Elder Law Minute – Last-Minute Steps Toward Avoiding Probate

In this Elder Law Minute, Wes Coulson discusses the best financial steps to take in your loved one’s final days.


Hi! I’m Wes Coulson from Coulson Elder Law, proudly serving clients throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area and beyond. I’d like to welcome you to our Elder Law and Estate Planning Minute. We do these to help educate people, give them some little tips, and especially to let them know the questions they need to ask, things that they’ve maybe not thought of. Our thought on that is that we can help you best if you realize the things that you need help and that we can help you with. So I hope you enjoy. Thanks!

Sadly, we will occasionally get calls from people, often existing clients, and the nature of the call is I’m sorry to have to report that my spouse, or my parent, has been placed on Hospice and may not be with us more than another week or two, if that, and is there anything I should be doing, is there anything that I can be doing between now and then? And the answer to that question is, if time permits, there are some things that you might be able to do to keep their estate out of probate.

Now, the first thing I’m going to promise is that, given the circumstance, they’re not going to be doing it personally, so for all of these things I’m talking about, they need to have a power of attorney and property in place, and it needs to be one that authorizes things like gifting, and dealing with joint tenancies, and things of that sort. So, what you want to do is look at accounts, if there’s not another name on there, get somebody on as a pay on death, transfer on death, beneficiary. That would be bank accounts, financial accounts. Look at any life insurance or other things they have in place and make sure they have a beneficiary designation. Sometimes people will have an old life insurance policy and the beneficiary is their spouse, who they’ve outlived, and they haven’t added kids on as beneficiaries.

In the case of a vehicle title, it might be easier to use the power of attorney to get it transferred then rather than after they die. So, basically, what you’re looking for is assets that are in somebody’s name only that you can either add a name or add a beneficiary to get those out of the class of assets that would have to go through probate. Good idea on that, and I’m happy that those people have called. It really helps to get help and guidance with that process and that’s something that, despite the sad circumstances, we would be happy to help you with. Thanks!

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Coulson Elder Law is dedicated to providing families in the St. Louis area with their Elder Law needs. Our practice areas include Asset Preservation Planning, Veterans Benefits, Medicaid Eligibility, Alzheimer’s Planning, Special Needs Planning, Estate Planning and more. We understand the financial challenges you may face as you and your loved ones grow older. At Coulson Elder Law, our clients’ well-being is our number one priority. For immediate help, call (877)995-6876 or Contact Us and we will get in touch as soon as possible.