There’s a swirling cloud of confusion and questions when it comes to end-of-life documentation. Those with life-limiting illnesses must resolve financial and medical questions before they are no longer able to make those important decisions.
If your loved one has been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness and hasn’t prepared their estate, they may be asking, “how do I make a will?” Keep reading to learn more about different types of end-of-life documents, why they are essential and the process to create them.
Looking for hospice care? Visit the Seasons Hospice services page to learn more. We have social workers available on staff to help facilitate the execution of end-of-life documents and wills.
What Is End-of-Life Documentation?
While you and your loved one probably have an idea of how these documents work, you may not know all of the components that go into creating them. Unfortunately, drafting a will is more than writing down who gets what stuff on a piece of paper. These documents can help alleviate legal burdens before and after your loved one passes.
There are two types of end-of-life documents: medical and financial.
End-of-Life Medical Documents
Here are three vital health care directives for individuals who can no longer make decisions for themselves:
- A durable power of attorney for health care designates a person to make care decisions once the ill individual cannot.
- Living wills are records of a person’s wishes for medical treatment towards the end of life.
- A do not resuscitate order (DNR) directly instructs health care professionals not to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
These documents are critical to ensuring your loved one gets the care that they desire during the end of their life.
End-of-Life Financial Documents
Similar to end-of-life medical documentation, your loved one will need documents that sort out what they plan to do with their financial assets and property once they are gone.
A living trust with a durable power of attorney for finances is critical for someone who has a life-limiting illness. A living will, combined with a durable power of attorney to execute, can alleviate your loved one of financial responsibility once they are no longer capable.
While not necessary by law, a will can make the distribution of a person’s assets after their death easier for everyone involved. A will usually involves:
- Care plans for dependents
- Trusts to manage the estate
- Funeral and burial arrangements
A written will makes the transition of assets from your loved one to their beneficiaries as smooth as possible.
What Happens If You Die Without a Will?
If your loved one hasn’t written a will yet, they may wonder what will happen to their property after passing away.
If your loved one doesn’t have a will prepared for their passing, asset allocation is sent on to probate court. In most states, the court allocates property and estate management to the deceased’s next of kin or the most closely related person (spouse, sibling, parent, child). This allocation is called intestate succession.
While this sounds simple in theory, legal costs and taxation on assets through probate court can become a burden to family members left behind.
How Do I Make A Will?: The Process
If your loved one doesn’t have this documentation in place, don’t worry, there is still time to take care of it. There are a few tasks you will need to complete to make sure the will is legitimate.
Remember, this is not legal advice but rather a quick overview of steps you need to take. Will writing is an intricate process, and it’s best to talk with an attorney or lawyer to ensure success in the process. Here is an abbreviated look at creating a will:
- Contact an expert. While your loved one may want to write their own will, it may not hold up in probate court, meaning it won’t dictate who gets what after their passing. Invalidity can occur for a variety of reasons. The will may not have had a proper affidavit, or it had too much ambiguous wording. There are lawyers and will writers in the Tulsa area who are experts in probate law and can make sure the will is written in a way that fulfills your loved one’s desires.
- Pick your beneficiaries. Your loved one will need to choose which beneficiaries receive which parts of their estate.
- Choose your executor. Your loved one’s executor ensures that their estate is closed out and their beneficiaries receive what is designated to them. Many times, the lawyer who helps write the will can carry out this work. However, your loved one can select anyone to perform this task.
- Notarize the will/get a witness signature. Once a will has been drafted, it’s essential to get a witness or notary to sign off on the will.
Does a Will Have to Be Notarized?
No, technically, a will doesn’t have to be notarized. Notarization helps ensure that the document is legitimate to a probate court and can expedite the process.
How Do I Make a Will?: Getting Started
Life-limiting illness is stressful. Adding the extra responsibility of creating these documents may seem too burdensome for your loved one. However, it’s best to resolve these issues as soon as possible to prevent extra stress for family and friends. Here is a basic guide to writing a will in Oklahoma.
Remember: If your loved one doesn’t know where to start, Seasons Hospice has social workers on staff who can help facilitate executing end-of-life documents and wills.
To find a lawyer, your loved one can visit the Oklahoma Bar Association page to find lawyers who specialize in will and estate writing.
How Much Does a Will Lawyer Cost?
The cost of a lawyer will vary by the extent of work necessary to create the documentation. Legal fees usually range from $100-$1,000 depending on how complex your loved one’s estate is. If you choose the lawyer to be your executor, the average fee is around 2-4 percent of the estate.
If you and your loved one are concerned about a lawyer’s cost, it is possible to create a will online with will writing tools. However, it’s important to weigh a lawyer’s cost versus potential legal fees in probate court.
If your loved one has been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness and needs to take care of end-of-life documents, contact Seasons Hospice to see how we can help today. Great hospice care can add life to your loved one’s final days.