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.
to reach the Law Offices of Steven M. Simrin in Alameda County to consult with an estate planning
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
- 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
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.
take chances with your assets.
to an Oakland probate lawyer for help with all pre-mortem estate planning.