When Time Is Short, 09/01/2009

As you drive your mom to her regular doctor appointment, you think of everything you need to do: Drop off Bobby at soccer, pick up Sally from softball, pick up groceries, make dinner, etc. It seems the list is endless. You wonder how your mom had time to do it all and still have time to be so loving. After flipping through old magazines in the doctor’s office, you go in with your mom for her appointment. Your mom had some simple tests done and is to receive the results. When the doctor starts with “There is no easy way to say this…” you know what is going to follow. Your mom has less than a year to live. Your mind reels. What do you do? Of course, you hug your mom. You call your brother. But what’s next?

After discussing treatment options, hospice care, and her health care management, you talk with your mom about setting an appointment with her estate planning attorney. Your mom last did estate planning decades ago when you and your brother were still kids, and your dad was still alive. Now that you have kids of your own, that seems laughable. But, time flies when you have a busy life.

A qualified estate planning attorney, who focuses their practice in estate planning, can make sure that your mom can rest assured that things will be left the way she wishes. In addition to updating her Trust or Will, the attorney will make sure your mom has powers of attorney in place for both financial and health matters. This way, your mom can name someone (perhaps you and/or your brother) to make decisions when she is no longer able to make them herself. The attorney will also prepare a HIPAA power, to allow you and your brother access to her protected health information. Finally, the attorney will prepare a Health Directive or similar document that will allow your mother to express her wishes regarding end-of-life decisions.

The attorney might also suggest these and other items:

  • Prepare new documents in light of changed circumstances.
  • Make sure beneficiary designations are up-to-date (on life insurance, retirement plans, and other financial accounts).
  • Sell loss assets in order to harvest income tax losses (which would otherwise be lost at your mom’s death).
  • Avoid selling gain assets (which would get a “step-up” in income tax basis at your mom’s death).
  • Accelerate any charitable bequests into life (in order to obtain an income tax deduction, as well as remove the sum from the taxable estate).

Your mom has always been there for you. Now, you can give her the gift of peace of mind, knowing that her legal affairs are in order. A qualified estate planning attorney from Morris Hall can help alleviate concerns and let your mom focus on making the most of her last days with her loving family.