What To Do When Your Loved One Is Dying?

June 17, 2022

By Estate Planning Attorneys Sarah J. Corney and Marissa K. Fitzpatrick as published in the Buzz Book, Summer 2022

Thinking about a loved one passing is the last topic anyone wants to consider; however, it is a reality we all will have to face at some point.

When most people are confronted with this issue, they begin to panic and worry that everything may not be in order or become unsure as what to do next. This creates a spiraling effect and thus ensues the phone calls to their loved one’s attorneys, financial planners, and CPAs trying to account for what needs to be done.

If your loved one has previously done estate planning, here is a short list of items that you can help with:

  • Make sure that the medical caregivers have copies of the health care power of attorney and living will, along with the most up-to-date contact information for the individuals listed in those documents;
  • Check your loved one’s mail (or email) and determine if there are any bills or tax filings that need immediate attention, and if you are your loved one’s financial power of attorney, then make arrangements for their payment or filing;
  • Spend time with your loved one.  Your loved one put their wishes in writing when they were physically and mentally able, and regardless of whether you like their decisions, now is not the time to persuade them otherwise.

If you loved one has never signed estate planning documents, then consider the following:

  • If your loved one is mentally competent still, discuss with an attorney or medical social worker the possibility of your loved one signing a health care power of attorney.
  • If your loved one is no longer mentally competent, discuss with an attorney or medical provider whether a guardianship is needed in order to protect your loved one’s wellbeing or property.
  • Now is likely not the time to transfer assets in order to “create” an estate plan, but discuss with an attorney whether it is advisable for your loved one to meet with an attorney and sign a last will and testament.  This is a very fact-specific issue, but you should never pressure your loved one to sign a will or any other legal document. 

As attorneys, we receive these calls quite often, usually from a child  or niece/nephew of a client, who wants to know what they need to do.  The first thing we would encourage is for families to not stress out over the unknown.  The harsh reality is, there won’t be much you can accomplish when someone is expected to pass away soon but rather just focus on spending time with your loved ones.  When a person does pass away, there are attorneys that are well equipped to guide you through the aftermath.


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