Receiving a sudden, terminal diagnosis can come as a shock—not just emotionally, but also financially. These effects are made worse when the individual doesn’t have any kind of end of life estate planning in place, making it necessary to quickly make key legal and financial decisions while also coping with medical care.
The good news is that this process doesn’t have to be burdensome; it’s possible to develop a simple end of life estate plan that will work well even if it’s created in the midst of a terminal diagnosis.
Of course, it’s best to do estate planning now, before the diagnosis—and if you need to update it in the face of a medical event, doing so is typically fairly easy.
As you consider the role of estate planning in end of life scenarios, here are a few particular guidelines.
The first priority is your wellbeing. Deal with the grief and emotional upheavals of your diagnosis before comitting to any estate plans. A clear and serene mind can make for more informed decisions. Support from family and experts is vital during this phase. Once you’ve taken a little time to cope, that’s when you’ll want to call your team of end of life estate planning attorneys.
Next, you’ll want to make sure you have all your paperwork in place. Combine all important documentation in one secure location that is accessible only to key family members. These papers include tax information, assets and liabilities lists, any previous estate plan, trusts and/or wills (if available). Again, it’s imperative that your family members know where these documents are kept and how to access them. One secure option is to leave them with your end of life estate planning attorney.
The next step in the end of life estate planning process: Make a list of the beneficiaries who will receive your assets once you have passed on, as well as key people that need to be in the know. This can easily be done once all assets have been compiled. Note that for some assets (like real estate), a ‘transfer-on-death’ clause can be invoked for a smoother transition. And as you consider the transfer of assets, it’s also wise to make sure you assign those who will make medical or financial choices for you should your illness lead to incapacitation.
Next, consult with estate planning lawyers about reducing the tax duties of transferred assets. This may involve using typical methods like gifting and trusts, or outright reducing assets via sale or trade. It’s vital to take these steps with care, and only under the direction of your lawyer, ensuring that you avoid any legal hindrances.
Finally, ensure that you write down other assets that need to be covered. These include tax returns from previous years, passwords for online and financial accounts, pet accommodations, financial aid matters, and the like. Keeping these updated will ensure that no loose ends are left when you pass on.
Abrupt, life-changing situations don’t have to result in turmoil, at least not where your estate planning is concerned. Just make sure you have a good estate planning attorney who can guide you in any decisions you need to make during these fraught times.
Singh Law Firm provides clients with ample expertise in end of life estate planning in California. We counsel our clients on such issues as irrevocable list insurance trusts and trust administration. Reach out to us today to start a conversation about power of attorney and estate planning.