Estate Planning for Those With Mesothelioma
Everyone wants to be in control of their life. But there are times when that’s not possible. Estate planning is a way to plan for those events, allowing you a degree of control when your life goes sideways. Many people don’t plan until they get older or are diagnosed with a serious condition like mesothelioma.
Many won’t have estate planning done until they suffer an accident or are diagnosed with a severe health condition. If this is your situation, you’re not alone. If you had estate planning done in the past, it can be updated to reflect your current wants and needs.
Satterley & Kelley doesn’t do estate planning. We can refer you to other local attorneys we trust to do an excellent job for you and your family.
What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning, according to the American Bar Association, is a process where you plan the transfer of your property at death, which may or may not involve tax planning. Estate planning can also include empowering others to make decisions for you because you’re unwilling or unable to make them yourself. It should involve an attorney and if you have one, your accountant.
Why Should I Have Estate Planning Done?
Properly executed estate planning documents allow you some control in situations where you otherwise wouldn’t have it.
If you have no will, your assets would go to your next of kin, whether you want that to happen or not. If you’re having a health emergency and can’t communicate, you can exercise some control over your care instead of someone else (perhaps a person you don’t want speaking on your behalf) making all the decisions without your input.
What is an Estate?
Kentucky law establishes a legal process for how your debts and assets are handled after your death. The legal entity owning both will be your estate.
During the probate process, your personal representative (named by the court) is responsible for your estate. They must inventory your assets and debts. They will decide what debts and fees must be paid with your probate assets. What’s left over can be distributed to beneficiaries named in your will or your next of kin if you don’t have one.
Not all of your assets will be part of your estate, including:
- Life insurance benefits go to the listed beneficiary
- What’s in a bank or investment account if another person shares it, or it’s a “payable on death account” which will pay the person you list as the beneficiary
What Estate Planning Documents Might I Use?
Here are some common legal tools used in estate planning.
A document that spells out how you want your assets distributed after your death. You can nominate a person to be your personal representative, but the court makes the final decision. The law gives you broad, but not limitless, control over what happens to your assets. Without a will, your assets will go to your next of kin. If that’s not what you want, you must create a will.
This is a legal entity funded by your assets. That transfer can happen while you’re alive or after your death through the probate process, life insurance benefits, or payable on death accounts.
It can support a charity and or people of your choice (the beneficiaries). The person in charge is the trustee, who can’t use the trust for their benefit and, as much as possible, follow your instructions. Through the trust, you can transfer wealth to beneficiaries or have the trustee invest your wealth and transfer income earned by it to beneficiaries.
- Powers of Attorney
These legal documents empower another person (your agent) to make decisions and take action for you. They can cover:
- Healthcare: You can authorize someone to make decisions when you can’t do so or you’re unable to communicate with your healthcare team. Without this document (or a living will), this ability goes to your next of kin. That would be your spouse (if you have one and they’re willing and able to make these decisions), then your adult children. These documents are helpful if you and your spouse disagree over what care you should have if you can’t speak for yourself or if you don’t have a spouse and your kids disagree with you (or each other) over what your care should be. Your agent must be capable and carry out your wishes
- Financial: This document enables your agent to handle your finances and pay your bills. Your agent’s authority can be as narrow or broad as you wish. This can be limited to access to a particular bank account to pay specific bills, the person could use all of your assets to pay whatever costs or debts you have, or their power could be somewhere in between. Your agent could take action when you’re incapable of handling your finances or don’t want to do it any longer. Given the financial damage you could suffer if your agent is dishonest, disorganized, or just not good at handling money, you must choose someone you trust for this position
- Living Will/Advance Directive
This is similar to a healthcare power of attorney but is more limited. You must be considered terminally ill for a living will to be effective, while a healthcare power of attorney would be in effect no matter your overall health. In a living will, you can name a surrogate to make decisions for you and state what kind of healthcare you want and don’t want if you can’t speak for yourself.
If You or a Loved One Has Mesothelioma, Satterley & Kelley Can Help
Call our Kentucky law office at 502-589-5600 or toll-free at 855-385-9532, or complete our contact form for a free consultation today. We can discuss your situation, your rights to compensation, and how to protect them.