Estate planning is of great importance for any person, but such planning is even more paramount for those who suffer from chronic illnesses or who are receiving end of life care.
This process of estate planning involves determining how your assets are distributed, managed, and preserved in the event of your death or incapacitation. When a person fails to undertake this process prior to their death it can result in familial disputes over the distribution of certain assets and cause fighting amongst family members who are still grieving their loss.
Estate planning requires more than just preparing a last will and testament. Estate planning requires the meticulous auditing for your current assets and liabilities, careful drafting of instructions for how you want assets distributed, and the designation of a person, or persons, to care for your current legal and financial obligations in order to make the transition of your assets as smooth as possible for your heirs.
Planning your estate can be a tedious process, especially if you have a chronic illness or are limited as a result of medical care or treatment that you are receiving. If you’re not sure where to start, here are important things you should do to ensure that your assets are distributed the way that you intend them to be distributed following your death.
Create an Accurate Inventory
The first step in determining the distribution of your assets is to identify what assets you own. The inventory of your assets should include everything you own, including, but not limited to, your properties, houses, business investments, and ownership interests, or your stock portfolio. Your assets also include things like jewelry, art collections, collectibles, vehicles, appliances, or any other piece of personal property that may hold significant importance to you.
If possible, have someone assist you in identifying all of your assets and then identify the individual that you intend to receive such property upon your passing.
Create a Comprehensive Last Will
The core of your estate planning is your last will and testament.
This will and testament provides you the power to assign properties and other assets to your family, friends, or other people. A hastily prepared will can result in even more confusion or disputes amongst your loved ones, and we recommend that any such will and testament is drafted with guidance from an experienced estate planning lawyer.
If you haven’t contacted an attorney for your estate plan, but need to expedite creating one, here are some guidelines to follow:
- Declare your full legal name and address. State that you are of sound mind and are not being forced to write the will.
- Designate an executor, a person who will manage your assets and ensure that your will is followed to the letter. You must also assign a testator who will make sure that there won’t be any issues with the execution of your will.
- Appoint a guardian who will take care of your underage children, if necessary.
- Name each asset and identify who will inherit them.
- Have at least two (2) witnesses, who are uninterested in the distribution of your estate, sign your will and keep your will in a safe place, such as a safety deposit box or a home safe.
Consider Creating a Living Trust
If you want to divide your assets as soon as possible, consider creating a living trust.
A living trust is used to pass assets to your heirs while you are still alive. Through a living trust you can assign a trustee, with such trustee being an individual that you have full trust in, such as a spouse or child, to manage and distribute your assets.
As with writing a will, the careful drafting of a living trust is incredibly important and you should consider retaining the services of an attorney to prepare such a trust on your behalf.
Keep Your Insurance Beneficiaries Updated
If you have life insurance or a retirement plan, you need to assign beneficiaries to such policies or plans and make sure that the beneficiaries identified are the intended recipients of those assets. Failing to update the beneficiaries of these policies could result in those assets being received by an ex-spouse or an individual that you do not intend to receive such assets.
Life insurance policies often take precedence over your will, so ensure that your list of beneficiaries is regularly updated and accurate.
Have a List of Important Documents
Keep a list of your important papers, such as your life insurance policy, will, certificate of authenticity for your valuable items, or similar documents in a safe and secure location that only a select group of individuals are able to access.
By identifying and organizing these materials you can remove the burden of locating these documents after your passing and ensure your heirs have the vital paperwork for the assets that you intend to distribute to them.
Here are essential documents you should have for your estate plan, apart from your will and trust:
This contains the beneficiaries’ names and the assets they’ll receive according to your will or trust.
Healthcare power of attorney:
This relinquishes the power to make important healthcare decisions on your behalf to a relative, or a trusted friend, in the event you become incapacitated.
Designation for guardianship:
Designation of guardianship is a document that assigns who will be the guardian of any minor children you care for in the event of your incapacitation or death.
Durable power of attorney:
This gives a trusted individual the power to divide and distribute your assets on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
If you have a chronic illness and are nearing the end of your life, it is necessary to ensure that your properties, and other valuable assets, are divided properly among your loved ones. With the help of a lawyer and the assistance of your loved ones, you’ll be able to create a will or trust that truly reflects your wishes.
Draft Your Will with a Reliable Estate Planning Lawyer
If you need legal assistance with your will or trust, please contact Sullivan Law Offices.
Our firm provides estate planning services to numerous clients in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and the experienced attorneys on our staff will work diligently to ensure that your will or trust is drafted properly, and to your specifications, so that your assets are distributed in the way you intend them to be distributed.
Complete our online form today to schedule a consultation.