After settling a wrongful death claim you can be facing mixed emotions. Even in this difficult time, it is important to plan ahead. When a wrongful death settlement results in a significant payment for your loss, you will want to do some estate planning to prepare for your own incapacity and death.
It is possible that your personal injury attorney has helped you to negotiate a settlement that contemplates payment in the form of a trust, perhaps for a child or someone else who cannot manage the proceeds from the wrongful death lawsuit. But when that is not the case, you will want to have certain documents in place.
Your estate planning attorney will ask you about your goals and fears for your settlement proceeds and your family. She will also take into consideration what type of assets you have apart from the wrongful death settlement. After considering your specific situation, your Arvada estate planning lawyer may suggest a living trust to direct the management and disposition of your lawsuit proceeds and other assets when you die, and even if you become unable to manage your own affairs. But she may also counsel you that your estate planning needs do not require a trust, and an estate planning centered on a Last Will and Testament will fit your circumstances better.
In either case, your estate planning attorney will recommend a durable power of attorney. This is a document that names someone to make legal and financial decisions for you — essentially standing in your shoes legally. It has come to be known as a durable power of attorney because it must specifically state that it lasts, or endures, beyond the time you are legally incapacitated. Since you now have a significant wrongful death settlement to manage, you want to be sure you have a plan in place to manage it if you become too sick to manage it yourself.
Some people think that once they have a revocable living trust they do not need a durable power of attorney document. However, we all have legal concerns that cannot be covered in a trust. So, even though the personal injury or wrongful death settlement can be invested in an asset controlled by your revocable living trust, any future payments arising from the lawsuit might first have to be paid directly to you and then put in your trust. What if you are too sick to make that happen?
In any case, there are always legal decisions that need to be made in the event of an incapacity. Matters like changing your address at the post office or cancelling your car insurance. Someone needs to be named to do those things for you when you cannot, and the durable power of attorney is the tool in the estate planning toolbox that does that.
Your personal injury attorney can often help you find a qualified estate planning attorney to help you plan now that you have ended the difficult journey and have settled your wrongful death claim.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from the Law Offices of Karen Brady, P.C. for their insight into estate planning after a wrongful death settlement.