.  They would prefer to control their wealth to the very end and risk losing a large portion to the government, medical bills, or opportunists.

The Lucky Few:  Five Families Save $8.75 Billion in 2010 

In 2010, the federal estate tax exemption was unlimited and five billionaires died without paying any federal estate taxes.   The savings from federal estate tax to these families was approximately $8.75 billion.  These billionaires were George Steinbrenner, Walter Shorenstein, Dan Duncan, Mary Cargill and John Kluge. In this election year there are some calls to repeal the death tax and extend the unlimited federal exemption.  It is expected that if the Republicans win the presidency and congress that the unlimited federal exemption will be extended.  Additionally, if the Democrats win it is expected that a federal exemption of around $5 million per person or $10 million per married couple will be extended.  However, please keep in mind with significant government budget issues, it is not clear if either party will be able to allow unlimited or large exemptions to continue in the future.

Further, the Medicaid qualification 60 month rule is expected to stay in place.  This rule will impact many families and will place many families in difficult planning situations.  In fact, with the need to reduce Medicaid benefits by government, it is expected that new rules to limit Medicaid qualifications will be put in place in the future placing families with assets of $100,000.00 to $2,000,000.00 in difficult estate planning situations.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Avoiding Probate Real Estate Traps and The Loss of Family Real Estate Through Probate by Texas Real Estate Probate Lawyer Jason Coomer

Protecting Family Real Estate Through Probate From The Government and Other Loss by Texas Real Estate Probate Lawyer Jason S. Coomer

As a Texas Real Estate Probate Lawyer, I am seeing an increasing number of Texas families lose their family's real estate to governmental entities and vultures that purchase real estate at foreclosure sales for pennies on the dollar.  In many instances the owner of the real property passes away and the real property gets stuck in the probate process.  The family does not have the information or resources to pay the taxes or clear title to the property.  In many of these situations, time and delay works against the family until the real property is taken by the government and sold for pennies on the dollar.

Below are some of the common traps that families fall into that allow their real estate to be lost or taken as well as some suggestions on how to avoid or navigate out of these traps.

The Privacy Trap: Lack of Information and Resources Can Result in the Loss of Real Property

The most common trap is the privacy trap where the owner of real estate handles all the finances for the family and does not communicate as to what real property is owned or what other assets are available to maintain the real estate.  This is a common trap because many people do not want to share their financial information.  Most people want to control their finances through their entire life.  Further, as many people age and start to lose their physical strength, they feel more vulnerable making them less likely to share information on their wealth even with family members and loved ones.  

In many of these situations when the owner dies or becomes incapacitated, the family will be busy grieving their loss and how to deal with guardianship issues or funeral issues and not have the necessary information or resources to deal with the family's real estate.  This often creates a situation where real property can be lost through inaction or taken by opportunists.

Communication and organization are keys to avoiding this potential privacy trap.  Having detailed records of real estate and other assets can help prevent both from being lost.  These records need to be kept in a safe place and accessible for loved ones to obtain if death or incapacity occurs.  Further, communication of asset information and the decedent's wishes prior to death or incapacity are also important, but these conversations can be difficult as most people do not like to think of their own potential incapacity or death.  

The Fear of Death Trap: Lack of Estate Planning Can Result in Unintended Issues And Problems

The fear of death trap is also a common trap that can cause real estate to become trapped or lost through lack of estate planning.  Most people have a fear of their own death and many will not want to envision a time when they are not alive.  This fear will prevent many people from doing any type of estate planning which can result in real estate and other property being lost.  In some situations, a person's estate is inherited by minors or long lost relatives.  In both of these situations, the lack of estate planning can result in the inheritance by minors or long lost relatives to require the person's estate to have to go through additional and often costly court administration including appointment of ad litems and a dependent administration to properly transfer the property.  In both of these situations additional court costs, legal fees, and necessary proceedings can result in a family delaying or not moving forward with the probate process to clear title to real estate.

Further, there can be other unintended consequences where property is given to heirs that do not get along.  In many of these situations the family begins to fight over the estate.  These fight can tear a family apart, prevent a family from moving forward with the probate process, and/or last years as each side will not agree with the other to moving forward with a simple administration.

In all of these situations and many other situations where estate planning is not done, a person's real estate can get stuck as the lawful heirs do not know how to transfer the real property, refuse to allow real property to be transferred to other family members, or do not have the resources to go through an expensive probate lawsuit.

Estate planning with a lawyer is typically the best way to avoid this trap.  Estate planning may cost some money and be a difficult issue to face, but it can often save substantial amounts of money and assets as well as avoid contested probate litigation.  Ignorance of estate planning and probate can be extremely costly to many families and will result in the loss of substantial family assets including mineral interests, family farms, houses, commercial property, investment property, lake houses, condos, and other real estate.  

The Medicaid Trap: The Government Will Take More Family Real Estate in The Future 

In the past, families that had a loved one that needed to go into a nursing home used to be able to transfer that person's property to a family member and then seek Medicaid to help pay for nursing home and medical expenses.  Those days are now gone.  Transfers of assets to make a person eligible for Medicaid benefits now need to be made at least 60 months (5 years) prior to applying for benefits.  This puts families in a difficult situation where family assets would need to be transferred out of the elderly person's control well before there is any need for Medicaid benefits.  This early transfer could be beneficial for the family, but could also cause substantial problems for the person transferring all their assets as they would have to trust and rely on their family to continue to take care of them when they may still be physically and mentally fit.   However, if the person keeps their home and other assets, they may not be able to qualify for Medicaid when they need it or they may leave a home with a substantial Medicaid lien on it to their family. 

The Medicaid trap is probably the most difficult of the probate real estate traps and will continue to become more problematic as health care costs continue to increase, more people need Medicaid benefits, and the government continues to change Medicaid rules to seek more resources in order to continue to provide Medicaid benefits.   

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Texas Accident Death Lawsuits Include Wrongful Death Claims and Survival Accident Claims by Texas Accident Death Lawyer Jason S. Coomer

Texas Accident Death Lawsuits Include Survival Action Claims and Wrongful Death Claims and Usually Require The Grieving Family To File A Probate Lawsuit To Obtain Control of Their Loved One's Estate by Texas Accident Death Lawyer Jason S. Coomer

Under Texas law there are two main types of claims that arise out of fatal accidents.  These claims include survival actions and wrongful death actions.  The survival action passes through the decedent's estate and allows the heirs or beneficiaries of a decedent to seek compensation for the death of their loved one.  To obtain control of the survival action the lost loved one's estate needs to be administered through a Texas probate and an administrator or executor needs to be appointed.  This will allow the administrator or executor to file a survival action and seek survival action damages.

The survival action seeks damages or claims for what the decedent would have recovered had the person survived the accident.  These claims travel through the decedent's estate and either go to their heirs or beneficiaries.  These damages include:
  •  Expenses associated with the death including funeral costs
  • Medical expenses prior to the death
  • Pain and suffering associated with the untimely death 
Texas Wrongful Death Claims Are Available to the Spouse, Parents, and Children

In addition to survival actions claims, Texas law also has wrongful death claims that are available to the spouse, parents, and children of a person that has been wrongfully killed by the negligent actions, reckless actions, or intentional actions of another.  Wrongful death claims seek money compensation for the parents, spouse and children of the decedent based on a variety of factors including:
  • Loss of love, companionship, comfort, assistance, protection, affection or care 
  • Loss of financial support 
  • Lost benefits, such as insurance, from the death 
  • Loss of inheritance from an untimely death
Many Families Do Not Realize That In Addition To Survival Action and Wrongful Death Action Claims There Are Often Several Different Types of Death Benefits and Insurance Recoveries That Can Also Be Recovered
After losing a loved one in an accident, it can be difficult to locate all potential insurance recoveries as well as to prove to insurance companies and guilty defendants the full extent of damages that your family has suffered. This is especially true if the damages suffered include the loss of a main contributor of financial support to your family or if there are large medical and funeral bills created by the death.  These damages can often cause a ripple affect of other damages that can result in the loss of a home, loss of vehicles, loss of ability to go to college, and other serious financial problems.    
In thoroughly investigating the death of a loved one, it is important to understand the potential different types of compensation that can be obtained through the Texas legal system and insurance policies.  In addition to seeking compensation from defendants responsible for the accidental death of a loved one, insurance can often provide compensation for the loss of a loved one.  Accidental Death Policies, Life Insurance Policies, Homeowners Insurance, General Commercial Insurance Policies, and Automobile Accident Policies are all types of insurance that can compensate widows and Texas families for the accidental death of a loved one.  In many instances if the party that killed your loved one is a business corporation, the party will have a general commercial policy of one million dollars to insure them from catastrophic injuries and death.  These policy can sometimes be hidden until a formal demand is made to the company responsible for the death.  Additionally, if the party that accidentally killed your loved one owns a home they will probably have a homeowners insurance policy that may compensate for an accidental death including deaths caused by fire and smoke, an accidental shooting or stray bullet, negligent children, attack dogs, dangerous condition on the property, or other negligence committed by a homeowner.  Like other insurance policies, these policies must be triggered within a certain time of the death and will not be automatically triggered.  A formal demand typically must be made to trigger these insurance policies.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Seniors Face Difficult Decisions On How To Protect Themselves and Their Wealth in Their Golden Years by Texas Elder Financial Abuse Lawyer and Texas Financial Exploitation Lawyer

Protecting Yourself and Your Wealth From Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation in Your Golden Years by Texas Elder Financial Abuse Lawyer

Many seniors will face difficult decisions on how to protect themselves and how to protect their wealth in their golden years.  Unfortunately for many seniors, they are not aware of many of the potential dangers they may face as they age and many will become victims of elder financial abuse and exploitation.  In fact, over 10 percent of seniors are affected by some form of elder abuse including financial exploitation and the numbers are rising as the senior population increases and the number of opportunists targeting seniors continues to increase.  These opportunists include caretakers, financial advisers, and others who see a senior as an easy target to make money.

Caretakers Often Have Access and Opportunity to Commit Financial Exploitation and Caretaker Financial Abuse of Seniors

As a Texas Elder Financial Abuse Lawyer, I have seen numerous situations where a senior falls victim to caretaker financial exploitation.  Caretaker financial exploitation occurs when the person taking care of a senior takes advantage of the situation and begins taking control of the senior's wealth without permission or authority.  In my practice many families have contacted me regarding a caretaker that has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from a vulnerable senior.  The caretaker is commonly a family member, but can also be a hired home health care provider, a neighbor, a financial adviser, a family friend or other opportunist that comes into the senior's life and then realizes that the senior has substantial wealth, suffers from dementia or other memory problems, and no one is watching them or their finances closely.  In many of these situations, credit cards are used for the caretaker's benefit; bank accounts are drained or shifted into joint accounts allowing the caretaker greater access to money; beneficiary designations on stocks, CDs, retirement funds, and life insurance are changed; wills are changed; real property is sold and new property is purchased; and trusts are created.  In some situations the caretaker will even marry the senior to have better access to assets and inheritance rights.  Overall, a caretaker without oversight can often take control of a senior's wealth and leave a senior without their life savings.

In extreme cases, I have spoken to several families that claim a caretaker isolated the senior from family and friends, took the senior's wealth, and then placed the senior in a nursing home or kept the senior heavily medicated and locked up.  In some situations after the senior's wealth was transferred, the senior died under mysterious circumstances.    

Many acts of financial fraud, financial elder abuse, and financial exploitation of the elderly are committed by family members and caretakers that have moved in and take over the senior's finances.  While some of these financial transfers are authorized by the elderly person, many are not.  In some situations there is clear fraud and exploitation, while in other situations it can be difficult to determine what actions are authorized and which are not.  Communication between the senior's friends and family are often the best protection for seniors, but many seniors are hesitant to communicate regarding fraud and exploitation. 
Financial Advisers Often Have Access and Opportunity to Take Advantage of Seniors With Investment Fraud Schemes and Senior Financial Exploitation

The Department of Justice has warned that the country's recession has resulted in an unprecedented rise in investment fraud schemes.  Many of these investment fraud schemes have been aimed at wealthy seniors who are often easy targets with substantial wealth.  Common investment schemes include selling seniors annuities, selling risky investments to seniors, and pushing Ponzi schemes to seniors.  Many of these schemes are pushed onto seniors by high pressure financial advisers working on commissions.

Other financial advisers take control of a senior's wealth and then begin to churn the investment to increase their commissions or even worse take the senior's wealth through false accounting statements and illegal transfers.  Financial adviser senior exploitation can also be hard to identify as many seniors will keep their investments a secret from those around them and can sometimes forget about investments or die without communicating the existence of an investment.

Many Seniors Will Need To Make Difficult Decisions Regarding Who To Trust and How To Protect Themselves and Their Wealth 
Many seniors that have worked hard during their lives to amass wealth are often reluctant to share information regarding their wealth or their health with those around them.  In fact, as many seniors age and begin to feel physically and mentally weaker, they will feel a need to protect this information even more strongly and many will become defensive of family, friends, or professionals that inquire about these topics.  This natural tendency to solely control wealth and health information, however, can create an environment where the senior is isolated and becomes an easy target for an opportunist to come into the senior's life and take advantage of the isolation.  For a growing number of seniors, they become vulnerable to physical, emotional, and financial abuse from caretakers, financial advisers, family members, and other opportunists in their later years.  

The decisions seniors make when they are younger and stronger will greatly impact what happens to them as they age, become weaker, and lose their memory.  However, planning for the future can be difficult as many seniors do not want to share financial or health information with those around them.  Further, sharing with the wrong person or failing to share this information can result in financial exploitation.  Recognizing who to trust is key to protecting yourself as you age, but this can be difficult and is often different for every senior and family facing these issues.