Sometimes, people come to an estate planning attorney after having been recently diagnosed with a terminal illness. Such situations force people to consider issues many have never considered before, such as inheritance choices and medical wishes. While creating an estate plan under a significant time pressure is not an ideal situation, you can create a plan that will protect you and your family if you have been diagnosed with such a terminal illness. Here are some important concepts you need to know.
Terminal Illnesses and Medical Choices
One of the most important decisions you have to make if you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness is choosing between the types of medical care you might want to receive. Depending on your condition, the likelihood of you becoming incapacitated, as well as other factors, you may have to consider a number of medical choices.
Yet regardless of your choices, creating advance medical directives that enshrine your decisions is essential. In California you can create an advance health care directive that will give you the ability to express your wishes and appoint someone who will be your health care representative. The person you appoint, called your agent, will have the ability to make decisions for you should you lose your abilities.
Terminal Illnesses and Financial Responsibilities
Serious and terminal illnesses often leave people unable to manage their affairs. Whether you have simple financial holdings, run your own business, or have a large number of assets, you will want to create a document that appoints someone to step in when you can no longer meet your financial management responsibilities.
Through a financial power of attorney, people with terminal illnesses can grant someone else the legal authority to manage their affairs for them. Depending on your situation you might need to create one or more of these documents, or select organizations instead of individuals. Regardless of your choices, the financial power of attorney you create must comply with specific California laws.
For persons with substantial assets, including real estate, creation of a revocable living trust will likely be a better option than simple powers of attorney.
Terminal Illnesses and Inheritance Planning
You will also need to consider what you want to happen your property after you die. If you haven’t already done so, you will need to develop an inheritance plan. Through inheritance planning you get to decide how you want to distribute your property after you die. Whether you choose to give inheritances to your children or other family members, or have different choices, creating a plan that recognizes these choices in a legally enforceable way is essential. Failing to have a plan means the laws of the state of California will determine your inheritance choices for you.
For modest estates, a will may be sufficient. However, a living trust is likely a better option for many folks.
The best way to determine which options are best for you is to consult with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney.