Learning you have a terminal illness or condition may cause a variety of emotional reactions, making it difficult to think about practical steps you should take. There are, however, some things you should do to protect yourself and your loved ones. With that in mind, the Charlotte estate planning attorney at the Potter Law Firm suggests some practical steps to take after receiving a terminal diagnosis.
- Call a family meeting. Everyone handles an impending death differently; however, the entire family (blood or otherwise) needs to be aware and involved if possible. This also provides an opportunity to decide who is responsible for what over the coming weeks or months.
- Update Wills and trusts. 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 he/she is legally incapacitated, meaning changes made after that point may not be honored.
- Execute or update advance directives. An advance directive allows you to decide who will make health care decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself because of incapacity. You can also make important end-of-life care decisions ahead of time in an advance directive. If you (or your loved one) have not already executed advance directives, or if you need to make changes, now is the time to do so.
- Create or update a funeral and burial plan. If you feel strongly about how your body will be handled after you are gone or about the type of service to be held following your death, creating or updating a funeral plan is the only way to ensure that those wishes are honored. You also can arrange for payment of funeral and burial expenses so that your surviving loved ones do not have to worry about that while grieving your loss.
- Review 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.
- Distribute estate planning documents. Make sure that the fiduciaries (Executor, Trustee, Agent) in your estate plan have an original copy of all relevant estate planning documents. You should also give your estate planning attorney an original copy of all documents as well as give copies to a trusted family member.
- Organize important legal documents. Other important legal documents, such as a birth certificate, life insurance policies, marriage license, 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 sure your fiduciary knows how to log into your phone or e-mail for accounts with two-factor authentication.
- 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 you have not already done so, discuss Medicaid planning with your estate planning attorney. Other assistance programs, such as SSDI, SSI, SNAP, and the VA may be able to provide much-needed financial assistance.
Contact a Charlotte Estate Planning Attorney
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have questions or concerns about estate planning, contact an experienced Charlotte estate planning attorney at the Potter Law Firm by calling 704-944-3245 (for the Charlotte and Huntersville, NC offices) to schedule your appointment. You can reach our Ashland, KY office at 606-324-5516, and our Florence, KY office at 859-372-6655.
- What You Need to Know about the Medicaid Look-Back Rule - January 3, 2023
- How to Pass Down Your Legacy in Your Estate Plan - October 3, 2022
- Practical Steps to Take after Receiving a Terminal Diagnosis - September 30, 2022