Whether you recently received a terminal diagnosis yourself, or a family member is terminally ill, the diagnosis likely caused a range of strong emotions. In the middle of all those heightened emotions, it can be difficult to think about the practical and legal steps that should be taken following a terminal diagnosis. Those steps, however, are important. The Vero Beach estate planning attorneys at Kulas & Crawford offer a checklist to help when handling a terminal diagnosis.
- Call a family meeting. A terminal diagnosis will be handled differently by every family member and loved one. In most cases, however, they should all be needs to aware of the situation and involved when applicable. Getting everyone together for a meeting also presents an opportunity to put together a plan for the coming weeks or months for the physical, financial, and emotional care of the terminal patient.
- Review and update life insurance policies. Review beneficiaries to determine if they need to be updated and make sure that someone knows what policies exist and what company to contact when the time comes.
- Execute or update advance directives. An advance directive lets the person creating it decide who will make health care decisions if he/she cannot make them because of incapacity. Important end-of-life care decisions can also be made ahead of time.
- Review and update an estate plan. Any desired changes to an existing Will or trust should be made as soon as possible. At some point, a terminally ill patient may reach a point where incapacity prevents making changes.
- Create or update a funeral and burial plan. Creating or updating a funeral plan is the only way to ensure that wishes regarding the handling of a deceased person’s body and/or about the type of service to be held following death are honored. Arranging for payment of funeral and burial expenses so that surviving loved ones do not have to worry about it while grieving is another advantage to creating a funeral and burial plan.
- Plan for health care expenses. In the final weeks or days, a terminally ill patient may need increased (and costly) health care. Planning for how those expenses will be covered can prevent scrambling to find a way to pay for them after the fact. Review Medicare and private health insurance coverage. If long-term care coverage exists, review that policy as well.
- Apply for assistance programs. If Medicaid planning is not already in place within the overall estate plan, discuss it with an experienced estate planning attorney. Other assistance programs, such as SSDI, SSI, SNAP, and the VA may also be able to provide much-needed financial assistance.
- Organize important legal documents. Other important legal documents, such as a birth certificate, life insurance policies, marriage license and divorce decree, and citizenship paperwork (if not born in the U.S.) should also be organized and kept somewhere where they can be accessed by the Executor of the estate.
- Create a list of account numbers, logins, and passwords. People often forget about this, especially if they are older and did not grow up in the electronic age. Creating a list of social media accounts, online financial accounts, frequently used apps, and other electronically stored data is important. Include login names and passwords and include the list with estate planning and/or legal documents.
- Make estate planning documents accessible. Make sure that the fiduciaries (Executor, Trustee, Agent) in the patient’s estate plan have an original copy of all relevant estate planning documents. Also, provide his/her estate planning attorney an original copy of all documents as well as give copies to a trusted family member.
Contact Vero Beach Estate Planning Attorneys
To learn more, please download our FREE solid estate plan checklist. If you have additional questions or concerns about the legal and practical steps that should follow a terminal diagnosis, please contact the experienced Vero Beach estate planning attorneys at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule an appointment.