As we age, we start to realize that our parents age as well. At some point, we even think we have accepted the reality that our parents will pass away someday. When that “someday” becomes “someday soon” because of a terminal diagnosis, it can cause emotional upheaval and practical confusion. Having a list of steps to take following a terminal diagnosis can be a huge benefit. To get you started, the Grand Forks elder law attorneys at German Law have put together the following 10 things to do when an elderly parent gets a terminal diagnosis.
- Gather the family together for a discussion. Ideally, the entire family (blood or otherwise) needs to be aware of the diagnosis and involved if possible. This also provides an opportunity to decide who will be the “point” person over the coming weeks or months so everyone else knows who to contact with questions or to volunteer.
- Create or update a Will or trust. If your parent does not have a Will or trust in place, now is the time to execute one. Any desired changes to an existing Will or trust should also be made as soon as possible because at some point a terminally ill patient may reach a point where he/she is legally incapacitated, making changes impossible.
- Execute or update advance directives. An advance directive lets your parent decide who will make health care decisions for him/her in the event of incapacity. Important end-of-life care decisions can also be made ahead of time in an advance directive.
- Create or update a funeral and burial plan. If your parent feels strongly about the disposition of his/her body after death and/or about the type of service to be held following death, creating, or updating a funeral plan is the only way to ensure that those wishes are honored. Arranging for payment of funeral and burial expenses ahead of time so that surviving loved ones do not have to worry about it is another advantage to creating a funeral plan.
- Check life insurance policies. Have your parent review beneficiaries to determine if they need to be updated. Also, make sure that someone knows what policies exist and what company to contact when the time comes.
- Distribute estate planning documents. Make sure that the fiduciaries (Executor, Trustee, Agent) in your parent’s estate plan have an original copy of all relevant estate planning documents. Your parent’s estate planning attorney should also have an original copy of all documents as well as a trusted family member.
- Organize important legal documents. Other important legal documents, such as a birth certificate, life insurance policies, marriage license and divorce decree, and citizenship paperwork (if not born in the U.S.) should also be organized and kept somewhere where they can be accessed by the Executor of the estate.
- Create a list of account numbers, logins, and passwords. Given that your parent did not grow up in the electronic age, this can easily be overlooked; however, creating a list of social media accounts, online financial accounts, frequently used apps, and other electronically stored data is important. Include login names and passwords and include the list with estate planning and/or legal documents.
- Plan for health care expenses. In the final weeks or days, a terminally ill patient may need increased (and costly) health care. Planning for how those expenses will be covered can prevent scrambling to find a way to pay for them after the fact. Review Medicare and private health insurance coverage. If long-term care coverage exists, review that policy as well.
- Apply for assistance programs. If your parent has not already done so, discuss Medicaid planning with an estate planning attorney. Your parent may also qualify for other assistance programs, such as SSDI, SSI, SNAP, and VA benefits.
Contact a Grand Forks Elder Law Attorney
Please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions about elder law issues, contact a Grand Forks elder law attorney at German Law by calling 701-738-0060 to schedule an appointment.