It’s Not Too Late: Estate Planning and End-Stage Terminal Illness

Doctor Talking to a Patient

It is perhaps the most traumatic and stressful news a person can receive: you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and only has an extremely short time to live. In these situations, you may think of hundreds of things that need to be done, and estate planning may not be one of them. You may assume that it is too late. Do not make this mistake. If you are alive and mentally competent, you owe it to yourself to investigate creating a plan.

One of the first things you should do is to consult a qualified estate planning attorney. Your attorney will ask certain questions to deduce whether you or your loved one has the necessary mental capacity required by the law to make or change an estate plan. Should someone question your plan later, your attorney may be able to provide information that tends to show that you were competent at the time of the plan’s creation or amendment. Additionally, written documents from doctors attesting to competency may also prove beneficial.

This documentation is especially helpful if you think someone may later file a court challenge contesting capacity. Even if you don’t anticipate problems occurring, this paperwork is all very important because any estate plan created or changed shortly before death has a heightened risk of facing a court challenge to its validity, even if everyone seems to get along and you are clearly competent. That should not dissuade you from getting a plan; it just means going the extra mile to ensure a wealth of written proof exists to show that you were competent.

The questions you or your loved one must answer in these situations are usually fairly straightforward. For example, Wisconsin law requires that, in order to execute a will, you understand what property you are distributing and to whom you are distributing it. Again, this serves multiple purposes, including the extremely vital purpose of helping protect your plan from invalidation by a court after you die.

Even if your loved one is not mentally competent, all is not necessarily lost. If your loved one has a valid durable power of attorney for financial and property matters, a plan still may be possible. If the power of attorney gives the agent broad enough powers, then the agent may be able to complete the necessary documents to institute the plan or plan changes that are desired. It is very important to obtain careful legal counsel if you’re an agent in a situation like this, to ensure that the power of attorney document fully authorizes you to complete the action you intend to do. This is especially true if tension exists between family members or other loved ones. Whether due to procrastination or an unexpected diagnosis, many people find themselves approaching the end of life with an outdated estate plan or no plan at all. Being near death is no reason, however, to give up on planning and assume it is too late. Instead, call estate planning attorney Daniel J. Krause of Krause Law Offices LLC. He can walk you through what options exist for you and your family and help you institute the best plan available in light of your unique situation. Consult Attorney Daniel J. Krause today.

Contact us through our website to schedule your confidential, no-obligation initial consultation.

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