Troubleshooting Legal Problems

Bad news could mean it’s time to update your estate plan

An estate plan is a way to protect your loved ones long after you are gone. If you already have one, that is an excellent move, but what if you suddenly fall ill? Although managing your estate plan might not be the first thing on your mind, it will help address potential challenges during and after this challenging time.

Important documents you should have

Estate planning in Pennsylvania is more than just drafting a will. The process often encompasses the following legal tools:

  • Will: This document outlines how you want your assets distributed after death and who will care for your minor children. It takes effect upon death of the creator.
  • Power of attorney: This document grants powers to someone you trust (an agent or attorney-in-fact) to manage your financial and healthcare decisions.
  • Healthcare directives: This tool defines your medical preferences and names someone to make healthcare decisions.
  • Trusts: Trusts can serve various purposes such as asset protection, tax planning, or ensuring that beneficiaries are taken care of according to the grantor’s wishes. They can be established during a person’s lifetime (living trusts) or after death through a will (testamentary trusts).

It is usually a good idea to review and update your estate plan regularly, especially after a major life change such as this. If you do not have a well-crafted and up to date plan, Pennsylvania’s probate court may preside over the administration of assets, which may not align with your intentions.

Estate plan matters after diagnosis or prognosis

If your health situation has changed, and even if the prognosis says positive outcome, reviewing some considerations that may not have been in your estate plan before is essential. For instance, who will make medical decisions if you cannot do so yourself? Or who will oversee your bills and other financial matters if your illness prevents you from doing so? How can you ensure you will have the resources and support you need?

It does not necessarily mean you must completely overhaul your original plan. Instead, this is an opportunity to revisit your plan and decide if is still fits, given the circumstances. Depending on your health status, you might need to create additional documents like a special needs trust.

An experienced estate law attorney familiar with Pennsylvania’s laws can help you fulfill your wishes in legally binding ways.