When you’re diagnosed with a chronic or serious illness, your estate plan is probably the last thing on your mind. Once you’ve dealt with your most pressing tasks, however, updating your estate plan is important. If you don’t have an estate plan already, now is a good time to get the process started.
Serious health issues can occur at any age. Having an estate plan in place can help you plan for the future, and ensures that your estate passes to your desired beneficiaries. After a serious diagnosis, however, your needs may change.
When your diagnosis involves a cognitive or neurodegenerative disease, it’s especially important to make sure your affairs are in order now. You’ll need to make any necessary changes before you’re unable to understand the contents of your estate and the consequences of your estate planning choices. This helps avoid potential challenges to your estate plan.
Your individual diagnosis will play a role in which estate planning changes you need to make. You may want to bring a loved one along with you to a meeting with your estate planning attorney, or sit down with them later to explain your decisions.
First, make sure you have an advance healthcare directive and a medical power of attorney. This ensures you’ll have someone to advocate for your healthcare needs, and make decisions if you are unable to do so yourself. Be sure the person, or people you choose as power(s) of attorney understand your wishes, and are prepared to carry them out as you wanted.
Next, decide whether you need to make financial provisions for long-term care. You may wish to use estate planning tools like trusts to ensure there are funds available, or to help qualify for Medicaid.
You may need or want to make changes to your wills and existing trusts to reflect where your assets and possessions should go after death. For example, if you haven’t updated your will in a long time, you may have new children or grandchildren to consider. Some people decide to leave assets to charities, such as organizations who support people with the same illness.
Finally, consider planning for final arrangements, including a funeral or memorial. Write down your wishes and share them with your loved ones ahead of time, so they know where to find the instructions and they’re not searching in their time of grief.
If you need assistance updating your estate plan, reach out to certified estate planning attorney, James Bart Leonardi, LLC today.