It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month and thankfully we have made a lot of solid progress towards saving the lives. In general, the prognosis for most women diagnosed with Breast Cancer has improved greatly. Let’s pause and celebrate that, keeping in mind that no one should rest on progress — THE FIGHT CONTINUES.
Anyone over the age of 18 should have a basic legacy plan in place, but most healthy folks do not. Recent surveys show that about 92% of Millennials have no documents in place at all, while older generations of American are at about 52%. If you are diagnosed with a serious illness like cancer, it is another reason you should start planning as soon as possible.
What If …
If you are diagnosed with an illness as serious as cancer, you need to consider a legacy plan. It should direct your family, caretakers and physicans about how you would like to cared for and how you would like your personal matters (finances, personal property and items) to be handled. No one wants to think of these things, but if you have strong preferences especially (maybe your religious beliefs or family beliefs dictate something in particular), you will want to prepare for and allow for those choices with certain documents. Otherwise the choices will eventually be made for you (more on this later).
Be Sure to Consider:
- Durable Power of Attorney: While you are fighting your illness, but are incapacitated, you elect a trusted agent or agents to act on your behalf to deal with personal property. The power survives your incapacity but not your death.
- Health Care Proxy: Selecting an agent who is familiar with your feelings on medical treatment(s) to make health care choices on your behalf.
- Living Will: Specifically dictates how much or little care you want toward the very end of your life.
- Last Will & Testament/Living Trust: How financial and personal items should be disbursed to heirs.
- Bank/Brokerage Accounts: Be sure beneficiaries are up to date and match those outlined in other above documents. These designations are NOT governed by your will, so this step is very important.
- Personal Letter and Instructions: It’s optional but many times such a document helps a family because all the pertinent information (like location of insurance policies, online accounts, etc., along with log in/account information, funeral wishes, etc.) is in one place and easily understood.
If You Don’t …
The options without these documents in place, frankly, are much more expensive, time consuming and can be even more upsetting to deal with. They will usually have to be addressed in a public forum, instead of in private. They usually don’t consider the tax implications (at all) or if any children with special needs are protected. Lastly, it generally takes much more time to resolve an estate when put into the hands of a court.
I understand that dealing with something as emotional as death in such a detailed, cut and dried way is very overwhelming. But during such an upsetting and stressful time, you will be relieved to cross such issues off your list of concerns and spend your time healing with loved ones. Please get in touch if I can be of any assistance.