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Three Legal Things to Do After a Scary Diagnosis

A negative health diagnosis can be emotionally and logistically challenging for many reasons.

You may be worried about how you’ll take care of your family if you’re physically incapacitated. There are lots of things to consider with your doctors and medical professionals, but you may also want to consider these three legal tips to ensure your family and your assets are protected.

 

Check with your attorney to make sure your estate plan is up to date.

More than half of American adults report that they do not have a will or trust. If you are among this group, meet with an attorney to set one up immediately. Even if you do have an estate plan, review it. Consider if any of your heirs have gotten married, divorced, had children or passed away. Maybe you’d 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 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.

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 that you trusted this person enough to manage your assets in your absence, you should be able to trust them to manage your assets while you are alive. Keep in mind that 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. You will also want to name a medical power of attorney to handle medical decisions if you are unable or incapacitated. This should be a different person from your financial power of attorney. Whoever this person is, make sure you explain your medical wishes in detail. This can also be documented with your estate attorney.

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’re 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 that this is not undoing the work of your estate plan.

 

Managing your health should be your top priority. Now 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 the experienced estate planning attorneys at Davis Law Group a call.