Most of our clients come to us to help make their loved ones’ lives easier – not more difficult. Many people will come in wanting a very simple estate plan because of the cost or because they believe their estate is not large enough to cause anyone any issues. However, often, very simple estate plans can complicated matters and cost heirs and beneficiaries more time and money in the future.
In general, even with a perfect estate plan, heirs and beneficiaries have numerous tasks to attend to, including paying the death expenses, handling creditors and transferring ownership of assets. If the deceased person did not properly complete the estate planning process before his or her demise, or did not execute the right estate plan, complications could arise.
There are several issues and events that could make an estate plan less effective. One of the most common mistakes in estate planning is to never update your estate plan. Our attorney recommends reviewing or updating your estate plan after every major life event (death of a family member, marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc.). It is important to update your documents in case there is a significant change in the situation from when you drafted it. Also, it is good to have your estate plan reviewed by an estate planning attorney in case important updates are needed in your will/trusts/power of attorneys/advanced directives due to change in the law.
Furthermore, conflict could arise if a person did not provide enough detail about how his/her assets should be distributed. It is allowed for individuals to leave the distribution decisions up to surviving family or even state law, however, some individuals may not agree. This often leads to contention and conflict that could build to a point where costly and prolonged litigation is necessary. In order to have a more effective plan, parties need to consider their assets and make decisions themselves, and they should put specific directions and details inside their estate plan to ward off any future issues and conflicts.
Sometimes, people may start out with an estate plan that simply consists of a Will and Power of Attorney. While young and without a lot of assets, that may be enough for your beneficiaries and heirs to handle your estate efficiently. However, as we age and accumulate more property and our lives become more complex, a Trust is often better for more complex estates. This is another area in which people keep their estate plan stagnant, and yet reviewing their plan or even making an entirely new one would’ve been a better option for their particular situation.
Many people do not realize that having an estate plan is an ongoing process. Just as your life changes through the years, so should your estate plan. It may seem inconvenient, but it can help ensure that your wishes and desires are known and executed correctly at the time of your passing. If any Oklahoma or Tulsa area residents are concerned about whether their plans cover all their needs and desires, they should review those plans and have their documents reviewed by a professional, including the attorney at the Skillern Law Firm. Gaining more information on planning tools and possible errors to avoid could also prove useful.
Estate planning is not just for after you pass away, it can also be very important for when you become ill or incapacitated during your life. The attorney at the Skillern Law Firm can assist with the creation of a comprehensive incapacity plan, as well as your estate planning for when you are gone. It is hard to contemplate and plan for if or when you will experience a major medical issue, but it is also necessary. Illnesses and medical issues can strike at any time, either through a disease or illness, or a carwreck or accident. Let’s go through some reasons how you can plan for an illness, and why you should.
The most common estate planning documents to get done so your affairs can be handled by someone you trust while you’re alive but ill are the Durable Power of Attorney and the Advanced Directive. Please read those previous blog posts about those documents for more information. Our attorney usually creates and implements those documents in conjunction with a Will or Trust, taking care of our clients both through their life and their passing. Why are these recommended? There are three major reasons:
1. To Have A Say In Your Future Medical Care
Through a Health Care Power of Attorney and an Advanced Directive, you are able to direct your health care when you are too ill to talk to the doctors. In the Advanced Directive, you are able to have a say in if you’d like to accept or decline life sustaining treatment or heroic measures (like CPR or the defibrillator). You can also have a say in whether you’d like to be kept alive using a feeding tube. You can answer these important questions that will need to be answered if you suffer a serious medical emergency. If you suffer from an illness or get into a sudden medical emergency, these documents can be valuable to answer medical questions.
2. To Protect Your Assets And Staying Out of Court
If you become ill or incapacitated, and you do not have your estate planning documents set up, your family will have to go to court to obtain authority to manage your assets. This is usually through a court process called ‘guardianship” or ‘conservatorship.’ Anytime court is involved, there are time delays, and usually some surprises. Going to court can also have high stress on the family while you are ill (which is already a stressful situation), and can cost thousands of dollars in unnecessary legal expenses. Also, these delays can cause your investments to suffer losses due to lack of management, and your real estate to become abandoned. There is also the risk that the court may select someone you do not want to manage your assets. You can get rid of those delays and risks by being proactive and getting a written incapacity plan, outlining who you want managing your wealth if something happens to you.
3. To Spare Your Family Difficult Decisions
An Advanced Directive can take away stress and anxiety from your family members, who will not be forced to decide whether to pull the plug or withhold lifesaving care from you. If you express your preferences in legal documents, ahead of time, it can alleviate that stress. A Durable Power of Attorney can also alleviate stress because the Power of Attorney you nominate to take over your financial affairs will be able to seamlessly take over your accounts, so your day-to-day bills and medical bills can be paid.
The attorney at the Skillern Law Firm can help guide you through the available methods, including advanced directives, trusts, powers of attorney and more. We can explain the different ways through which you can plan ahead for incapacity and help put a plan in place that provides you and your loved ones with the protections you deserve. Call us for a free consultation today!
One of the most prominent cases of Living Wills or Advance Directives was the Terri Schaivo case in the early 2000s. It is prominent for Living Wills, in that Terri Schaivo did not have one, and her situation caused a legal battle that lasted years and costed thousands of dollars for her family.
In this case, there was a emotional and nationally-known legal battle in Florida over whether a woman, Terri Schaivo, would be kept alive through treatment of artificial food and water, or would pass away from the disuse of the treatment. If you remember, her husband, who was still legally married to her but estranged from her family, wanted her to pass away, but her family wanted her to remain alive through the artificial means. Since Terri Schaivo did not have a Living Will that told her family and husband what her wishes were, her family and spouse went through ten years of litigation, one-hundred thousand ($100,000) of dollars in legal fees, and endless pain and frustration for everyone involved. A Florida court ultimately decided Ms. Schaivo should be allowed to pass away.
Terri Schaivo and her family could have avoided the entire situation if she had a Living Will or Advance Directive in place. Our attorney highly recommends this document since it takes the heart-breaking and agonizing decision away from your family members, and allows you to get your end-of-life wishes. In Oklahoma, there are three situations that the state allows you to make your end-of-life wishes known. See our previous post about those specific situations here. This document is inexpensive, easy to execute, and could save you and your family money, emotional stress, and it grants you all peace of mind.
If you already have a Living Will in place, see if you need to update it by reading a previous post here.
Call the office of The Skillern Law Firm, PLLC today to schedule a meeting to discuss this document as well as other your other estate planning needs today!
Many clients of the attorneys at Skillern Law Firm, PLLC believe they do not need a new Advance Directive since they had one drafted many years ago. Well, if you got your living will completed before 2006, you may need yours updated.
During the 2006 Legislative Session, the Oklahoma Legislature amended the Oklahoma Advance Directive Act (“the Act”) in response to an Attorney General Opinion. It became effective on May 17, 2006.The Attorney General’s opinion argued that, in its then old form, the Oklahoma Advance Directive Act was unconstitutional. Before May of 2006, individuals could only designate refusal of life-sustaining treatment only if they were persistently unconscious (in a vegetative state) or if they were diagnosed with a terminal condition. The old act had no provision to allow people to choose if they want treatment or not if they were diagnosed with an “End-stage Condition.”
The Oklahoma Legislature listened to the Attorney General, and added this category to the statute. Now, individuals can discuss what they would want in an “End-Stage Condition.” An “End-stage Condition” is a condition caused by injury, disease, or illness, which results in severe and permanent deterioration indicated by incompetency and complete physical dependency for which, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, treatment of the irreversible condition would be medically ineffective. Importantly, this includes Alzheimer’s disease in its late stages.
At the Skillern Law Firm, our updated Advance Directives forms allow you and your spouse to refuse life-sustaining treatment and/or artificial administration of nutrition and hydration, if you so choose. It will allow allow you to designate that you absolutely want all the treatment you can receive. Whether you choose to refuse life-sustaining treatment or to continue all treatment options, executing a new advance directive should be on your priority list.
If you have not updated your Advance Directive, or have never had one drafted with your desires, contact the offices of Skillern Law Firm, PLLC today. For more reading on what an Advance Directive can do you for, please read a past post all about living wills here.
It is important to periodically review your will and estate plan. Life changes often require that you reassess your estate plan.
Most parents are concerned about how their children will be cared for in the event that one or both parents suffer an accident or are incapacitated. It is important to name a guardian for your minor children in your will. Also, parents should consider a trust if they wish to stagger financial inheritance distributions for their children, instead of having the kids receive the whole of the estate at the age of majority.
In Oklahoma, a divorce makes any trust that you had with a former spouse void. You should also consider any power of attorney documents or health power of attorney documents so that the contents reflect your current intent.
You may consider signing a ante-nuptial agreement in the event of a remarriage so as to legally separate your estates during marriage. A trust may be helpful in addressing any inheritance issues to children that a second marriage can create.
As people age, their assets tend to increase. Make sure that your money is working for you by talking to a financial planner. In addition, you should make sure that any assets that you acquire are included in any will or trust that you have already created.
Death of Spouse
When a spouse dies, you probably will need to get new health care and financial power of attorney documents.
The offices of Skillern Law can assist you in making changes to any and all of your estate planning needs. Call our office today!
Today on Tulsa Estate Planning Blog, we will discuss what a living will is, and what medical scenarios it will cover. Let’s get started.
A living will is a legal document which allows a person to make known his/her wishes regarding life-prolonging medical treatments. Living wills are also referred to as advance directives, health care directives, or a physician’s directives. A living will is not a living trust, which is a trust for holding and distributing a person’s assets to avoid probate. It is very important to include a living will in your estate planning documents since it informs your health care providers, as well as your family, of your desires for medical treatment in the event you are not able to make those decisions yourself – like if you were in a coma. Living wills and other advance directives are not only for older adults. Unexpected end-of-life situations can and do occur at any age, so it’s important for all adults to get estate planning, including an advance directive, completed.
Sometimes, clients are surprised on the amount of situations that are included in a living will. A lot of the the questions take some thought and personal reflection to decide on what you would want to happen in the specific given situation. Skillern Law Firm’s living will covers three situations as well as other end-life options.
The first situation that you need to consider is situations where the physician has given you a diagnosis of an terminal, incurable and irreversible condition that will result in death within six (6) months, even when administered life-sustaining treatment. These include fatal cancers, tumors, or any other disease or scenario where you are giving a very short time to live. Your brain can be fully functional, but your body could be in a very poor condition. After considering this question, you would have to choose whether you would want (1) both life-sustaining treatment and artificiality administered food or water, (2) neither treatment nor artificially given food or water (3) only artificially given food and water, but no treatment. You are also allowed to provide your own specific instructions.
The second situation is when you are in a persistently unconscious state that is irreversible, and where the physicians believe you to be unaware and brain dead. So, essentially, you are in a persistent vegetative state. The same three options are applicable to this situation as well.
The third situation is when you are in an end-stage condition which could have been caused by injury, disease, or illness, and the condition results in severe and permanent deterioration indicated by incompetency and complete physical dependency for which treatment of the irreversible condition would be medically ineffective. In this situation, your body is so deteriorated in condition that you cannot stand, feed, or do anything for yourself. The three same situations are above. Your mind may be functional here, but your body is not.
These are tough situations, and that is why a living will is so essential. Will your wife, brother, or parents be able to handle one of these scenarios rationally, or do they even know what would be your wishes in these situations? Most people would say no. Living wills really help make sure that you are guaranteed your desired medical treatments in these situations.
Skillern Law Firm, PLLC living wills also include an area where you are able to choose if you will be an organ donor, what organs or body parts you want to donate, and for which purpose you would want to donate for (surgery, transplant, science, etc). If you need a living will done today (which you probably do!), contact Skillern Law Firm now!