It can be difficult to face the mortality of a loved one. Unfortunately, when a loved one is diagnosed with a serious brain disease, family members do not have a choice. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS bring families face to face with the reality of a family member’s condition. This makes it important to take action to secure their legacy and clarify their wishes. Putting together a Houston estate plan can accomplish this.
A recent article in Forbes discussed some estate planning considerations for people diagnosed with life-threatening neurological conditions. Below is some information family members can use to help a loved one in making sure their estate plan is complete.
Encourage Them To Review And Update Their Estate Plan: After creating an estate plan, people often forget to update it as circumstances change. Then life happens, and people find that the plan they put in place no longer suits their current situation. It is important to encourage loved ones to review and update their estate planning documents. If they have not previously put together an estate plan, now is the time to do it. Doing so will help ensure that their wishes are respected with regard to future medical care, as well as the distribution of their property upon their passing.
A few documents that should be considered for inclusion in every Houston estate plan are:
- Will: The most fundamental of all estate-planning documents, a will expresses one’s wishes regarding the distribution of their property.
- Financial Power of Attorney: Another fundamental estate planning document that gives one or more individuals the authority to make decisions about another person’s finances.
- Medical Power of Attorney: Also known as a healthcare proxy, this document assigns an individual to make healthcare decisions when someone is unable to do so themselves.
- Advance Healthcare Directive/Living Will: A document providing healthcare instructions regarding specific forms of medical treatment.
- Declaration of Trust: Trusts provide flexibility in managing assets during one’s life, and distributing them upon their death. Having a trust can be particularly important for ailing individuals with minor children.
Documents Should Be Tailored To an Individual’s Unique Circumstances: Neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, MS, and ALS present unique concerns that should be specifically addressed in an estate plan. The onset of symptoms is unpredictable and often sudden and severe. Therefore, it is important to plan for these contingencies immediately, so loved ones are not caught off guard. For example, ALS can quickly impact a person’s motor skills, without impacting their mental state. This deterioration could prevent them from signing legal documents in a traditional fashion, even though they have the mental capacity to create such documents. In this situation, it would be a good idea for the estate plan to include a document authorizing an individual to execute important legal documents on that person’s behalf when necessary.
An Instruction Letter Should Be Included With The Estate Planning Documents: It is impossible to create an estate plan that addresses every potential set of future circumstances. Thus, individuals with the authority to make decisions will have to use their best judgment to do what their loved one would have wanted. Although not an official legal document, an instruction letter should be included with your loved one’s estate plan to guide decisions made on their behalf. It should further explain the instructions in their estate plan and mention the important considerations that went into creating them. This will provide decision-makers with guidance when executing the instructions in an estate plan.
An Estate Plan Should Be Discussed With Loved Ones And Caregivers: No one looks forward to discussing the death of a loved one. This can be especially true when a loved one has been diagnosed with a serious disease that will eventually lead to their passing. However, it is important to have these discussions before a loved one passes away. Discussing a loved one’s estate plan will help avoid mistakes, as well as the cost of having to fix them later. Furthermore, these discussions help place everyone on the same page and avoid conflicts between family members regarding a loved one’s wishes. Take the time to review a loved one’s estate plan with them.
Make Sure Your Loved One’s Estate Planning Documents Can Be Located: Even the most comprehensive estate plan is no use if it cannot be found when needed. Everyone involved with a loved one’s care should know where to find his or her estate plan. Physical copies should be kept in a secure place along with documents relating to any property, accounts, and insurance policies. It is not a bad idea to have electronic copies of these documents, as well. Copies should also be kept with the professionals who helped to create them. Last, but not least, those tasked with administering or acting under estate planning documents should have copies as well.
If Your Loved One In The Houston Area Is Dealing With Brain Disease, We Can Help Them Update Their Estate Plan
The Houston estate planning attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC, can help create a comprehensive estate plan for you or your loved one. Our Houston-area firm has professionals with the skills and experience necessary to address the unique estate planning challenges faced by those dealing with critical brain diseases. Contact our office at 713-333-8900 to schedule a consultation with an attorney on our team.