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When terminal illness precedes estate planning

Having an estate plan has become more prevalent as more people have become aware of the need to ensure that their wishes will be carried out after their death. In Michigan and elsewhere, such planning can lead to peace of mind. But what if a terminal illness is diagnosed before estate planning has been put in place?

Being diagnosed with a terminal illness can be a very unsettling and stressful experience. A person can easily be overwhelmed by the need to quickly put all of his or her affairs in order. Haste in such a situation could lead to costly mistakes, particularly where finances and property are involved.

While it may be uncomfortable to contemplate, having a will or trust in place becomes a necessity to ensure that the dying person's property and finances are distributed as he or she wishes. Failure to do so could have unintended consequences. If one separated and never divorced and one wanted one's property to go to one's children, failure to stipulate that in a will could result in the separated partner receiving all or some of the property, depending on state law.

Thinking of all the eventualities at such a stressful time may seem a monumental task. Another document that can be of assistance is a letter of instruction that can inform survivors of the location of documents such as insurance policies, IRAs and other important papers. It may also contain passwords and PINs necessary to access important accounts. A person facing the task of estate planning in this unfortunate situation in Michigan may benefit greatly from consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney. A knowledgeable attorney can be a calming and reasoned presence in a very stressful situation and help to ensure that most eventualities are provided for.

Source: cpajournal.com, "Planning During Terminal Illness", James R. Grimaldi, James A.J. Revels, and Sidney Kess, Accessed on May 28,2018

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