Learning you have a terminal illness or condition may cause a variety of emotional reactions, making it difficult to think about practical steps you should take. There are, however, some things you should do to protect yourself and your loved ones. With that in mind, a Los Angeles estate planning attorney at Collins Law Firm explains 10 steps to take after receiving a terminal diagnosis.
Terminal Diagnosis Steps
- Call a family meeting. Everyone handles an impending death differently; however, the entire family (blood or otherwise) needs to be aware and involved if possible. This also provides an opportunity to decide who is responsible for what over the coming weeks or months.
- Update Wills and trusts. Any desired changes to an existing Will or trust should be made as soon as possible. At some point, a terminally ill patient may reach a point where he/she is legally incapacitated, meaning changes made after that point may not be honored.
- Execute or update advance directives. An advance directive allows you to decide who will make health care decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself because of incapacity. You can also make important end-of-life care decisions ahead of time in an advance directive. If you (or your loved one) have not already executed advance directives, or if you need to make changes, now is the time to do so.
- Create or update a funeral and burial plan. If you feel strongly about how your body will be handled after you are gone and/or about the type of service to be held following your death, creating, or updating a funeral plan is the only way to ensure that those wishes are honored. You also can arrange for payment of funeral and burial expenses so that your surviving loved ones do not have to worry about that while grieving your loss.
- Review life insurance policies. Review beneficiaries to determine if they need to be updated and make sure that someone knows what policies exist and what company to contact when the time comes.
- Distribute estate planning documents. Make sure that the fiduciaries (Executor, Trustee, Agent) in your estate plan have an original copy of all relevant estate planning documents. You should also give your estate planning attorney an original copy of all documents as well as give copies to a trusted family member.
- Organize important legal documents. Other important legal documents, such as a birth certificate, life insurance policies, marriage license and divorce decree, and citizenship paperwork (if not born in the U.S.) should also be organized and kept somewhere where they can be accessed by the Executor of the estate.
- Create a list of account numbers, logins, and passwords. People often forget about this, especially if they are older and did not grow up in the electronic age. Creating a list of social media accounts, online financial accounts, frequently used apps, and other electronically stored data is important. Include login names and passwords and include the list with estate planning and/or legal documents.
- Plan for health care expenses. In the final weeks or days, a terminally ill patient may need increased (and costly) health care. Planning for how those expenses will be covered can prevent scrambling to find a way to pay for them after the fact. Review Medicare and private health insurance coverage. If long-term care coverage exists, review that policy as well.
- Apply for assistance programs. If you have not already done so, discuss Medicaid planning with your estate planning attorney. Other assistance programs, such as SSDI, SSI, SNAP, and the VA may be able to provide much-needed financial assistance.
Contact Los Angeles Estate Planning Lawyers
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions about the steps to take after receiving a terminal diagnosis, consult with a Los Angeles estate planning attorney. Contact the Collins Law Firm by calling (310) 677-9787 to register for one of our FREE estate planning workshops.