By Nicola Melby, CELA, Attorney, Stuart, Florida
National Elder Law Foundation Newsletter, February 2018
- Be sure that a DNR document has been executed and that it is readily accessible. If at home, consider folding the DNR document neatly in a baggy and affixed to the outside of the refrigerator. Most EMT workers will know to check the refrigerator.
- Make sure that there is coordination with Hospice (which normally will be part of the team attending a terminal patient) to understand who will be contacted when and at what times. Have Hospice explain what to do if 911 is called instead of the Hospice help line.
- Discuss the funeral arrangements and if possible encourage a pre-need contract. Designate in writing, burial instructions and if cremation is desired, be certain that an authorizing agent has been designated. Again, this information would be included in the refrigerator baggy for those being cared for in the home.
- If one is a veteran, there are veteran’s burial benefits available but you will need the veteran’s original DD-214 (discharge papers) so you want to find this document or discuss with the VA your options if you are unable to locate the discharge papers.
- Discuss the obituary. Try to get your loved one’s input especially if you are serving as the personal representative since you will be responsible for writing the obituary.
- Discuss any pets or dependents. Formulate a plan for placement. For dependents, if anyone is disabled and receiving public benefits, determine whether there will be an income or asset award from social security or some other income source that has a survivor benefit which will cause an increase in the disabled beneficiaries income or assets and which might therefore affect the disabled beneficiary’s benefit. Ascertain what steps, if any, can be taken to correct the problem and maintain the benefit.
- Encourage the family to develop a list of who should be notified at death and in what fashion (card, telephone, etc.).
- Determine the gross value of the estate and ascertain whether estate taxes are going to be an issue and if so, what steps need to be taken to minimize the impact of those taxes as well as insuring that sufficient liquid funds exist to make payment.
- Locate the tax returns, if any, and the identity of the accountant if any. If tax returns have not been filed, verify with a CPA that there was not a need to file a return. If you need copies of tax returns, you will need a Form 4506 T from the IRS to request tax transcripts. The Form is available at IRS.gov or at the following link: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4506t.pdf.
- Take a good look at the 1099’s that have been issued and compare those to the known assets. If something is different, find out what happened to it. Remember you are trying to make distribution of the property easy so you need to act now while there can be assistance in obtaining the necessary information or the attorney-in-fact can provide that authorization. Remember the attorney in fact’s authority under a durable power of attorney ceases at death.
- Identify the sources of income and if social security retirement or disability income is received, explain that social security will normally recapture that final check. Determine whether any income sources have survivor benefits and obtain the contact numbers.
- Ascertain whether anyone is receiving dependent health insurance coverage and if so, what are the criteria for maintaining that coverage after death and the contact information related to that coverage. If coverage will cease, direct the affected party to an appropriate professional to assist in obtaining coverage.
- Review the title of each asset carefully and any beneficiary designations and make sure they track what is intended in the Last Will and Testament. And, if a will substitute or trust or gift needs to be attended to accomplish easy distribution or access after death then consider the ramifications of implementing that title change now. For example, if “Joe” is to receive the car and there are no creditor issues etc., why not discuss the ramifications in transferring the car title to “Joe” now while the title transfer can be readily signed and then transfer the title in appropriate instances.
- If there are insurance policies, life, health, or property policies, locate them and review the contents. Especially in the context of real property policies, pay any premiums that may be due as soon as possible for as long as possible as there are a number of issues that arise after death with vacant real property as well as the position that homestead property is not normally an estate expense but instead an expense to be paid by the beneficiaries of the real property.
- Similarly attend to homeowner’s association dues, utility bills and any other regular recurring bill and any automatic debit(s) that should be canceled.
- Discuss whether a mail forwarding will be needed and if so, to whom and when should it be implemented.
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