Frequently Asked Question:
What Should You Do When Death is Imminent?
When a family member or loved one's health is failing, it is difficult to think about any steps that should be taken other than those related to his or her comfort. But putting affairs in order, you can ease that person's mental state and offer peace. Prior to death, the family or surviving loved ones should consider the following:
- What property does the person own? Try to put together a list of the property, including amounts owed to the person, along with the names and addresses of such debtors (e.g., banks, personal loans, etc.). This list should specify how the person holds the property. For example, property can be held in trust name, in individual name, as a joint owner with another, etc.
- For property held as an individual, if real estate, get the property into a trust or joint ownership prior to death to avoid probate. If not real estate, then consider if the total value of all such property exceeds $100,000.00.
- Try to determine the fair market value of each item or category of property. Remember only $100,000.00 can be held individually without resulting in probate.
- Determine amounts owed by the person or to his or her creditors along with their names and addresses. If possible, settle debts.
- Make a list of the person's heirs (spouse and children, and parents, siblings, and their children) and legatees (beneficiaries named in the Will), and their places of residence with telephone numbers if possible.
- Locate the original of the decedent's Will and any codicils, as well as any Trusts with amendments.
- Determine if the Trust (if any) allows the person to leave a gift by letter or other written document. If so, look for letters. This is an excellent way to sort personal family property in a second marriage (e.g. Grandma's china stays with the right family). Ask the person if they would like to leave a gift letter if this is possible.
- Speak to an attorney about the information gathered. If a trust is in place, make sure probate can be avoided.
- Determine the person's final wishes related to disposition of his or her person. If possible, have this reflected in the will.
Determine the person's wishes regarding life-sustaining treatment and anatomical gifting. Put those wishes in writing if the person has not already taken these steps. Sign a power of attorney for healthcare, an advance care directive (living will), a broad HIPPA waiver, and an anatomical gift directive (if they would like to be organ donors). If organ donor, make sure the person is registered on an organ donor list.
Other estate planning topics include:
For more information contact us at 847-253-8800 or