Categorized | Features, Legal Matters

End-of Life Planning: Make it Simple For Loved Ones

family, grandparent, generational

Poor planning, or worse, no planning, leaves grieving families in the difficult position of having to search for information and make sensitive decisions with no authority or direction from you.

By Linda T. Cammuso, Esquire

While we don’t like to dwell on death, it’s a fact that we’re all going to pass at some point. Proper end-of life legal planning is one of the most thoughtful things you can do for yourself and your family. Poor planning, or worse, no planning, leaves grieving families in the difficult position of having to search for information and make sensitive decisions with no authority or direction from you.

Do not assume that your spouse or significant other, your children or other family members can easily take charge and make decisions on your behalf in the event of illness, disability or death.  As a starting point, they may lack the legal authority to handle your affairs. Although these can be addressed with simple legal planning in the form of a Durable Power of Attorney for financial matters and a Health Care Proxy for medical decisions, many people have not signed these critical documents.

Would your family even know the names of your attorney, accountant or financial advisor and how to find them? The list of information and documents that your family will need is vital, and surprisingly lengthy.

Beginning the Process: Recognize the importance of addressing disability and end-of-life issues for yourself or a loved one. Have a discussion with them and let them with know about your vision of end-of-life issues.

Speak to a Professional: If you do not have a proper estate plan including a Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy  — it’s time to meet with an attorney who specializes in estate planning to help you through the process. Other professionals that you may want to meet with include your financial advisor, accountant, funeral provider and clergy.

Gather your Important Papers: Locate and gather your paperwork or electronic files together. The list of these documents is extensive and should include all estate planning documents, copies of deeds, insurance policies, investment information, bank statements with account numbers, digital passwords, income tax returns, retirement fund information, long-term care policies, and vehicle titles.

These are only a sample of all the documents you should ensure are accessible by your loved ones and decision makers.

Secure Documents in a Safe Place: Be sure to let key family members know where you keep the information. Your designated agents under your Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy should be informed that you have selected them for those roles.

Be sure also that someone has access to the original documents — ideally, they should be kept with your attorney.  Keep a master list of your documents and their location in an accessible place (not necessarily in a bank safety box where people likely would not have authority to access them).

Keep Legal Documents Current:  Review and update your documents as needed. If something major changes in your life, speak with your estate planning attorney. Ideally, your plan should be reviewed every few years and your Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy should be “refreshed” at that time.

Proper end-of life legal planning is one of the most thoughtful things you can do for yourself and your family.  Being proactive is the best way to ensure that your wishes are honored and that you and your family can handle end-of-life matters with dignity and preparedness.

Linda T. Cammuso is a founding partner of Estate Preservation Law Offices located in Worcester, Massachusetts. She is a skilled estate planning and elder law attorney and has authored many articles on elder care and long term estate planning issues. She has appeared on Money Matters Radio and has been a speaker for various community and professional organizations. 

 

 

 

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