When facing a terminal illness, estate planning suddenly becomes time critical. We also understand that you don’t want to spend precious time with boring paperwork and legal matters.
But, having a solid estate plan is highly advised to protect your loved one’s future and to put your family in the best possible position moving forward.
This blog will try to make estate planning with a terminal illness easy to understand:
Terminal Illness Specific Estate Planning Concerns
Health Care Power of Attorney
It is worth considering appointing a Health Care Power of Attorney. This individual gains permission to carry out your health care wishes and make critical decisions, based on your preferences.
In the case of terminal illness, this can be critical in decision-making over life-support, medication and treatment. The Health Care Power of Attorney will be able to step in and direct things if you are no longer able to do so. For example, if you entered a coma or went unconscious.
Appointing a Health Care Power of Attorney is often useful as it removes the stress placed on family members who are unsure on how to act or would rather not be involved at all. Instead, the trusted individual carries out the wishes you wrote down in your advance directives.
Naturally, the Health Care Power of Attorney should be a highly trusted individual who can handle the situation responsibly.
Advance directives, or health care directives, are written documents that state your desired medical decisions and preferences if you’re no longer able to make these by yourself.
Perhaps one of the most vital reasons for an advance directive is the pressure it relieves from your loved ones. They won’t be stuck in a dilemma over what you’d want, as it is in clear writing that should be followed.
You should also plan for the custody or guardianship of minor children. In many cases, this will be a surviving spouse. But if you are a single parent, then you must have this in writing in your will. Without it, there is no proof of your desires and could leave the court to decide who should become your child’s guardian.
Considering How to Avoid Probate
It may also be worth considering how to avoid probate. Probate is the court-supervised process of proving your will and the distribution of your estate. It can take months or even years in the worst cases.
This can leave surviving family members without access to funds or assets, and with a lot of stress to deal with.
Thankfully there are routes to avoid probate, such as by putting assets in trusts. This can allow for instant asset and fund distribution. We welcome you to contact our Florida estate planning lawyers to see what is best for you and your family.
Other Critical Terminal Illness Estate Planning Tasks
Create a Will
Creating a will is imperative. It is your chance to document what should happen to your estate, from asset distribution to personal belongings. If you have any difficulties with this, we welcome you to contact our Estate Planning attorneys.
Read Related: Online Wills: Why You Shouldn’t Use DIY Will Services
Update Financial Documents and Beneficiaries
Even if you already have a will, you should update it if you haven’t recently. This is especially true if your family has had births of children or grandchildren, divorces, deaths or major asset acquisitions.
You should review who you’ve listed as beneficiaries in your:
- Bank accounts
- Life insurance policies
- Retirement accounts
Durable Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is someone who can make legal and financial decisions and actions for you, even if you’re incapacitated.
It is advised that you appoint one if you expect to decline in health to a point where these actions become impossible, difficult or frankly something you’d rather not think of anymore.
For example, you should keep paying premiums for any life insurance policies so they don’t lapse. By appointing a DPOA, they can manage your assets and pay bills such as these.
If you own a pet, it is also important to decide what happens with it. You can write your intended future owner and preferences for pet care in your will. However, this will not be legally binding (although is usually respected).
The most secure way to protect your pet’s future is via a Florida Pet Trust. These trusts are made specifically for your pet. You allocate the trust funds, which are only used for the benefit of the pet. So its future owner can provide it with a good future. Best of all, the trust document’s terms can outline how you want the money spent, so you still gain some control and love for your pet even after you’ve passed away.
Insurance Policies and Social Benefits
It’s also wise to review your insurance policies such as health and life insurance. These documents may reveal ways that insurance and social security could affect you and your heirs. You may need an advisor’s help.
For example, what long-term care services are covered by your insurance? What options does your family have from your employer’s health insurance post-death? Can you take out some money now and what are the consequences? What social security disability benefits are available?
Many people will pre-plan their funeral expenses, to make life a little easier for their surviving loved ones. This can be achieved by using life insurance or allocating money that is specifically for funeral costs.
You may also want to create a document in your will that states your funeral and burial instructions. Ensure there are records of any payments or plans.
Digital Estate Planning
In the 2020s, digital estate planning should not be overlooked. We advise you to ride our guide on how to plan for digital assets. This may include:
- Social media accounts
- Online banking accounts
- Email accounts
- Cryptocurrency digital wallets
- Domain names
- Intellectual property
- Online subscription accounts
- E-commerce accounts (such as eBay)
- Photos and files saved in cloud storage
- Online dating accounts
- Gaming accounts
- Online accounts for utilities
- Loyalty programs
- Personal information and data, such as spreadsheets or digital creative projects
Ensure Documents Are Accessible
Your family will likely need access to the following documents. These should be stored in a safe, secure place only accessible to a trusted individual such as your spouse or your estate planning attorney:
- Trust documents
- Living will or directive to physicians
- Health care power of attorney
- A durable power of attorney
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, form
- Adoption papers
- Veteran’s discharge papers
- Prenuptial agreement
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce decrees
- Death certificate of a spouse
- Citizenship papers, if not born as a U.S. citizen
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney in Riverview and St. Petersburg
If you need any assistance with terminal illness-related estate planning in Florida, please contact our Florida Estate Planning attorneys today.
We understand time is precious and will work efficiently to reduce the workload you would face if taking these challenges alone.
Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. is U.S. News and World Reports Tier 1 law firm in Florida, specializing in Estate Planning & Probate since 1958. With Award-winning experienced estate planning attorneys, they can help you create an estate plan that protects your rights and wishes.