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End-of-life wishes as you care for your terminally ill parent

Taking care of an aging parent is a difficult task. That task is monumentally more difficult, however, when your parent has a terminal illness and thus has a prognosis that tells you how long you might expect him or her to live. People often avoid questions around end-of-life matters when they are healthy because it can be so uncomfortable to think about death and the related planning that accompanies it. When parents are facing the end of their lives, they may be counting on you to help them make important decisions.

While you may be handling decisions around their health care, there are usually also critical matters surrounding finances, property and wills that you have to address as well. There are so many different matters, in fact, that it may seem quite overwhelming. Here are a few broad areas to look at when it comes to helping dying parents put their affairs in order before they pass.

Estate planning, deadlines and property management

If your parent owns property, estate planning can help determine how to manage, distribute or otherwise handle the property following death. A writer in health and personal finance for Forbes suggests you inform yourself about the probate laws in the state where your parent lives. Broadly speaking, probate describes the legal process that takes place after a person dies, but "granting probate" specifically refers to the process of rendering a will valid. If there was no will, the state probate laws determine how to divide the property.

One way you can help your parent is by making sure he or she has drafted a will, to carry out his or her wishes upon death. Especially if there is extensive property to divide and distribute, it can be helpful to consult with an attorney who has experience in estate planning.

Power of attorney

Another topic that may be difficult to discuss but can prove essential is that of granting power of attorney. When it comes to a terminal illness, it can happen that the patient becomes so ill that he or she is no longer able to make independent decisions. The patient, through granting power of attorney, can thus make sure his or her wishes are respected in the event of incapacitation. Since this is a complex issue, it is important to understand what powers this document grants. It can include health care decisions as well as financial and property decisions.

Caring for a terminally ill parent is likely the hardest thing you will ever do. That is why you need to put a strong support network in place, to help alleviate the burden on you, so you can devote your full attention to your loved one. Hiring a lawyer with experience in the complicated aspects of estate planning, probate and power of attorney can be one way for you to get essential help during this difficult time.

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