Pre-Mortem, or "Deathbed" Estate Planning in Oakland

Oakland Estate Planning Attorney

With advances in modern medicine and increased life spans, some extended period of gradual decline is more common than not. As troubling as it may be, it becomes clear to the afflicted and the family that death is drawing near. If not right away, perhaps in a month, or a year. An elderly or ill parent may even have become bedridden. The family now has to consider end-of-life issues, including probate. They will have to broach the subject while the loved one is still alive and capable of aiding in the decisions to be made.

There are two major impacts on estate planning when a loved one is nearing death. The first is a review and possible revision of an existing plan and the second is drawing up a new plan if none exists with an attorney.

Call (510) 328-4005 to reach the Law Offices of Steven M. Simrin in Alameda County to consult with an estate planning lawyer.

Estate Planning Checklist

It is likely that an existing estate plan or living will was drawn up some time ago, anticipating the need, but viewing death as a distant circumstance. Matters are now coming to a head and a trust that was written up long ago may not be current.

What should you look for in an old trust or plan?

  • Make sure asset list is current and clear up any ambiguities. Titled assets should be checked to make sure they are in order and distribution of individual items (where wanted) should be listed as bequests. Approximate values should be obtained or estimated. Some bequests can be gifted pre-death, especially items that have high emotional attachments.
  • Financial arrangements, like adding someone to a bank account, can be handled now to avoid difficulties later. However, be careful because when one person in a joint account passes away, the other account signatory now owns those assets. If money is meant to be distributed after death, it should be stated plainly in the trust documents.
  • Powers of attorney and advance health care directives that allow medical decisions should be drafted, as well as naming a guardian should health conditions eventually require it.
  • Any financial matters that can be "automated" should be. For example, having a retirement check directly deposited to a bank account and reoccurring payments (e.g. mortgage) set to automatically come out of that account. This will save hassle should you become too ill to take care of these payments and bills.
  • Funeral and burial arrangements should be discussed, especially if there is a pre-purchased plot or other services.
  • Insurance policies should be reviewed with special attention paid to life insurance policies.
  • Any bequests to charities should be reviewed.
  • It is important to discuss end of life issues and make sure a living will that states your preferences is in place.

If No Plan Exists, What Should You Do?

There is still time to draw up a trust document to take advantage of estate planning and avoid probate. However, it is important not to delay, since it can take time to draft the documents. A consultation with an attorney is advisable and arrangements can be made, even if the failing loved one cannot travel.

All of the items listed above will be addressed, as well as others. For example, will it be advantageous to put someone in a joint tenancy on a piece of property or would the tax consequences make this inadvisable? The larger and the more complex the estate, the more important it will be to obtain the advice of counsel and make sure the trust is drawn up properly.

The immediate objective is to make sure that upon death, the persons assets will be distributed the way they want, with the least amount of cost and hassle to beneficiaries. Some assets may be distributed as gifts before death, taking advantage of favorable tax laws, while other assets should go into the trust instrument for postmortem distribution.

Don't take chances with your assets. Reach out to an Oakland probate lawyer for help with all pre-mortem estate planning.

Contact the Law Office of Steven M. Simrin

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