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Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.

Summary

Estate planning is about accumulating and disposing of your assets.

Estate planning includes planning in case you become unable to speak for yourself, either temporarily or permanently:

  • To keep your financial affairs on track.
  • To assure that you receive the medical care you want, and don't receive the medical care you don't want.

At the least, make sure:

  • You have executed healthcare advance directives so your medical care wishes will be respected even if you become unable to communicate
  • You have a valid will that cannot be challenged because of your health at the time you execute it
  • That you name a guardian or make another provision for minor children
  • That important papers can be located easily
  • That passwords for online accounts are accessible
  • That you have arrangements in place to take care of pets immediately upon your demise and thereafter

To learn more about the subjects of interest to you, please see:

NOTE: If your estate is close to the amount when the federal estate tax starts, it is advisable to consult a tax accountant or attorney. For 2019  the estate and gift tax exemption is $11.400,000. For 2020, the amount is $11,580,000. There is no federal estate tax for estates under that amount. (There may still be a state tax.)

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End-of-Life

Accumulation of Assets

Disposition Of Assets

  • Everyone should have a Will. 
    • If you do not have a will, the state determines what happens to your assets. See: Wills 101
    • If you communicate with your heirs about what will happen with you assets, there will more likely be peace after you're gone and for your wishes to be carried out as desired See: Communicating Your Desires And Estate Plans and Heir Game Plan.
  • To avoid Probate, there are "Will substitutes" to consider (in addition to having a Will). Will substitutes can help speed transfer of your assets and minimize the cost. They also assure privacy if that is important to you. (Probate records are generally open to the public.) See: How to Avoid Probate (Will Substitutes) and Trusts 101.
  • Consider writing a document known as an Ethical Will which passes on your values and life experiences to your heirs. See: Ethical Wills.
  • If you're lucky enough to have so many assets that your estate would be subject to an estate tax, see: Gift, Estate and Generation-Skipping Transfer Taxes.

In Case You Become Incapacitated And Can't Or Don't Want To Speak For Yourself

If You Are In Debt When You Die

Generally, someone's estate is responsible for paying their debts. But if there isn't enough in the estate to cover unsecured debts, they typically go unpaid. (Unsecured debts are debts such as credit card debts. The creditor does not have the right to sell specific property if the debt is not paid).  

Secured debts are a different matter. Usually the creditor has a right to look to the property securing the debt for repayment. If there is a difference between the amount of the debt and what the property brings on a sale, the difference is paid to the estate. 

A spouse may be liable for your debts.  Even a spouse's obligation to pay may be limited under state probate law. To determine whether you're legally obligated to pay, talk to an attorney who is knowledgeable about this area of the law.

Usually, no one else has a legal obligation to pay the debts of a deceased relative who was not a spouse.

Funerals

  • Planning your funeral will save your heirs unnecessary expense and anxiety at a particularly bad time in their lives. As an informed consumer, you'll learn that you don't need to use a funeral home, and that while pre-planning is helpful, it is preferable not to prepay. See: Funerals 101.

How To Protect Your Digital Assets (Passwords etc.)

1,  Start with an inventory of logins. Include:

  • Your computer(s), tablet(s), smart phone(s) and other connected devices.
  • Encrypted hard drives, flash drives and other storage devices
  • Encrypted home network routers
  • Voice mail
  • Fobs, cards or other physical digital-key devices

2. List for each of the above:

  • User names, passwords and other login access codes, 
  • Information needed to reset the password, including answers to secret questions. For example:
    • Who was your best childhood friend? 
    • What was the name of your first pet? 
  • The Web addresses where there is access to your account-login pages 

3. Pick and retain a trusted third party to handle your digital affairs. Instruct him or her on how to access the above information and how to manage whatever needs managing.

4. Rather than include authorization in your Will which is a public document, create a Durable Power of Attorney for your digital assets. This will legally authorize your agent to access your accounts and devices if there are any questions.

5. Store a paper version of the above information in a safe place. Also maintain a digital version to note changed paswords or new services. You can store your passwords online for free through such services as Legacy Locker  offsite linkand Planned Departure offsite link

NOTE:

  • Consider visting each site you use to determine if it has policies for what happens in the event of a user's death.Follow those procedures. For example:
    • If you store data on YouTube, Picasa or Gmail, Google has a free service known as Inactive Acount Manager that helps assure your passwords are passed on. You can find Inactive Account manager on your Google Account settings page offsite link
    • Facebook has Legacy Contact.

A Checklist for The Person Who Will Be In Charge

Bills

  • Keep paying bills, particularly the rent or mortgage and utilities.
  • Consider not paying obligations owed only by the decedent such as student loans or credit cards in the person's name until you determine whether the amounts are actually due.

Workplace benefits

  • Check with the decedent's manager and/or Human Relations (HR) department about any benefits that the estate may be owed - such as life insurance benefits or vacation pay.
  • If health insurance was through work, compare COBRA benefits to what happens if you look for health insurance on your own. 

Life Insurance

  • File life insurance claims.  
  • If you aren't sure whether there was other insurance, contact MIB Solutions' Policy Locator Service offsite link. For a fee, the service will research life insurance applications. 

Social Security

  • Notify Social Security of decedent's death and check survivor's benefits. Call: 800.772.1213

Credit Cards

  • Close cards that were in the decedent's name only.
  • Take the decedent's name off of joint accounts.
  • Notify credit card bureaus of decedent's death to prevent fraud. While there may be no liability for charges after demise, it can be a hassle setting the record straight.

Cars, Real Estate , Stocks and Bonds

  • Retitle ownership to eliminate the decedent's name.

Close Miscellaneous Accounts

  • Cancel driver's license and passport.
  • Close social media accounts
  • Cancel subscriptions and memberships