No matter the cause, dealing with a loved one’s terminal illness is a difficult and somber path. From diseases like dementia, advanced heart or lung disease, Parkinson’s disease, or late-stage cancer, if you find yourself, a spouse, or family member suffering from these illnesses, it’s difficult enough to get through the day, let alone work on getting your affairs in order.

If you or a loved one are dealing with a terminal prognosis and you have yet to plan your estate, it is vital to get started right away. You want to ensure your assets are protected and your loved ones get the inheritance they deserve. That’s why you need to know the exact steps toward finalizing your estate, as well as the ways you can get the help you need along the way. When it’s time to consider your estate plan, you can trust the Columbia estate planning attorneys at Stange Law.

What Is the Best Place to Start When Planning Your Estate with a Terminal Illness?

There are several important factors you want to get sorted out right away if you are planning your estate – whether you are simply getting your affairs in order or facing an imminent disease. First, you need to make sure you have a working and valid will, which requires a handwritten document that is signed by you. It’s also important to remember that you need two witnesses to confirm your signing of the will.

Another essential factor in estate planning is to set up a trustee or executor of your estate. This is the person or entity who is going to be the manager of your estate. They ensure your wishes are followed and gifts are properly dispersed to the proper beneficiaries. For this, you may want to utilize a fiduciary. This can be a personal friend or family member you trust. In many cases, it could also help to have this person be a lawyer who understands all the legal precedents and proper proceedings when managing and distributing your estate once you have passed away.

Utilizing a lawyer as your fiduciary can also leave your loved ones with more time to care for and spend time with you while they still can, instead of being weighed down by the responsibilities of managing your estate.

What Are Other Steps I Need to Take to Plan My Estate While Dealing with Terminal Illness?

Along with the first steps mentioned above, there are some additional assessments and analyses that are required to ensure your estate is properly planned. A total asset analysis is important to help determine the total worth and collection of any assets and properties, and these all need to be specified and designated to a beneficiary.

Also, as part of this process, it’s helpful to move these assets into a trust so ownership of your belongings aren’t taxed as heavily once it is passed on to loved ones. As part of setting up a trust, you will also need to do a trust assessment to determine who will control any assets upon your death, as well as set a trustworthy family member, friend, or lawyer as the trustee.

It’s wise to also check to make sure your assigned beneficiaries for things like your life insurance policy as well as your retirement account. In addition, remember that if you are married but have any assets you do not share, these also need to be assigned beneficiaries as well. During this process, you also want to make sure to prepare for any issues during probate.

Should I Take My Medical Condition Into Account When Planning My Estate And Will?

When terminally ill, you want your will to be up to date on specific medical wishes. As a terminally ill patient, there are things to consider, such as life-sustaining treatment in which you determine what to do in difficult decisions so that your family is not forced to make the decision on your behalf. Listing these wishes while you are in sound mind allows for those decisions to be carried over once you are not mentally aware enough to make them.


Q: Is It Possible for an Individual Suffering From Dementia to Plan an Estate?

A: As long as an individual is of a sound mind (in which they are aware of their surroundings and have their normal mental capabilities), the individual is legally permitted to plan their estate and write a will. They need witnesses to confirm their state and to assist with the process.

Q: What Are Examples of End-of-Life Care That the Individual Determines in Their Will?

A: The term “end-of-life care” covers any emotional, physical, spiritual, or social support a terminally ill patient receives when in the final stages of life. Factors involved in end-of-life care include pain reduction and offering other ways to ease a patient’s pain and make them comfortable in their final days, such as life support or hospice.

Q: What Is Probate?

A: Probate is the division of your assets after death to the set benefactors. This covers everything from debts, gifts, inheritance, and more.

Q: Is It Possible to Change My Will If I Am Suffering From a Terminal Illness?

A: The ability to alter your will during a terminal illness depends on the type of illness and the condition you are in when you attempt to make a change. As long as you are in your right mind and aware of your surroundings and yourself, it is possible for you to make changes to your will. Terminal diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s make this significantly more difficult, as it is less likely you will have the mental capacity to make these changes.

Contact Stange Law for Estate Planning Expertise

Whether you are dealing with a terminal illness and need legal assistance getting your will and affairs in order or simply need advice about your next steps, we can help. Our Columbia estate planning attorneys are here to help guide you through each step of this complex process. Contact us today for a consultation.