Estate planning is often new territory for individuals diagnosed with a terminal illness. According to Caring.com, only 42 percent of Americans have a will. For clients diagnosed with mesothelioma or some other form of cancer, this may be the first time they have thought about meeting with an estate planner.
When meeting with these clients, it is important that they understand both what they should do while living as well as what they shouldn’t do. As estate planners, you serve a vital role in helping your clients prepare.
Estate planners should review the following with their clients:
1. Designate a durable power of attorney, a living will and a health care power of attorney — Explain why the client needs each of these documents and how they will help as the client’s illness progresses.
2. Determine who will care for the children — In the event that there is not another parent to care for the children, the terminally ill client may want to designate who will care for the children.
3. Review beneficiaries — Most clients will have some sort of retirement put away. Make sure your clients take the time to make note off the designated beneficiaries on all of their retirement accounts and life insurance plans.
4. Make a list of passwords — As an estate planner, you can help your clients by helping them manage the little details that might get overlooked.
5. Address special circumstances — Depending on their circumstances, your clients may need help establishing a trust to provide for heirs who may have problems managing their money, mental health issues, substance abuse or substantial creditors.
6. Potential personal injury lawsuits — If your client has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, asbestosis or some other disease of the pleura related to asbestos exposure, they may have a potential claim for injuries sustained as a result of asbestos exposure. Because the life span of these cases is so short, it is important to make sure these clients talk to a mesothelioma claims attorney as soon as possible to determine if they have a claim.
A pending personal injury claim can significantly increase tax liability. Pending claims must be factored into the overall estate plan.
You can also help your terminally ill clients avoid making mistakes before they pass.
1. Avoid spending savings or cashing in retirement — After a terminal diagnosis, it is not uncommon for clients to want to check off a number of items on their bucket list, or start passing on money early to their children. While bucket list items are not likely to be any cause of concern, you want to advise your clients to carefully consider the implications of making financial gifts before they pass.
2. Put off pursuing a personal injury claim — If there is a chance that your client has a personally injury claim, it is important to encourage them to pursue it right away. The client will be able to recover greater damages if the client is able to settle any personal injury claims before passing.
Terminally ill clients are depending on you to give them the guidance they need at one of the most critical times of their life. Whatever estate plan you develop for your client, make sure it is thorough and complete.