Scary Health Diagnosis? 3 Legal Things to Do
WOW! Alex Trebek! Our hearts and prays go out to him and his family. Certainly, we are all rooting for him to win this battle. Regrettably, such diagnoses occur to someone every day. A scary health diagnosis can be emotionally and logistically challenging for many reasons. For instance, how can you take care of your family if you are physically incapacitated? In addition to working closely with your medical providers, consider these three legal tips:
1. Check your estate plan with your attorney to make sure it is up to date.
Do you count yourself among the 42 percent of American adults with a will or trust? If not, take action to start planning. Even if you do have an estate plan, review it. Maybe one of your heirs got married or died. Maybe you would like to add or remove people from your will. Or perhaps your personal representative is no longer capable of handling your estate. Make sure you have designated alternates for your personal representative, legal guardian, and trustee.
You should also review your estate’s assets. If you live in one of the states (e.g., District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia) that allows for the inclusion of a personal property memorandum, you may be able to revise the distribution of personal property by simply revising your list without amending your will. If not, you will need to revise your will to reflect any changes. If you maintain a separate record of account information and essential documents, take steps to update this as well.
2. Consider passing control to your successor trustee/agent so you can focus on your health.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by having to split your focus between managing your health and managing day-to-day responsibilities, consider relying on your successor trustee. By granting your successor trustee the authority to manage the assets in your trust, you can alleviate significant stress and save time. Remember, you trusted this person enough to manage your assets in your absence, so you should be able to trust them to manage your assets while you are alive. Keep in mind you can always take control back if you want in the future.
If you do not have a trust, but other financial matters are consuming your time, consider appointing an agent under a financial power of attorney to assist with managing your finances.
3. Make sure your current assets are properly coordinated with your estate plan and/or funded trust.
Evaluate your assets to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Consult with your estate planning attorney and tax professional to make sure you are avoiding the common mistake of assets not being properly titled. In order for the trust to be funded, the assets need to be titled in the name of the trust. Also, review any beneficiary designations to ensure they match up with your overall estate plan. Because the distribution will be made according to who is listed on the beneficiary designation form, you want to make sure this is not undoing the work of your estate plan.
Managing your health should always be your top priority. Now, more than ever, is the time to lean on those you trust. If you need any assistance with ensuring your affairs are in order, please feel free to give us a call at 301.892.2713. Legal and financial affairs are the last thing we want you, your family, and loved ones worrying about at this time.
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