Your Guide to Estate Planning After an Unfavorable Medical Diagnosis

One doctor’s appointment can change your life. It happens every day to people, young and old. A routine checkup can lead to a medical diagnosis that cuts the years you had left to months or even weeks.

While the thought alone is overwhelming, the risk is all too real. 

If you find yourself in this heartbreaking situation, it’s important to get your affairs in order quickly. 

Here are some steps to ensure your affairs are in order. 

Record a Video Expressing Your Wishes

Your legal documents can share your wishes (with tons of legalese). However, words written on paper aren’t quite the same as what you can say.  If you know you have limited time left, recording a video highlighting your desires can be valuable. Just ensure it's in addition to your legal documents. 

Rick Nott, Senior Wealth Advisor at LourdMurray, says, “There is one thing that cannot be passed on legally…your values. These methods are not legally valid but are invaluable to make sure that your legacy can be passed on to your family. Have frequent conversations. Now is not the time for secrets.”

Consult an Attorney

You should always consult an attorney when estate planning. Some people do it without one. While this is possible, seeking legal advice is your best bet.  “Seasoned estate planners are not strangers to emergency situations and even having to get things done while someone is hospitalized,” states Jack Hales, estate planning and probate attorney. Hales continues, “depending on how imminent a concern is, an attorney is going to be able to advise you on short-term and long-term solutions.”

You might think you don’t have many assets or that your wishes are simple. That could be true. However, it doesn’t change the fact that having legal advice will likely to lead to a better outcome. If you pass without your affairs in order, your loved ones will likely have to face a lengthy probate court process. It can take from a few months to several years to settle a case depending on the complexity of the estate. 

One common concern is whether legal advice is affordable. You'll find that prices range. Some attorneys will draft a will for as little as $150 and others charge $350/hr or more based on experience, according to Nolo.com. The best thing you can do is speak to several attorneys and compare rates to find one that fits your budget. 

Try Online Estate Planning Tools

Perhaps you choose to DIY your estate planning because you don’t have much time or money. Either way, quality options are available. You can take advantage of online estate planning tools at a fraction of the price you’d pay to work with an attorney.

“Options include LegalZoom or Trust & Will. I would stress, however, that these wills would still need to be filed with probate. At the very least, ensure a trusted executor is chosen to handle the will once you create it,” says Derek Jacques, Estate Planning Attorney. 

Prepare These Parts of Your Estate Plan

As you get your affairs in order, you want to ensure that you cover all your bases. Here are 4 components you want to prepare while completing your estate planning process. 

Wills, Trusts, & Guardianship 

These documents will ensure your wishes are carried out as you desire them. Losing you will already be challenging for your loved ones. The last thing you want them to do is to engage in a lengthy battle over your assets. Doing the work for them in advance will allow them the time and space they need to grieve. 

Advanced Healthcare Directive 

When you cannot make medical decisions, you need someone to step in and make these decisions on your behalf. With an advanced medical directive, you’ll still maintain some level of control over your care even when you’re not in a position to make decisions. You can outline your desires related to medical care, including  life support, blood transfusions and more.

Financial Power of Attorney

You’ll also want a financial power of attorney.  This person will step in and manage your finances when you can no longer. Without one, it’ll be challenging for your loved ones to access your money to manage your affairs.  They’ll have to take on the financial burden of self-funding your needs. Also, it'll be a lengthy battle through the courts if they want to eventually be able to use your funds. 

Retirement Accounts

Left untouched, the balances of your retirement accounts can be left up to probate court to determine where they go. This can be a lengthy and overwhelming process for your loved ones. Instead, list the beneficiaries for your retirement accounts. You can do this online or by calling the company that manages your 401K, self-directed IRA, or other retirement account.

This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.


Quiana Darden is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, finance, wellness, education and recent events. She currently lives in Virginia with her fiancé, daughter and their four-legged furry son.