It is perhaps the most traumatic and stressful news a person can receive: you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and only has an extremely short time to live. In these situations, you may think of hundreds of things that need to be done, and estate planning may not be one of them. You may assume that it is too late. Do not make this mistake. If you are alive and mentally competent, you owe it to yourself to investigate creating a plan.
One of the first things you should do is consult a qualified estate planning attorney. Your attorney will ask certain questions to deduce whether you or your loved one has the necessary mental capacity required by the law to make or change an estate plan. Should someone question your plan later, your attorney may be able to provide information that tends to show that you were competent at the time of the plan’s creation or amendment. Additionally, written documents from doctors attesting to competency may also prove beneficial.
This documentation is especially helpful if you think someone may later file a court challenge contesting capacity. Even if you don’t anticipate problems occurring, this paperwork is all very important because any estate plan created or changed shortly before death has a heightened risk of facing a court challenge to its validity, even if everyone seems to get along and you are clearly competent. That should not dissuade you from getting a plan; it just means going the extra mile to ensure a wealth of written proof exists to show that you were competent.