Estate planning requires some tough conversations and occasionally involves thinking about worst-case scenarios for you or your loved ones. That’s why a lot of people treat it like the dentist, something that they know they ought to do but want to keep it out of sight and out of mind.
Planning your estate and the more difficult aspects that come with it can be made even harder by dealing with a chronic illness, whether it’s your own or your spouse’s. If you or your partner have to deal with the sort of chronic affliction that becomes more common with advancing age—such as Parkinson’s, glaucoma or diabetes—or one that’s been a part of your life for some time, your estate plan will need a little extra care and detail.
That’s not to say estate planning a wildly different process for someone living with one or more chronic conditions. A lot of the best practices and documents remain the same and our team at Family Estate Planning Law Group is well-equipped to guide you through the process of planning your estate. But the unpredictability and progression of chronic illness adds more urgency to getting your estate planning ducks in a row and some more nuance to what that planning entails.
One of the most important aspects to take care of quickly will be assigning decision-making power to someone trusted in the case of you or your spouse’s incapacitation. First is establishing a medical power of attorney—also known as a health care proxy—who is a person with the legal authority to dictate your wishes for health care should you become comatose or otherwise unable to express your care preferences. Your health care proxy can follow directions you have written out beforehand for expected or possible issues (such as a diabetic coma) and make decisions on your behalf in cases where there is no preexisting instruction.
In the same vein, other releases should be prepared ahead of time. Having a HIPAA release filed allows someone you designate to receive your confidential medical information, from the location of where you receive treatment to viewing your medical chart. It makes a lot of sense for this release to be granted to the same person functioning as your health care proxy but doesn’t necessarily have to be. Plus, there will be certain considerations and circumstances unique to your chronic condition or conditions that will need to be clearly outlined, the process of which our team at Family Estate Planning Law Group can guide you through.
There are plenty of specific financial considerations that have to be included when you plan your estate as well. Many chronic illnesses allow you access to government benefits or disability pay, but there are crucial tax, income and asset factors to maintain those benefits while protecting the assets you want to protect for your family and their future. Medical tax deductions are a useful tool for offsetting expenses or having to dip into assets for care and comfort. This is another area where our experienced team can provide essential guidance—we’ll help you find the right way to protect the parts of your estate you want to leave to your family while making sure you don’t have to sacrifice quality of life and care to do so.
Alongside navigating asset protection and aligning them with your estate plan, you also need to assign a power of attorney for your finances. It is important to get this power of attorney accepted by your financial institutions before you need to use it, as many have specific requirements and nuances, which may prevent the person you designate from actually being able to act on your behalf. Our team at Family Estate Planning Law Group will work with you, not only to draft your power of attorney but to navigate the maze of requirements from your financial institutions for getting it accepted.
All of these elements rely on some tough conversations, dealing with unfortunate outcomes that may arise in the future. Dealing with chronic illness, in general, is tough on you and your family, but at Family Estate Planning Law Group, we are prepared to help you through the planning process with support and empathy. We want you to have the peace of mind that you and your estate are protected, allowing you to enjoy the here and now with your loved ones.
Lastly, chronic illness means that things change, such as your ability to act on your own behalf, your medical needs, etc. Our unique ongoing client care program means that as you age and your needs change, our team is able to make changes to your estate plan or provide further support and guidance at no extra cost. A one and done estate plan could leave you exposed, unprotected, and without support down the road; that’s why we designed an ongoing client care program to protect you now and always. It is the perfect match for those who suffer from a chronic illness.
If you or a loved one has a chronic illness and hasn’t established an estate plan or if your plan needs updating, contact us today and schedule your complimentary consultation to learn how we can give you and your loved ones the support and peace of mind you deserve.