In this 85th regular session of the Texas Legislature, lawmakers are weighing a wide variety of proposed law changes. Three pending bills could impact estate planning and elder law in Texas. Anyone who has been putting off creating an estate plan or may soon be named as an agent in an elderly loved one’s estate plan should carefully review these proposed laws and amendments to existing laws as they may directly affect you or your loved ones. Round Rock, Texas residents are encouraged to consult with an estate planning attorney to get start crafting your estate plan as soon as possible.
HB 959 proposes creating a new law relating to financial abuse of the elderly. It would broadly define certain actions towards the elderly as crimes. For example, if a person in a relationship of confidence with an elderly individual negligently takes or uses the senior individual’s money or property, this would be a criminal act. Even further, if the person in a relationship of confidence fails to use the elderly person’s money to provide necessities or living, this could also be a crime.
The bill defines “people in a relationship of confidence or trust” as caregivers, family members by both blood and marriage, agents, and financial planners. Those who agree to be an agent under a Power of Attorney could be affected by the law if it passes, as they may be criminally liable for failing to care for the elderly individual for whom they have agreed to be a representative.
The next bill also centers around abuse of the elderly. HB 916 would impose a legal duty on banks and other financial institutions to report suspected instances of elder financial abuse to Adult Protective Services. Banks would be immune from liability for reporting their suspicions of abuse and could be fined if they fail to report suspected financial abuse.
If passed, this Senate Bill would modify an existing law that currently requires the agent in a Power of Attorney to issue an accounting to the principal upon demand. The bill would allow a court-appointed guardian to make this same demand. Under the current law, the appointment of a guardian by the court supersedes an existing Power of Attorney. The proposed law could allow the guardian to sue the former agent if the agent does not disclose the requested accounting.