Three Legal Strategies When Facing a Major Heath Event

What You and Your Family Need to Know

Receiving a health diagnosis or learning that you need to undergo major surgery can cause substantial disruption in your day-to-day life. During this time, the last thing you may want to think about is estate planning.

Although you may have many things going through your head at the moment, now is a crucial time to make sure your estate plan is in order.  Proactive planning can help put your mind at ease and let you focus on your treatment. Let’s review your estate plan together to make sure each of the following important components is up to date and reflects your current goals and wishes.


Healthcare documents

Your healthcare documents include your powers of attorney, advance healthcare directives, and HIPAA authorization. These documents let you appoint someone to receive information about your medical condition and to make medical decisions if you’re unable to do so. You probably already know which of your loved ones you’d like at the helm if a situation arises. But whoever you’ve chosen needs to be given the explicit authority to act so that you can rest easy knowing they’ll be there to make decisions if you need them.

Financial power of attorney

While a healthcare agent can make medical decisions on your behalf, a financial power of attorney concerns your money, investments, bills, and taxes. Although it relates to different decisions, it is just as important a designation. Having this document in place can give a trusted person (such as a spouse, child, sibling or friend) the authority to help you with your finances and property so these issues don’t have to be a distraction while you focus on your health.

Updated trusts

In the event you are unable to manage your affairs, an up-to-date and fully-funded trust lets you focus on your health while your successor trustee handles the affairs of your trust, which could include most, if not all of your assets. In this case, you’ll still receive the benefit of your trust but your successor trustee will manage the trust on your behalf. If there’s not sufficient time to fully fund a trust, then an up-to-date will can at least put you in control of who receives what upon your death.  When time is of the essence, a will may be the only realistic planning tool, but if you already have a trust it can be a relatively easy process to update and fully fund it.

A little planning goes a long way during medically-trying times. As busy as you may be when you’re handling your own medical issues or the medical issues of a loved one, even one conversation can be enough for us to define and implement the estate planning documents that will help you feel more prepared for whatever comes next.