Your Estate Planning Checklist
There are several steps you should take to help your loved one get his or her affairs in order. In many cases, patients have already taken some of the steps, but it has been years since they reviewed their documents. It is important that even if your parent or loved one has an estate plan, you review it to ensure it is up to date and you understand their wishes.
Some of the questions you should ask about estate planning include:
Does the mesothelioma patient have a will?
Often called a last will and testament, your loved one’s will should give details on how assets should be distributed and who will care for any minor children. It should name an executor of the will, and it may contain other specific details on how your loved one wants the estate to be handled.
If your loved one dies without having a will in place, all the decisions about the estate and minor children will be made by the court. Your state’s “intestate succession” law will dictate the estate heirs, rather than your loved one getting to choose.
Does your loved one have a health care proxy and end of life directive in place?
The thought of mesothelioma leaving your loved one incapacitated is frightening, but it can bring a sense of relief to know what your loved one would want in case this happens. You should talk to your parent about his or her wishes for medical care, including the use of “extraordinary measures” to sustain life. Your loved one should designate a health care surrogate, which gives medical power of attorney or health care proxy to someone who can make important decisions in case the patient can no longer communicate.
Your loved one should also complete a living will, advance directive, or personal directive which states what should happen at the end of life.
Does the mesothelioma patient have a power of attorney?
In addition to decisions about health care, your loved one will need to decide how finances and legal affairs should be handled in case he or she becomes incapacitated. This means designating a trusted person to have power of attorney.
Your family may also discuss the option of adding a trusted individual’s name to bank accounts and other assets. In addition, the patient may want to designate beneficiaries or update beneficiaries on retirement accounts, life insurance policies, stocks and bonds, and certificates of deposit. Decisions should also be made about succession in any family businesses.
Have you discussed the option of setting up trusts?
Setting up a trust is a common way to protect a person’s assets from going through the probate court process. Many patients also choose to establish a “living trust,” which allows them access to their assets but also names a “trustee” to handle the trust after their death.
Have you talked about making final arrangements?
This is one of the most difficult topics to discuss. However, it is important that you know what the mesothelioma patient wants and what to expect financially. Decisions about funeral costs, cremation and organ donation can weigh heavy on a family, but making plans in advance can ease some of that burden when the time comes.
Have you considered what taxes may apply to your loved one’s estate?
Although most people’s estates do not reach the threshold for paying the federal estate tax, you may need to plan for estate tax or inheritance taxes in your state. Mesothelioma settlements are not taxed as income, but may be subject to estate tax.
Do you know where all the important documents are?
Gather all the important estate planning documents and keep them together in a safe place. This includes your loved one’s will, advance directive, life insurance documents, financial statements, retirement account information, and any other relevant information. Even if your loved one worked with an attorney to create a will, do not assume that the attorney has all the necessary estate planning documents.
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