“End of Life Plans”- What Happened When Robert Died Without a Plan

Everyone needs an “End of Life Plan” to ease the tasks our loved ones must complete after we pass away. An “End of Life Plan” can be simple or complex, depending the complexity of your assets and family composition. For nearly all of us, an “End of Life Plan” will include basic components. Generally, we recommend that adults create and implement a plan that includes these core tools-

  • A Last Will or Trust
  • A Power of Attorney
  • A Healthcare Power of Attorney
  • A list of assets, debts, investments and accounts
  • Life insurance, if you have loved ones dependent on your income

You may need to include other tools, if your financial life is more complex, but this list is a good start. Unfortunately, not everyone plans ahead, and many people die without an “End of Life Plan.” That causes loved ones to work harder with more stress, during a period when they are grieving. Having a plan is very important. Not having a plan can be tragic.

To illustrate the point, consider the fictional story of Robert, who died without an “End of Life Plan.” Robert was a 57-year old man with a heart condition. Robert was remarried with one adult child and one minor child with his wife.

Last Will or Living Trust

Robert died without a Last Will or Living Trust. So his widow had to file a probate case, spending $1,000’s in attorneys’ fees. Many of Robert’s assets were titled in his name alone, because he never added his wife to ownership after he remarried. To make matters worse, Robert’s divorce decree required certain assets to be transferred to his ex-wife and others transferred to his name alone, but those transfers were never completed.

What a mess!

And this is not an uncommon scenario. This situation or circumstances similar to Robert’s situation happen. Our law offices unravels complicated and confusing estates like Robert’s on a regular basis. Of course, had Robert worked with a knowledgeable and skilled estate planning attorney, his widow would not have had to solve any of these problems.If you do not have a Last Will or Living Trust, please consider using one of those tools as part of your “End of Life Plan.”

Estate by the Entireties

When Robert remarried, his ex-wife got the house. Robert bought a new house before he remarried. But Robert never added his new wife as a co-owner of their new marital home. So, when Robert died, the house went into his estate, requiring probate. Robert could have and probably should have added his wife as a co-owner of the marital home. That would have created a form of real estate ownership called an “estate by the entireties,” which is real estate owned by a husband and wife. Under an estate by the entireties, husband and wife are joint owners with rights of survivorship. That means that Robert’s house would have been owned by his wife automatically, immediately at the time of his death. Robert’s widow could have avoided going to probate court to get a court order to transfer ownership of the house from the estate to herself. Again, a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer could have helped Robert identify issues and craft a plan that solved problems before the problems occurred.

While everyone’s circumstances are unique, there are essential planning tools that nearly everyone should utilize. By implementing an “End of Life Plan” using the basic planning tools available on this website, we can avoid the headaches suffered by surviving loved ones who must deal with an estate without an estate plan. If you don’t have an “End of Life Plan” today, you should consider creating one.

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