Death and remarriage questions. A common line of questioning often includes the following type of scenario: “Imagine that you or your spouse were to pass away, and six months later, the survivor of you meets an old high school sweetheart who is single. A romance blooms, and they decide to marry soon after. How comfortable are you with the possibility of all of the money and property you acquired during your marriage becoming jointly owned by your surviving spouse and their new flame? Do you have any concerns about your spouse later dying and leaving everything to the high school sweetheart either intentionally or inadvertently?” If you leave everything that you own to your spouse, and that spouse remarries without taking certain legal steps, your spouse might put what you have left behind at risk of ending up in the hands of a total stranger rather than in the hands of your children or your other intended beneficiaries. By identifying these concerns through this type of questioning, an attorney can help you take steps now, while you are both alive, to ensure that your property is as protected as possible. You will have peace of mind that in the event of a remarriage, or even in the event of a lawsuit against the surviving spouse, you have taken the necessary steps to protect your property from being lost to a new spouse or to creditors or predators, and have ensured that what you leave behind will take care of your spouse until they pass away, and then will go to your chosen and intended beneficiaries.

 Decisions about minor children. Another extremely important issue an attorney will raise is who should care for your minor children if you no longer can. Related to this question, the attorney will want you to consider who should manage your property and accounts for the benefit of your minor children in the event of your death or disability. Is it best for the people raising your children to be in charge of that money? Or will that invite potential financial abuse and exploitation by those guardians? It may make better sense to have a professional or another family member manage and distribute that money while someone else raises the children.

Healthcare decisions. Your estate planning attorney may also ask who should make healthcare decisions for you if you no longer can. This will require you to imagine yourself in a situation where you are receiving healthcare services but are no longer able to communicate your wishes regarding your care. In that case, do you want your spouse making those decisions? Or if you are not married, should it be a family member or a close friend?

Your attorney can help you explore the various healthcare scenarios you may encounter as well as the kinds of decisions you are comfortable entrusting to a healthcare agent and those that should not be made by an agent but rather in advance, by you, and documented so that healthcare providers will know what your wishes are with regard to certain types of treatments. Perhaps you never want to receive chemotherapy, radiation, or electroshock therapy. Or perhaps you never want to be placed in a nursing home and would prefer that your money be used to keep you in your own home for as long as possible. If these are decisions you do not want to leave in the hands of others, an attorney can help you identify these scenarios and document your choices.

We are Here to Help

These are just a few of the questions you may encounter when working with an estate planning attorney. Understanding their purpose will help you prepare for a successful and productive meeting. While some of these questions and scenarios may make you feel uncomfortable or even a bit fearful, doing the hard work of thinking through these kinds of scenarios and how you want them handled is an important first step toward responsibly planning for death and disability, which every one of us will eventually face. Trust us, your loved ones will be thankful for your efforts. If you are interested in learning more about the safeguards we can put in place to protect you and your family, call our office at (805) 518-9633 or click here to schedule a {Free} 15-Minute Phone Call.  As an added convenience for our clients, we are available to hold our meetings through video conferencing or by phone.

 

 

 

 

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