While families often put estate planning matters off, the death of a loved one is almost never timely and it often catches family members unprepared. One sister had a 51-year-old brother who had access to the resources needed to put a plan into place. However, she was to learn that such preparations never took place only after her brother died in a motor-vehicle accident. Instead, the family had to make a number of complicated decisions that could have been unnecessary had plans been put into place.
The sister has now made it a mission to make certain that individuals are prepared in the event such an occurrence happens. She has put together a website where users are led through a number of end-of-life decisions.
There are many such sites appearing on the internet. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to determine which sites are providing sage advice and which sites may be off-base. Also, it's difficult to know who should be held accountable in the event one of these websites had led to a costly mistake.
While these websites can provide guidance, these can never be thought of as a substitute for the legal advice of attorneys. Attorneys can guide clients through the process of creating will, trusts and other documents that come to administration of the estate. Attorneys will also be there after a loved one has died and family members need advice. It's often a stressful time when probate administration and estate settlement needs to take place as it often occurs at a time when individuals have many other things on their minds.
Source: New York Times, "Navigating the Logistics of Death Ahead of Time," Tara Siegel Bernard, March 28, 2014.