“More than likely, most people may not want to envision a time spent in court, arguing with siblings and other family members, or fighting with financial institutions and health providers to uphold end-of-life wishes and the management of personal assets.
The problems aren’t always evident when the first parent passes. Often, it’s when the second parent becomes gravely ill, that lapses in estate planning become evident. For one family, everyone thought estate plans were all in place after their father died. When their mother suffered a stroke, the adult children learned that they had no access to her financial accounts or her health care directives. No one had thought to update the estate plan.
However, when one parent passes, the family needs to take action. That’s the lesson from the article “Avoid heartache and anxiety with estate planning” from Post Independent. In this case, the family never thought to modify or add anyone’s name to the financial accounts, power of attorney documents, medical power of attorney documents, or HIPAA consent forms. What often happens in these cases, is that family members start bickering about who was supposed to do what.
For those who have not taken the time to learn about estate planning, planning for end-of-life legal, financial and medical matters, the quarrels may be inevitable.
Estate planning is not just for wealthy families. If your aging loved one own property, stocks, bonds or any other assets, they need to have a will, advance directives, powers of attorney and possibly some trusts. Take the time to understand these documents now, before an urgent crisis occurs.
There are few formal courses that teach people about these matters, unless they go to law school. Nearly half of Americans age 55 and over don’t have a will, according to an article appearing in Forbes. Fewer than 20% of these people have health care directives and the proper types of powers of attorney in place.
When it comes to preparing for these matters, the laws are very specific about who can participate in health care and financial conversations and decisions.
Here are some of the documents needed for an estate plan:
- Last Will and Testament
- General, Limited and/or Durable Power of Attorney
- Health Care Proxy or Health Care Power of Attorney
- In some states, a Living Will
- Advance Care Directive
- HIPAA Consent Form
Preplanning will greatly assist family members and loved ones, so they know what medical and financial efforts you or your parents would want. Having the documents in order will also provide the family with the legal means of carrying out these wishes.
The legal documents won’t solve all problems. Your brother-in-law will still be a pain in the neck and your oldest sister may still make unrealistic demands. However, having these documents in place, will make the best of a bad situation.
Speak with an estate planning attorney to ensure that your estate plan, or your parent’s estate plan, is properly prepared. If someone has moved to another state, their estate plan needs to be updated to align with their new state’s laws.
Reference: Post Independent (November 3, 2019) “Avoid heartache and anxiety with estate planning”