Anyone facing a serious illness needs to take some time to prepare their estate planning documents. It is never too early for this task to be completed. It’s not just in case of a terminal illness, but if incapacity strikes, even temporarily.
If you’ve faced a serious illness, like cancer, had a heart attack or live with a chronic disease, it is especially important that you have an estate plan created or updated. An estate plan includes several documents that will make it easier for your loved ones to care for you while you are alive, as well as if your illness should become fatal. It’s not a pleasant thing to think about, but necessary nonetheless.
The Santa Maria Times’ recent article on this subject asks, “What is the importance of estate planning, advance health care directives?” As the article explains, estate planning is just having a plan in place that addresses how you’d like to see your estate—including assets, pensions, real estate, and more—distributed, in the event of incapacitation or death.
First, you should create the necessary legal documents and a clear financial plan. A cancer diagnosis is a life-changing event for the patient and their family. A significant component of getting and staying healthy is eliminating stress. From the moment you first receive the diagnosis, there are critical decisions that must be made on a regular basis. Estate planning can help to decrease much of that stress.
Even if you set up your estate planning years ago, your documents should be reviewed periodically, especially after a life-changing event like a cancer diagnosis.
Another important document is the Five Wishes Living Will. This document states your personal, emotional, and spiritual needs—along with your medical wishes. Originally created by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging and experts in end-of-life care, this document lets you specify your wishes if you become seriously ill. It can be a real gift for those you love.
Your complete estate plan may include the following:
- A medical power of attorney and advance directives to physicians that designate a trusted person to speak for you, if you are unable to do so, even temporarily;
- A written document specifying your wishes about medical care and treatment;
- A review of all assets, including retirement accounts, investments, or bank accounts;
- A power of attorney for financial decisions; and
- A list of instructions and organizing information, so you can focus on recovery.
Working with an estate planning attorney to put an estate plan in place will give you some peace of mind that if your situation worsens, your family and loved ones will know what to do, both to take care of you, to care for your minor children and/or pets and what your wishes are. Think of it as a gift to them and one less thing for you to worry about.
Reference: Santa Maria Times (February 18, 2019) “What is the importance of estate planning, advance health care directives?”