End of Life Legal and Financial Checklist
Preparing for End of Life: Legal and Financial Considerations
Facing end-of-life considerations is never easy, but ensuring that your legal and financial affairs are in order is essential for your peace of mind and the well-being of your loved ones. This checklist is designed to help you navigate these important matters efficiently.
Health Care Proxy
A Health Care Proxy authorizes a trusted individual to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapable of doing so. Unlike a MOLST (Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) form, which specifies emergency medical interventions, a Health Care Proxy covers a broader range of medical decisions. Ensure your Health Care Proxy:
Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney grants a trusted person the authority to act on your behalf in financial, legal, and other matters. Their powers mirror yours and can include accessing bank accounts, signing documents, and managing your financial affairs. In end-of-life situations, this individual often handles bill payments, final arrangements, and financial transfers you wish to make while you are still alive.
Will and Trust
A Will specifies how you want your probate assets distributed and designates a personal representative (executor) to oversee this process. Even if most of your assets bypass probate, a Will streamlines the process and addresses various minor matters. A Trust, on the other hand, allows you to manage and distribute assets without going through probate immediately upon your passing.
Last Minute Estate Tax Planning
If your combined probate and non-probate assets, including life insurance proceeds, are expected to exceed $1 million, consider estate tax planning to potentially save your loved ones money in Massachusetts estate taxes. Married individuals can set up a trust that passes assets to their spouse without incurring tax and allows the spouse to use their $1 million exemption on top of their own when distributing their estate. Single individuals may also have options to reduce the tax burden with the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney.
Life Insurance and Investment Accounts
Ensure your family is aware of your life insurance policies and investment accounts, and update beneficiaries if necessary. Having live beneficiaries allows funds to bypass probate, while funds with no designated beneficiaries or those with deceased beneficiaries may have to go through probate. Keeping this information up to date ensures a smoother transition of assets.
Ensuring Available Cash
A power of attorney becomes invalid upon your passing, leaving your appointed individual unable to access bank accounts or conduct business transactions. To cover immediate expenses like funeral and burial costs, maintain sufficient cash in a jointly held bank account that can be accessed promptly, as opening a probate estate can take 2-3 months.
Taking these steps now can alleviate stress during a difficult time and ensure that your wishes are respected. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney can provide invaluable guidance and assistance in navigating these legal and financial matters.
Questions About End of Life Planning?
Questions About an End of Life Planning Issue?
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