Specifying “End of Life” Instructions in Estate Planning Documents

Traditionally, estate planning has primarily been focused on transfer of assets to a tax-exempt shelter for distribution to named heirs or beneficiaries at time of an individual’s death. In addition to a written will, these five (5) directives specifying “end of life” actions to be taken by a Trustee or Personal Representative (“Executor”) may be part of an estate.  


  1. Advance Directives

If a decedent is expected to die soon, or has court ordered physician-assisted-suicide in response to a terminal illness, “end of life” directives can be created in a “Letter of Final Instruction” or “Disposition Authorization” with instructions for contact of family members, attorney representation, and funeral and burial arrangements, and organ donation if a “Living Will” is not already present. A “Designated Agent” may be identified to administer those arrangements. A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care might already be present to manage the transfer of the decedent from a hospice to a hospital.

  1. Trustee Directives

The term “estate documentation” covers a broad range of asset related paperwork. Estate documents should be filed with the courts within the statute of limitations of the jurisdiction where they are held. Final instructions generally include designated rights to a safety deposit box should one exist. A will or trust document identifies the Trustee, and sometimes an Executor or Personal Representative. Trustees generally require a certified copy of a decedent’s death certificate for each major asset for final transfer.


  1. Document Directives

Certified copies of a death certificate may also be required for distributions from annuities, life insurance policies, and veterans’ survivor benefits. Other document that may be part of an estate or probate proceeding, include: deeds, titles, promissory notes and loans; insurance policies; financial accounts; designated user and passwords for online accounts; tax records; business interests; and legal documentation (i.e. birth certificates, social security card, driver’s license, passport, immigration registration, military service papers, marriage license, domestic partnership registration, and community property arrangements).


  1. Practical Directives

Estate documentation may also include directives instructing a Trustee or Executor to take care of and secure residential property, pets, and personal property on the premises of a home. Contacting the post office and other delivery services to cease deliveries to a home, and cancelation of utilities and other services such as cable TV, internet, and mobile phone

service will ensure that bills do not continue to accrue.


  1. Notice of Death Directives

Notification of all family, heirs, beneficiaries, as well as the decedent’s attorney completes the process in preparation for distribution of assets. Notice of death should be given by the Trustee or Executor depending on a decedent’s instructions given before death. Finally, any death benefits or survivor benefits from annuities, insurance, pension fund or other sources should be drawn on behalf of the estate, will or trust for distribution to the person or persons named as beneficiaries.


Estate Law Firm NY

Ettinger Law Firm is a licensed New York attorney practice specializing an estate and trust planning services. Contact Ettinger Law Firm to schedule a consultation about an estate law related matter.     

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